A couple of months ago, I joined a FaceBook writers group with thousands of members. I hoped to find helpful input, guidance and handy tips from others in the biz. What I got instead was drama. Every post I saw, no matter how innocuous or innocent the question, drew dozens of trolls whose main purpose seemed to be to offend as many people as possible on the thread. Granted, with that many members, it would be impossible to moderate adequately to keep all the trash out. But sheesh! What is the point of trying to snark another person into oblivion when they are there for ostensibly similar reasons as the snarker?
I followed it from the sidelines for over a month. Maybe two. I kept thinking maybe it was only a short-term thing, that the list would revert to its “normal helpful state” once the jerks got bored. But no. I found myself wading through 20 or 30 comments of rude or downright mean BS in order to find one helpful tip.
Let me be clear. I don’t speak snark. I don’t see the value in snark. My life has no room for snark. I have no problem telling someone if they’ve upset or offended me, but that is not the same thing. After that long with no clear change in the atmosphere, I finally bid the list adieu. I did make a comment (I know – stupid of me) that I was leaving in search of a writers group without all the drama, which I don’t need. For a week after I left the list, Facebook continued to send me the comments of other posters in response to my farewell note.
And each one’s tone? Yep, you guessed it. It was like a grade-school sandbox where the bullies were running the show. Who needs that?
As it happens, one of the other list members who was also tired of the puerile posts created his own writers group, and invited me to join. So I did. Already, I’m getting useful information every day. Because that’s the point of networking with other writers, isn’t it? To offer support and feedback? Advice and encouragement? It certainly seems to me like a more useful goal than tearing each other down, setting out to embarrass or humiliate the others, or to lord one’s own experience over a newcomer.
In Hampton Roads, where I live, there are several writers’ groups: Hampton Roads Writers and The Muse Writers’ Center. Both are oriented toward helping writers learn and improve their craft. HRW hosts “Show and Grow” events where writers can read excerpts and receive critiques, as well as classes, workshops and an annual conference (see my blog post in late September). The Muse Center has a regular physical space where they host gatherings, classes of all kinds, open readings, and more. They also host writers’ happy hours at various locations near their site so that we who are crazy enough to pen our thoughts in creative prose of one form or another might network and find others of like mind.
That is the type of support writers need. That’s why we seek out the company of other writers and creative people. And sometimes, we find each other in the darnedest, most unexpected places, as if we are drawn to one another by the muses in our heads.
A couple of weekends ago, I was gifted with contributions toward purchasing a new laptop and met young Phillippe, the sales clerk who assisted me at the Apple store. He was as nice as he could be, and I was already enjoying his company when I mentioned in passing that I am a writer. He was immediately intrigued and wanted to know more. I obliged (what writer wouldn’t?) and he confessed that he’d often thought of writing the story of his life as a fictionalized tale. Bobby and I strongly both encouraged him to do so, told him he’d never know if he could do it unless he tried. I told him about the local resources, and watched the look of excitement spread over his face at the thought of pursuing this dream. I admit to thinking how much farther along in this career I’d be by now if I too had started at twenty, like I wanted to. It felt really good to encourage him, to see his eagerness, and to wonder later if he would actually go after it.
I’m one of the first people to say that as widely differing individuals, we should try to find common ground if we want to understand one another. And I’m not sorry I joined that first Facebook writers group. It served as a reminder of the fact that there are apparently people out there who speak only snark. But I have no desire to visit snark city on purpose. The world has too much unavoidable ugliness already without choosing a forum whose atmosphere gags me with it every time I visit.