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[personal profile] dogriver
One of the downsides of the digital age is the fact that it has enabled us to react quickly and unthinkingly, but very publicly.

Several years ago, in my previous job, I proofread a book about which I harbored a very low opinion. So as soon as I got home, I went to Amazon and wrote a very derisive, sarcastic, and mocking review of the book. All proud of myself, I posted the review, and thought nothing of it again for over ten years.

It was last year, as I looked through my e-mail, that I saw a response to my e-mail. The response was as unkind to me as I had been to the author of the book. The difference was that, as I realized immediately, I deserved it. I looked back at my review, and I was not at all proud of myself; in fact, I was very ashamed of myself. So I wrote back to the person who had commented, telling them that I was indeed ashamed of my review, that I had been unkind and unfair, and that I was going to pull the review if Amazon permitted me to do so. Thankfully they did permit me to do so, and that review is no longer posted with the book. I only hope the author didn't read my review, he did not deserve the words I wrote about his efforts. Has my opinion about the book changed? No, it's still definitely not my kind of a book. But what has changed is my understanding of my opinion, and my way of expressing it. I was very, very wrong in what I did and how I did it.

With the advent of social media, it's very easy to make comments about people, places and events, hidden behind our keyboards and touchscreens, not realizing that we are talking about real people with real feelings, real hearts and real souls. It's easy to say "I hate that narrator", or "I hate that author" or "That person is stupid [or worse]". How would you feel if someone said they hated you because of how you spoke or how you wrote? It's perfectly simple to think it through, and express an opinion without having to resort to unkind and hurtful commentary. I could have, and should have, simply said that the book in question just didn't interest me, or wasn't my kind of a mystery ... or any number of other things. Instead of saying "I hate that narrator", I could simply say that they probably matched the wrong person with a particular book.

And it's not as if this thinking things through requires huge, vast amounts of time. Five or ten seconds of asking myself how I'd feel if the comment were leveled at me and my efforts usually does the trick. That five or ten seconds won't kill me, but it might well make me look an awful lot better in the future, and feel a lot better about myself when and if my own comments get scrutinized.

I can't remember the name of the man who wrote the book I so ruthlessly insulted. I wish I could. I'd like to tell him how very sorry I am for treating him, a real person, the way I did.

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Bruce Toews

August 2017

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