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Don’t Forget the Human Being 30 August 2009

Posted by Camille Gooderham Campbell in Editor's Opinion.
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There’s a human being behind every story and poem you read — it’s called an author.

Oh, you knew that? Good.

You thought everyone knew that? Hmm. If everyone knows that, then why do we see words like “silly” in the reader comments under stories published online? Would you tell someone to his face that his story you just read was silly and the ending sucked? Would you tell someone to her face that her story was pointless and a waste of time?

Oh? You’d say that the story was a bit light for your taste and you were disappointed by the ending, that you prefer stories with more of a theme or purpose than you got from what you just read? Even saying that would take a fair bit of courage, eyeball-to-eyeball. I’d be willing to bet that most people would glance away and mutter, “Oh, er, yeah, great story… I, uh, I liked the dialogue…” Even in a writing critique group among trusted friends where you’re supposed to be brutally honest and all that, it isn’t easy to tell anyone that their precious work isn’t working — watching someone pretend not to be hurt isn’t fun.

So why do people behind the safety of a keyboard and screen feel free to drop their party manners and fling about all sorts of rudeness about other people’s published work? Honestly, I think it’s because they forget there’s a real person, a human being, waiting behind another computer screen to read those comments.

Those comments can hurt.

And that’s why I’m asking everyone who reads this to do just one thing: when you set out to post a comment on a story or poem you’ve read online, pretend you’re sitting at a table with the author. Tell it like it is, yes — I’m not asking anyone to sugarcoat anything — but tell it the way you would face-to-face. Because the author is out there behind his or her computer screen, putting on a brave face, pretending not to be hurt.

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