HOW BROCK LESNAR TAUGHT ME THAT USER-COMMENTS ARE THE DEATH OF INSPIRATION
I read a lot of user comments.
I read them on Facebook, IGN, Reddit, Twitter, basically anywhere user-comments exist - which is everywhere in today’s hyper-opinionated internet society. I’m inundated by them on a daily basis. It’s unavoidable when you work on the internet. I accept it, but once in a while, I'm moved to frustration by the comments I see.
I try to avoid reading user comments as often as I can (save those on my own articles and my own Facebook page) because the vast majority of comments on the internet are poorly thought-out, gut-reactions that barely amount to “opinions” or they’re vicious remarks meticulously designed to mock, undermine, cut or they’re absolute nonsense, snarky anti-humor that serves only to reveal one’s disconnect from humanity.
There’s something about the world we live in where anonymity has allowed the human race’s dumb-toddler-self to spring forth in a weak, pitiful, gutless fashion.
All those who would never have a means of expression, all those who would never do the hard work of figuring out exactly how to express themselves or the best medium of expressing themselves, are now permitted to sound off willy-nilly, contributing, for the most part, to an environment of hate and stupidity.
That kind of environment results in a lack of passion, a lack of drive, a lack of experience, a lack of knowledge, a lack of strength, and especially a lack of inspiration.
Prior to user-comments, if you really believed in something and needed to share that belief with others, you would run for office, you would write a poem, you would write a novel, you would write a letter to an editor of a newspaper. You would spend more time with your thoughts. You would naturally put more effort into the expression of your thoughts and you would do that because you were forced to. You would have the benefit of time. Time yields thoughtful consideration and time is the one thing the internet respects the least.
Halfway through your essay or your novel or your symphony or your article, you might have realized that you didn’t actually care that much about the topic, that you didn’t need to express those thoughts.
I have started and stopped countless editorials for this website since its inception.
All those articles you have not read from me didn’t deserve to be read because I wasn’t passionate enough, interested enough, or invested enough to see them through to publication. I didn’t do the work. That most likely means the idea I had wasn’t important enough or valuable enough to be shared.
That’s the value of the creative process.
That’s the value of a considerate world where we are all free from legal persecution to express ourselves, but circumstance requires us to work in order to share those thoughts, to earn the expression of our thoughts.
In that kind of world you weed out what’s worthy and what isn’t worthy.
The internet tells you that everything you think and feel is worthy, and that is a sick lie perpetrated on the innocent.
An actual thought-process can make you more aware of yourself. It can make you a better, more passionate person who produces better, more passionate work.
User-comments negate that growth.
I was my least productive and my most depressed when I was wasting away on IGN message boards railing against the stupidity of other user-comments.
The moment I realized I could devote that time producing something of worth, the moment I stopped feeding the problem, I started creating something I could be proud of.
Before user-comments, all those people who balked at the effort required to share their ideas would never be heard. Their brief, flickering gut-reactions masquerading as opinions would fade into the background where they belonged, only to be heard by their friends and family.
We all have those useless thoughts. Everyone’s mind, my own included, if projected on a screen, would look exactly like the internet - a mishmash of random, intense emotions, beauty, genius, rage, humor, fear, and stupidity.
The beauty of considerate expression (verbal, written, visual etc) is that it takes that nonsense of the human mind and gives it a discernible form - the time and the effort gives useful shape to ideas that aren’t ready to enter the public consciousness. Most user-comments are the seed of passion, the fetus of an idea, ejected from the mental-womb long before the gestation period is complete.
And that’s the world we live in today.
And I know I can’t change that.
All I can do is create my own internet environment that attracts the kind of audience that leaves the kind of thoughtful, positive, useful remarks I can appreciate - and that’s what I’ve done with The Work of Wrestling.
But when I venture elsewhere I am disheartened, often disgusted by the perfectly despicable blend of hubris, ignorance, and absolutism I see expressed in an hundred and twenty characters or less.
Recently, Brock Lesnar re-signed with the WWE.
I’ve observed the internet’s predictable reaction to this news, and I’ve marveled at a shortsighted sentiment I’ve seen expressed over and over again - a sentiment that defined the way people viewed Brock throughout most of 2014.
“The Champion should be on every show!”
“He's not the defending champion! He never defends it!”
"The WWE Champion should be on every RAW, wrestle every pay-per-view, even occasionally defend the title on TV, and even wrestle every house show!”
I’ve consistently seen comments like this in response to the idea of Brock re-signing and remaining a part-time champion all over the internet. I’ve cleaned them up here, of course. Sprinkle in some four-letter words and heinous hate-speech and you’ll have a better idea as to what people are actually writing.
When challenged by those who feel the opposite way about Brock re-signing, the go-to-retort (at least the clean version) without fail, is always, “Hey man, it’s just my opinion.”
You are not expressing an opinion. No matter what side of that argument you're on.
You are expressing nothing.
There is no one word to describe most user-comments.
But the one thing, definitively, most user-comments are not, is an opinion.
An opinion is an idea that represents your ethos, your world-view. An opinion is a collection of thoughts that have been considered over a long period of time, those thoughts eventually coalescing into a perspective on the way the world works, and how one fits into that world. True opinions are not static. They are ever-changing. Opinions are vibrant, resultant from a spectrum of blended experiences that take place over the course of one’s ever-evolving existence.
“Brock Lesnar sucks!” is not an opinion.
“He’s the worst, part-timers are ruining the business!” is not an opinion.
“Wrestling died the day The Streak ended!” is not an opinion.
"Brock Lesnar is the best! You suck!" is not an opinion.
"He's the most important Champion in decades!" is not an opinion.
"I'm so happy he re-signed! Best thing that could have happened!" is not an opinion.
These sentences represent the primordial goop of the human mind, the ill-formed, fleeting animal-flashes that plague us all, and it is impossible for them to offer anything of value to the world. They only serve to provide the commenter with a brief sense of satisfaction for having seemingly expressed themselves. But the commenter has sabotaged their own mind, their own beautiful humanity the moment they allow that gestating, angry little idea to escape through the taps of their fingers on a keyboard. That sense of brief satisfaction they feel is misleading, the rush an addict experiences when they succumb to the allure of their chosen substance. The thought is finalized, etched in comment-section-stone prior to its development.
This article was very nearly released into the world as an angry user comment directed at all the other angry user comments. I would have done a disservice to myself had I taken that route.
We also permit the brief, unformed snap-judgments of others to affect our individuality, our sense of self, even our own actual opinions. We're no longer influenced by the best work someone has produced, by an opinion that has been developed and expressed with skill, we're influenced by the absolute worst in others.
These comments sections become a siren’s song, leading us all into the rocks of masturbatory shortsightedness.
We either absolutely agree with everything! or we absolutely hate everything!
And so an entire generation grows up in an environment that puts a premium on the destruction of mental development, and people walk away from this new process of expression feeling completely right in their stance, certain that theirs is the only correct perspective.
And the result is a misunderstanding of what’s actually good and what’s actually bad.
For example, the re-signing of Brock Lesnar means nothing but narrative opportunity.
That, at the time of this writing, is all the re-signing of Brock Lesnar means.
Nothing more, nothing less. It’s a chance for things to go well, and it's a chance for things to go badly.
Certainly…Brock Lesnar re-signing could usher in the greatest era in professional wrestling history or it could mean doom for us all.
But it won’t.
It means a character that the WWE has taken a lot of time and effort to build over the course of several years is currently on an unknown, potentially transformative path that could benefit the art of professional wrestling.
There will either be good angles or there will be bad angles for the rest of 2015.
More than likely there will be some good ones and some bad ones, just as there were good Brock-angles in 2014 and bad Brock-angles in 2014, just as the crowd booed Brock Lesnar at times in 2014 and just as the crowd unanimously cheered Brock Lesnar at times in 2014.
Instead of looking at it in this calmer and ultimately more realistic way, a sect of the pro-wrestling population has resigned themselves to a miserable existence, refusing to see the potential of Lesnar, comfortable in a world built on unformed ideas cast wildly into an indifferent internet ocean, ideas emboldened by access to some knowledge, to some experience, and to some ability of expression.
All the while irony and hypocrisy remain The Reigning, Defending, Undisputed Champions of “internet opinions”, for all those members of the IWC who believe the WWE World Heavyweight Champion should wrestle every RAW, house-show, and pay-per-view were trained to think that way by the idolatry of their hate, John Cena.
The real-world is not as absolute as the internet wants you to think.
Reality is a beautiful, equalitarian thing.
It breaks us down and builds us back up. It knocks us down, forcing us to pick ourselves back up. Reality teaches us about the ways of the world. Reality doesn't say, "Good job". Reality says, "Work harder."
Maturity is the recognition that nothing is permanent, and that recognition makes us calmer, smarter, better human beings.
Sometimes the WWE World Heavyweight Champion is a guy who defends the title at every pay-per-view and sometimes he isn’t. Maybe one day, he or she will do neither.
You will appreciate one of those champions more than the other based on your experiences in life.
I ask that you take the time to fully appreciate why, to examine why you feel that way, and then, if you feel the urge to share that fully formed idea with others, don’t waste it on a platform that inherently does the opinion a disservice - like a comments section. Create something that is a testament to your hard, gracious work.
Our minds, our ideas, our opinions are precious.
And it’s time we all started treating ourselves with a little more respect.
I have disabled comments on this post. Whether you agree or disagree with anything I've written here, I want to challenge you to think more about that reaction, to formulate an argument that represents your perspective. And then I ask that you share it with a friend, family member, or on your own blog, your own podcast, or your own creative outlet. I'd be happy to give it a look.
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