Reading online comments requires a strong constitution

By Renee Ordway, Special to the BDN
Posted Feb. 22, 2013, at 6:08 p.m.

Some days one needs a strong constitution to embark down the mean streets of the Bangor Daily News online comment section.

Truth be told, for those of us who write the piece being commented on, that is probably most days.

Some days I’m emboldened, tough and ready for the onslaught of critics who not only vehemently disagree with me but apparently hate me and think I’m wretched, stupid and very unattractive.

On Friday, Bangor City Councilor Ben Sprague posted on Facebook that “I don’t always read the BDN comment section but when I do I feel like this.”

His accompanying illustration was a picture of what appeared to be an angry owl being sprayed with a garden hose.

Let it be noted it clearly was a picture from the Internet, most likely of an owl in captivity being cleaned off. I’m sure the owl was not being injured but being cared for, possibly at a wildlife rescue facility.

Please don’t post comments that Ben is an advocate of owl abuse. I don’t know him terribly well, but I’m pretty sure he isn’t.

Not long ago the Portland Press Herald opted out of its anonymous comment section and now requires commenters to register with a Facebook account which some say has reduced some of the hatefulness.

It is sometimes harder to be blatantly hateful when everyone knows your name. I mean, if you are embarrassed by your words, then perhaps you shouldn’t share them with others.

Some weeks I put on my big girl pants and forge ahead, interested in the online conversation a column may have generated and steeled against the insults sprinkled throughout.

Some weeks I leave those pants in the drawer and prefer to remain oblivious.

But I have to assume that those who say not-so-nice things about me hope that I’m reading their comments. I mean, it must be more fun that way.

So in pondering the PPH’s move away from anonymous comments, I pulled on my pants, sat down with my laptop and dove in.

As some may have noticed, the BDN graciously removed the online photo of me wearing what some refer to as my “PCJ orange” shirt and a sneerlike grin. It had been up for a long time and many of you asked me to change it. I never chose it. Someone at the BDN dug it out of my old employee file somewhere and though I knew it was awful I never got around to suggesting an alternative.

Finally, with a friend’s urging, I emailed over a different photo. It wasn’t much, but it was better. My dog was in the shot and I assumed they would crop her out. They didn’t.

So for those who read online, meet Abby. She’s a 7-year-old yellow Lab mix who had a rough start but thanks to the Bangor Humane Society was saved, fixed and is now a shamefully spoiled mama’s girl.

After last week’s column ran, a reader suggested he didn’t always agree with me but was glad to see that the BDN had replaced that horrible picture and said he liked the new photo of me and my dog.

To which “Greg Brady” replied, “Yeah, the dog is definitely the better lookin’ of the two.”

Not untrue perhaps, but a pointless snippet of hate just the same.

“RyanRobbins” called my column on a South Portland couple’s problems with a houseguest who wouldn’t leave a piece of gossip and suggested I had some sort of relationship with the subject of the story.

The homeowner graduated with my oldest sister and I learned of his plight through a Facebook post. I thought it would be informative to readers.

Someone called “bdneck” has begged me to stop writing.

“Please Renee, stop writing and we’ll forget that you know little or nothing about anything.”

When I wrote a column about the same problematic issues facing our community and our state year after year, “Noleman2” wrote, “Really, seeking such lofty praise and accolades for oneself is the goal of the far left liberal media. Get a real job and maybe you will feel better about yourself and finally contribute something useful to society you hack writer!!!!!”

Yup, five exclamation points.

Clearly not a fan.

About the same column, “wholspete” wrote, “Things haven’t changed because no one reads this worthless rag of a newspaper.”

Except for “wholspete” apparently.

There are more, trust me, but I try to keep this gossipy, liberal, bigoted piece of garbage to a reasonable length each week.

Today my constitution was strong and I thought the “RyanRobbins” and “Greg Bradys” of the anonymous world of online comments would be pleased to know that their messages were received.

And if it makes them feel better, Ben Sprague is right. After a morning spent in the comment section of the BDN, I’m feeling just a bit like an angry, wet owl.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/02/22/living/reading-online-comments-requires-a-strong-constitution/ printed on December 22, 2014