Did you watch Amanda Palmer’s TED talk yet? It’s all over the internet – people loving it and saying that she “won TED” (since when is TED something to be won?) and other people griping about her and her eyebrows (really, you have time to complain about someone else’s eyebrows on the internet?)
I watched it a few days ago and I can’t stop thinking about it – and it’s funny. When I watched it for the first time it was from clicking on a link in another blog and I had no idea who this lady was (so sue me, I don’t exactly have my finger on the pulse of popular culture). I thought she seemed a little nervous at first, I thought her intro reminded me of the movie “The Giant Mechanical Man” – I thought a lot of things. But she built up steam as she was going along and I was really, really with her by the time she got to the end of her message. I wanted to know more, I wanted to see who this person really was. So I googled her and found her blog.
She’s clearly got a big personality, and one that other people love or hate, there don’t seem to be a lot of in betweens. And as a response to all of the hate side, she wrote this article on internet hatred.
And all I have to say is – if mean spirited comments and articles can makes this woman – a punk musician with raging success and an army of fans – if it can make HER sad, what defense do the rest of us have? I mean that’s kind of the point of her post, but it was pretty shocking to me. I kind of always figured that if you get to a certain point and enough people love you (and shout from the rooftops how much they love you, and give you their hard earned money for the product you’re selling) that you must eventually become immune to negativity. I guess what reading her post has shown me is that there is no such thing as immunity to hate. Hate hurts, no matter who it’s directed at and who it’s coming from. No matter if it’s in your face or on the internet. There’s just no reason for it. It makes people sad, end of story. And it’s a really hard thing for me to wrap my head around that people might WANT to make someone else sad.
Last week I had a post featured on another blog and that post got some negative comments from one particular reader. Not a polite criticism of my work, but an attack on myself as a person as well. It was just one silly comment out of dozens, and it wasn’t even someone that I knew, but it was enough to put me into a serious funk and start to really doubt my self worth. So how can one single comment have so much power? Especially when given a bit of distance and time to reflect, it was clearly not worth shedding tears over. In thinking it over I keep coming back to the same word – vulnerability. When we share anything of ourselves online, we are inherently making ourselves vulnerable. Which brings me to another of the TED talks. This one is (after so many viewings and re-viewings) still one of my all-time favorites. It’s by Brené Brown and it’s on exactly that word – vulnerability. It’s amazing – seriously, go watch it. She writes and talks so much about opening ourselves up to experiences and living wholeheartedly. The part that always sticks with me when I read her work is the idea that you can’t just numb the hard feelings – in order to really live, we need to experience both the highs AND the lows. Her newest book is called Daring Greatly – she talks in it about not being afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid that your ideas might flop, some of them will – but that doesn’t mean you should be afraid to try. And I’ve been all on board with that, but I wasn’t ready for hate.
In trying to make sense of the whole experience I’ve been finding a lot of common threads in uncommon places. Brené Brown and Amanda Palmer don’t have a whole lot in common, other than both having delivered popular TED talks at one point in their careers, but I think that we can learn something from both of them. The best lesson I’ve learned so far is that not only do I need to be ready to fail in the sense that I might not be successful, I need to be prepared for the fact that my failures might become personal. It makes sense that in a world so diverse, nothing is universally loved. The world would be a pretty boring place if we all had the exact same taste, so I wouldn’t expect that everyone would love what I write or do or make. But I am only now realizing that even beyond not liking what I do – some people might actually hate what I do. And that even if (when) that happens I can’t let it define me or my work any more than I should let failure of any other kind define me. It’s so hard to let hurtful words just go without dwelling on them, but I know that moving on is my only option. Creating beautiful things and trying to fill the world with goodness and love is the only way for me to be. Sorry haters, this girl only has love.