Monday, January 5, 2015

The BLOW OFF's Most Heated Comments Ever: A Response

Editor's Note: when I first started the BLOW OFF, I envisioned it would turn into a site where millions (yes, millions) would flock to share their break-up stories, texts, emails, etc.  So when our contributor SVB alerted me to a series of texts he'd been sent by a woman he briefly dated, I didn't think twice about posting them.  The story was relevant and we kept the person's full name anonymous. And that's what I always wanted for the blog-- a break-up Post Secret of sorts.  But that post has probably been the most controversial thing we've ever published on the site.  It receives some thoughtful (and not so thoughtful) comments regularly.  

As the editor of this site, I take full responsibility for the content-- but I also don't like it when readers fling insults at our contributors.  So, I wanted to give SVB an opportunity to address the comments.  I'm grateful he took the time to do so: 

 
The first thing I felt when reading the passionate (and sometimes heated) comments from one of my previous posts was sadness for the readers who were so deeply affected by my portrayal and characterization of a girl I briefly dated. It's obvious there are many compassionate and empathetic readers of the BLOW OFF. It was never my intention to cause anyone grief.

To get everyone quickly apprised, last year I had written about a chain of texts that I had received from a girl that quickly spiraled into irrationality that spanned the spectrum of emotions. You can read the post here. Maybe using the word, "crazy," was not the best choice of words for this woman. Clearly, she was in need of medical attention.

Sometimes, things are written in a way that seems to lack sincerity or concern. For those who have never read a story on the BLOW OFF, I believe you must take into account context. Read the "About" section. Heck, the email for this site is TheBlowOffWTF@gmail.com. The language and context used is often-times humorous, judgmental, and maybe borderline schizophrenic (no offense, Saaara!).

I consider myself a "comedic" writer. Maybe not a very good one, or even mediocre, but it's out there. In no way can I be mentioned in the same breath as these people, but when Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, Daniel Tosh, Chelsea Handler, or any comedian provides social commentary they do so in a way that can be sarcastic and irreverent. This was my way of lightening up the mood in a very difficult and scary situation.

I made a lot of mistakes in my irresponsible characterization of "Sonia" as "crazy," but my style of writing and the style of this website is often done in a humorous and sometimes mocking tone. I stayed consistent with that. Sonia's name is blacked out because I did (and do) worry about her well-being. I don't want her to read it and she most likely never will.

I am very thankful that there is an honest – and earnest – discussion going on from the comments on the previous post. Mental health is something that does not garner a lot of attention. I have been depressed at different times of my life. I have even thought about suicide, but I can thankfully say that is not something that I've dealt with in a long time. I don't know what that means or why I'm telling you this. I'm not looking for your sympathy or a free pass in what I've written, but I may be more empathetic than I let on.

You can mock me all you want for being a "narcissist," a "douchebag," or whatever name you'd like to call me, because I can handle it. Sure, it bothers me a bit, but I open myself up for criticism with a post like that.

There were, however, some comments that I take exception to. Was this some kind of attempt to boost my own ego by bragging about the attention I received from Sonia? Or by mentioning how many women I've hooked up with? Once again, this site is about people who have been blown off or people who are doing the blowing off. Is there sex involved in these blow offs? Almost every single time. My mentioning this is to add credibility to my experiences. The fact of the matter is that those commenters who don't like the post will find whatever way they want to poke holes in my character. Do I get an ego boost?

Yes. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I. WRITE. A. POST. It's therapeutic and feels good. Like writing a diary. And it's MY diary. Did I use Sonia or mention sexual conquests to attain this level of ego-boosting? NO. I write about EVERYTHING. I feel the need to mention again, that this site is for outrageous things that happen to us in relationships and courtships. I think this fits the bill.

I thank Sara for being so pragmatic in her blog comment responses. I do want to close on one point. I don't think there's one person out there who hasn't used the word "crazy" to describe someone or something as recently as this month, this week, or even this day. To vilify me is ultimately up to you, but let's not be hypocritical.

I can grow from this experience and I hope others can as well when it comes to our mental health.

Sincerely,
The SVB

2 comments:

  1. I think there is a huge difference between sitting around at a bar with your friends and laughing over beer about an experience you had with a "psycho" girl (or even describing a policy you don't understand at work as being "crazy") and posting someone's REAL LIFE TEXTS on a public website with a readership of "x" solely for the audience to point and laugh and humiliate a person who is obviously going through something very very difficult. Defending it by pointing back at your readers who express concern and shouting "hypocrisy!" is not only a false equivalency but also a straw man argument.

    It's also rather disingenuous of you to excuse your choices in the article by pointing out its comedic intent. As saara pointed out in the comments of the previous article, comedy can certainly be utilized as a coping mechanism for distressing or even alarming situations, and I understand your concern that the woman in question might harm you or even self-harm--or, even if she committed no act of violence, the texts themselves were still obviously stressful--but shaming her in a public way is still incredibly gross and superior. Once you are on a platform speaking to an audience in a one-sided conversation, I think you take on a responsibility to avoid being facile. Unfortunately many fail at this--how many stand-up comics get a laugh by telling stories about the "crazy" girls they have dated?--and as an advocate for freedom of speech it's impossible for me to tell them what they CAN'T say, but it is perfectly within the realm of reason for me to say that I hope they realize the consequences of what they say and that they make the choice to be better next time. Because when one person stands up in front of an audience and mocks a particular minority, that just gives others permission to do the same. It's not challenging and it's not decent.

    There were compassionate ways to write the article in question while still being funny and irreverent. I don't know if you're familiar with stand-up comic Maria Bamford, but she does a masterful job of pointing out the humor of mental illnesses (from which she suffers) without EVER authorizing the audience to reduce the people who have them to one-dimensional punchlines. All you had to do was acknowledge that Sonia is a complete human being, which would not have taken much. Even making reference to your own bouts with depressive thoughts would have humanized her by proxy and made it clear that you were finding humor in the disease, not the victim of it. I also probably would not have posted the texts verbatim or used even her real first name.

    It does warm my heart that so many readers were quick to avoid falling into the trap of laughing at Sonia because "HAHA that bitch is crazy!" and pointed out that she is a complex human with a very real struggle (without defending her actions or saying that it is okay to harass another person, whatever your circumstances), and that saara was so quick to take responsibility for any offense or harm the post caused. I am glad that you are taking the opportunity to pursue growth as well, but I do wish the "response/apology" post hadn't been so defensive and self-centered, as your arguments in your own favor just were not that convincing.

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  2. Thank you for your very well-written response and for reading. You have very firm ideas of how one should write something -- and somehow I believe that no matter how I wrote that article, you would've seen some error in it. I do appreciate this response though. Even so, I stand by my original assertion in MY response.

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