Tharp On: Haters
When perusing the average Internet comments section one thing is glaringly clear: love is overrated and hate is where it’s at. For all it’s promise, and its furthering of humankind, the web is often simply fertilizer for the balls tree in anonymous hater land.
“Haters gonna hate.”
--Ancient Assyrian proverb
BUSAN, South Korea -- Every once in awhile, usually in the boozy confines of one of Busan’s drinking establishments, I am approached by a wide-eyed fellow expat who just so happens to have literary ambitions of his own. “How did you go about getting your book published?” he’ll ask. “Can you give me any advice?”
I’ll eye him like a trainer considering taking on a young boxing prospect, shake my head, suck through my teeth and then tell him to buy me a beer. Once that mug of Cass arrives, I’ll take a few skunky swigs and proceed to dispense my own brand of pointers, which invariably include starting a blog, pimping yourself on social media, and submitting articles to publications and websites in an effort to build up what is referred to these days an author’s platform. “But, MOST importantly,” I’ll say, staring into the pits of his eyes, “Develop a thick skin. There are a lot of haters out there.”
* * *
We are living in the midst of the Information Age, though we may need to re-brand it “The Trolling Teens.” Technology—for all its transformative wonder—has a pernicious side. There is a convincing case to be made that all of this fantastic gadgetry and virtual space has just made us meaner. Nowhere is this truer than on the Internet, where actual people—most often hiding behind the Kevlar armor of anonymity—unleash torrents of vitriol towards total strangers in nasty and bizarre attempts to make themselves feel superior. And no one feels the sting of this venom more than writers, who are the ones providing the "content," the ones splaying themselves open for all to praise or mock accordingly.
I’ve been actively writing and blogging online for over nine years now and have attracted my fair share of trolls and detractors. This shouldn’t surprise anyone—least of all me--since I have been known to throw up rants and screeds that have acted as Jackson Pollock paintings of offensiveness. I’ve stepped on toes and sometimes those toes have kicked back.
But it is so easy to snipe now, isn’t it? In the past, haters actually had to work on their craft: If you loathed a writer, you’d have to track him down at a cocktail party and call him a “dithering, pretentious boob” to his face; if you read something you despised, you actually had to sit down and write, or worse, type out a letter on real paper, stuff it into an envelope, look up the address of the publication, buy a stamp, lick it, and then physically mail it off. You were lucky if you got a response, and even then it would take at least a month. Now you just type “u r a fat pathetic wannabe hack and I hope u die in midair helicopter collision” into virtual box, click SEND, and voila! Instant hate!
Internet haters come in many different stripes, though here in Korea, we can boil it down to five main types.
1. The Arbiter of Literature
This guy is usually some kind of frustrated writer who lashes out in a sad attempt to repair his own shortcomings. He has been 4,000 words into a coming-of-life expat novel for the past decade now, and is just awaiting that burst of inspiration that will allow him to finish the thing and deliver it to a fawning publisher.
2. The Bitter Lifer
The Bitter Lifer has been here longer than you. He’s done everything you are doing now. He’s gone everywhere you want to go. Nothing you can write will impress his worn-out, jaundiced eye, and nothing, I repeat, nothing stokes his ire more than your photoblog from this year’s Mudfest.
3. The Tear Downer
This guy does nothing and hates everything. He hates your blog, he hates your stupid haircut, he hates your friend’s band, and he wouldn’t ride your ugly girlfriend “into battle.” He nearly always hails from the sunny, optimistic environs of the British Isles.
4. The Baiter
The Baiter exists just to get a rise out of you. He will say or do anything to get under your skin. He’s a relentless, ankle-biting attack Chihuahua. He just wants to see you lose it, and if you deal with him, you will.
5. The Netizen
The Netizen is a very Asian kind of hater, and usually shows up in swarming, livid mobs. The Netizen is militant in his loathing for you. He wants to pour acid on your molecules and erase your family tree. A year or so back, I posted a slightly tongue-and-cheek piece criticizing K-pop, and the Netizens showed up in droves, screaming for my head. One guy went so far as to say:
“YOU KNOW YOU SHOULDN’T EVEN BE IN SOUTH KOREA IF YOU WERE STANDING RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME I WOULD SLIT YOUR THROAT AND FORCE YOU TO LISTEN TO K-POP TO YOUR VERY LAST BREATH”
Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is some real hate. This Netizen loathed me so much that he didn’t even need to use any punctuation.
* * *
Back in the bar, I’ll tell the wet-behind the ear advice seeker that “It’s a tough biz. You can’t let the haters drag you down. Just keep writing and stay above the fray.” I’ll drain the last of my beer and continue: “By the way, did you read my book?”
“Uh… yeah,” he’ll say, shifting his feet and looking to the door. “That why I wanted to ask you how you got it published. It kind of sucked.”
My heart will drop into my stomach, tears will sting my eyes, and for the next three days, I’ll think of nothing else, while I search the net for something of his to hate even more.
Tharp's Blog: Homely Planet