Sticks and Stones

In one of my favorite Gilmore Girls episodes, Rory Gilmore writes a scathing review of a ballet performance for her school paper, The Yale Daily News. In the article, Rory criticizes everything about the lead ballerina’s performance from her “hippo-like” grace to a roll of fat poking out from under her bra strap. Understandably, the lead ballerina is very upset, and so is Rory. After all, Rory was trying to create the best piece for her newspaper and not hurt anyone’s feelings, but even though it was unintentional, the ballerina was offended.

Working on the commentary section each week, I write pieces and read the pieces of others that contain words I would never say to someone in person. While I can’t explain the motivations behind my fellow commentary contributors’ choice of hurtful words, I know mine.

Often, the most mocking diction creates the best writing. Sometimes the cruelest descriptions illustrate my intended points the best. Yet, when it’s written on my computer and eventually printed in the newspaper, it doesn’t sound rude to me. In real life, when I say something rude aloud, I immediately regret it. As the words seem to hang in the air, I can see the face of the person I have accidentally offended change into a look of anger or sorrow. Honestly, it doesn’t happen often because I try to treat people how I would want to be treated and, while it may be hard to tell from how I judge others in my writing, I am very sensitive.

But when it does happen, I feel genuinely terrible and resolve to create a better filter between my brain and my mouth. But it’s not the same when I write. As I look back at the commentaries I have written over the course of my first year here, I realize I probably have offended countless individuals.

It’s hard for me to explain this fundamental disconnect, but it’s clearly present in other forms of writing besides commentary submissions. While I can’t speak for everyone, in my experience when people are typing on AOL Instant Messenger, sending an e-mail or text message, or writing a Facebook post, people say things they wouldn’t ordinarily say if their conversation partner was standing in front of them. Sometimes, this can be a good thing, especially when we want to tell someone something positive we would normally be too self-conscious to say. But all too often it is a bad thing.

While on a high school trip abroad, a girl I knew would get into the most horrible fights with her boyfriend via text messaging. Both of them said things to each other they would never have said if they were back home and face-to-face. I’m not sure what the solution to this issue is, and after reading last week’s commentary about the increasing popularity of Blackberrys and iPhones, I’m certain it will only get worse.

I’m not going to apologize for the things I have said throughout this year in The Maroon-News, because I believe the points I have tried to make are important. However, I am going to apologize for the insensitive way I’ve said them. From now on, I want to try to act as if everything I write, whether online, in print or on my phone is something I would say aloud with my audience watching and reacting. In the future, I hope my writing reflects the tact and sensitivity I use when choosing my words in conversation. Over time, I hope that the persona that I portray in print reflects the person I am in my day-to-day interactions.