I originally had a different topic for this week. I had actually come across the topic a while ago and written most of it back in February. Given some events that have gone down this week, I decided to share this experience instead and save the original one for next week. Have a good weekend. Enjoy.
“The meanest thing anyone has ever said to you.”
I used to not care what people thought of me. I remember owning that mantra and wearing it proudly growing up. This wasn’t true, of course. We all care what people think to some extent, but when it came to whether or not people liked me, I was going to just be me and and that was that. I remember this angered my mother, who would sternly tell me that I should care what people thought or else I’d make a lot of enemies when I grew up. “That attitude will bite you in the ass someday.” I remember that warning when I was in 5th grade. Yes, 5th grade.
It wasn’t until Oct. 29, 2007 that I learned my mama was right. At the time, Jay and I were freshly dating, I was living in Astoria, Queens with Amanda, I had a “cool” job with awesome coworkers who I loved to death, and MetroBuzz was doing great. Life was, for once, going really well. I had traveled to Raleigh, North Carolina in late October 2007 to visit Jay and spend time with his family for the first time since briefly meeting them at San Diego Comic-Con that year. Thanks to the Jay & Jack and podcasting community, I finally felt happy and secure in my life for the first time since leaving college. So, that weekend in Raleigh, Jay and Jack invited me and Clif to record an episode of Jay & Jack’s Ramblecast with them. I was so nervous. So nervous, yet so excited. We had a great time recording it and were all pleased with the final product. It was called “6 Degrees of Jim Carrey.”
And that was when I learned just how cruel people can be to people who they’ve never actually met. Let’s just say that the Ramblecast I was on was not well received. At all. The comments started coming in on the episode thread: I was too loud; I laughed too much; I talked too much; I sounded so annoying; I sounded like a complete nasty bitch and Jay should break up with me and run for the hills before I dragged him down and ruined his entire podcasting “career” and life by being associated with me. It began with four very vocal commenters and then spiraled from there. My flaws were pointed out over and over again. I guess people did not like me, my laugh, or the fact that I teased Jay. I was devastated. Jack sent me a message to apologize and reassure me that I had done nothing wrong. Jay listened to me cry for days. Jack’s mom, Grandma Bev, got on there and told everyone that no matter what listeners said, their family loved me and if they had a problem with me, then she had a problem with them. It a lot to have them defend me, but it didn’t change the facts. I wanted to say something; I wrote two blog posts at the time to express how I was feeling, but Jay made me promise to keep my mouth shut.
One of the unpublished blog posts I wrote was titled, “I am a person with feelings.” Did these listeners think they could say whatever they wanted because I couldn’t read their comments? Were they trying to troll me in order to get a response? Or was it merely they didn’t know me as a real life person with feelings and therefore, they didn’t give one flying crap about how it would affect me? Those comments changed something in me. I didn’t fault them for finding me unappealing; half the time, I don’t even find myself appealing. I didn’t even fault them for leaving comments expressing their displeasure. After all, I read gossip blogs and take pleasure in the snark they bring. My issue was that the hatred directed towards me was so vitriol that these commenters felt the need to repeat them again and again, almost as though to make sure that I got the point just how much of a piece of shit I was.
This experience changed something in me. First of all, it destroyed my newly rebuilt self-esteem. I know I’ve talked about crying hysterically while thinking I was a loser on my 23rd birthday, which was merely months earlier. I had come a long way since then and suddenly, I was back down at the bottom. As my mom had urged me years earlier, I began to really care about what people thought. I had anxiety before MetroBuzz would come out because I was constantly worried that the same people would come after me over there. Podcasting was never quite as fun for me as it was before October 29, 2007.
But, like you have to do, I got over it and put it behind me. Two years later, when Jay and Jack experimented with nuDia.tv, I agreed to do NuNews. After the first episode was released, I was again met with a lot of criticism. I know I wasn’t very good, but I was nervous. The negative feedback and plethora of “1 star ratings” got to me and I immediately went back to the same place I was in in November 2007. I never improved the way I know that I could have because I could never overcome my anxiety at how badly someone would rate the latest episode. I had fun writing NuNews and rehearsing it with Clif, but once the red light went on, I immediately tensed up. I was SO disappointed in myself. My favorite review reads, “Don’t waste your time. I got pulled in because J&J are great, but the rest is worthless. Jay is in love; otherwise, Colleen wouldn’t have airtime.” I have grown from my first experience; the NuNews criticism no longer bothers me, though the Ramblecast comments are still painful to think about.
Despite my experiences, I do not feel that I was bullied nor slandered. I put myself out in a position that invites criticism and therefore do not cry “woe is me.” But I do think that sometimes, we tend to forget that there are real life people out there listening to the trash we talk or the hate we spew. Thanks to podcasting, blogging, and the widespread anonymity of the Internet, all have a little bit more power than we think we have. We can say whatever we want and never once think about the effect it has on the person reading or listening. On the other hand, we can lose our tempers and do something stupid while not thinking about when or how it will come back to haunt us. The moral of the story, boys and girls? Be mindful of what you say. Be prepared to answer for your actions. Remember that someone is always paying attention.