Growing up, the boys in grade school used to call me Molly MangelsdorK -- with an emphasis on the DORK part. My last name was Mangelsdorf so it's easy to see where their inspiration stemmed.
Recently a story I wrote was referred to as a 'chicken little fluff-piece.' I would hope that a 12-year old pre-pubescent boy made this absurd comment but it's more likely that a fully-grown adult chose those words to slam my article on CNN.com. And now while my full name and biography were attached to said article -- an article that I am extremely proud of -- this person pecked the abject diss in the ubiquitous comments section found at the bottom of most online stories, blog posts, newspaper articles and of course Facebook posts.
Note: the bottom.
Today, the Supreme Court ruled on DOMA. The harbinger was several other rulings that the justices rolled out this week -- so journalists likely carefully prepared responses on the pending ruling. Interviews were conducted, experts consulted, same-sex couples and hetero couples polled for their thoughts on the historic day. Military writers poured over research on the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell (which incidentally 2012 Blue Star Families Military Lifestyle Survey found had no impact), and other statistics pointing towards the fact that a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage.
Editors edited and writers re-wrote. And to you non-writers, this process is grueling and frustrating, time-consuming and important. But when the story comes together neatly and all the lessons that Dr. Taylor taught me in my favorite college writing class mix together to form an article -- it's nothing short of a miracle.
And then the comments begin. Don't get me wrong -- I'm happy folks are reading my stories and the work of fellow journalists, bloggers, and writers. But when did the comments section turn into open season on the writer, the subject, the story and now the Supreme Court Justices?
Commenters with names like "slapjack" or "Johnnie3769402" (I just made those up) get nasty almost immediately and before you know it, the story has devolved into a back and forth between strangers over their own hatefulness or ignorance or even grammar. It's like when Kayne grabbed the mic from poor, unsuspecting Taylor Swift and stole her thunder. Talk about heartbreak.
But it's easy to toss out repugnant and inflammatory commentary when you are anonymous.
I admit I scan the comments section -- and I will reply if it's intelligent and appropriate. But a lot of fellow writers refuse to read the comments. There are t-shirts that say "never read the comments." Today, it's easy to see why.
Online discourse should be civil. It should follow the rules we all learned in kindergarten.
1) No name calling
2) Listen when others are talking
3) Show respect to others
4) Think before you speak
Many will remember today for their own personal reasons -- be it because they disagree or agree wholeheartedly about the ruling or because they put a deposit down on a wedding reception venue after years and years of waiting to tie the knot.
But let's also remember to act -- not like 6th grade hormonal boys -- but like adults who have opinions but nonetheless understand that not everyone shares those opinions.
And if you don't agree with me, then write about it. Blog about it. Do your research and pen a thoughtful article and submit it to a respected media outlet or blog.
Then read the comments.