Guys, We Need to Have a Conversation About Free Entertainment and Online Conduct

Hey, how’s it going? That bad or good, huh? I feel you.

Last week was a rough one for many people I know. We have those weeks, don’t we? The ones where the unimaginable happens. Or maybe the tedium of everyday life gets to us. Or we feel down in the dumps, even if we can’t quite pinpoint why. And if you’re anything like me, you probably head online and check social media to get away from your real life and engage in some mindless entertainment once in a while.

Sometimes we have great weeks. Everything seems to fall into place. We’re chipper. We’re productive. It’s good to be alive! And even then, we head to social media to bask in that glory or to check out what’s going on in the rest of the world.

We live in such an exciting time. We have entertainment available to us with just the click of a button or swipe of a screen. Lots of funny memes, humorous and heartfelt status updates, and website links right there, ready and waiting to provide us with a chuckle or a moment of contemplation. And all for FREE!

So cool.

But sometimes, we lose ourselves in the anonymity of online life. We lash out when we’ve had a bad day or week. We say and do things we wouldn’t normally if we were interacting with people face-to-face. And hey, this is normal. People sometimes behave in less-than-savory ways when they’re stressed or overwhelmed, even when physically interacting with others. But online, in the vast and impersonal spaces of the world wide web, we sometimes forget that we’re talking to real, actual people on the other end of that screen. Guilty.

But we are. We’re interacting with living, breathing, feeling humans in that space. People with their own set of struggles and joys. And just because we don’t know them personally doesn’t mean we shouldn’t consider this before reacting.

As a website owner and online publisher, I’ve seen it all, from building a connection with others I’ve never met to receiving messages telling me to kill myself. The pendulum swings far and wide and reaches the edges of both extremes.

I’ve gotten really good at laughing and brushing things off. I mean, you have to in this world. But sometimes — SOMETIMES — you reach a breaking point. We all do.

I’ve reached one of those breaking points. And I’ve just got to say a few things.

The most important is this: THANK YOU. I think I speak for all online entertainers and content creators when I say we appreciate you following us and interacting with our work. If it weren’t for you, we’d be talking at empty walls. YOU are why we do this. Because we love making you laugh or think or feel less alone. It makes us laugh and think and feel less alone, too. So major thanks for that. It means everything that of all the places you could be hanging out, you choose to devote some of your time to us.

You may not realize this, but a lot of us make a living (or try to) doing this online thing. We sometimes get paid to share our words or our jokes or our art with other publishers, and we even pay others to share their words and jokes and art with our audiences in some instances.

Some of us rely on site advertising to pay the light bill. So yeah, we have some ads running on our sites. It keeps the whole operation going.

Still others of us do it because it feels good. We don’t make any money, but we do get paid in human connection. And that’s priceless.

So when you leave an unnecessarily nasty comment on an article or a post, or you complain about advertising on a site you’re reading for free, or you try to sabotage our click-through rates on our links by divulging the full contents of articles to thwart others from clicking, you not only unnecessarily risk hurting writers’ and readers’ feelings alike, but you also potentially hurt our ability to put food on the table or to foster a connection with someone.

What should you do if you disagree? State your disagreement, of course. Just not with personal attacks, you know? Or just keep scrolling. I find that works well for me most of the time.

And what if you see a headline you don’t like but don’t feel like clicking to read the full thing? Definitely don’t comment. Read and then comment, or just keep scrolling. Usually those who have read can spot that you haven’t immediately. And it’s no fun when everybody knows you’ve flown off the handle blindly.

And what if you don’t like what a writer or online personality has to say or have an opinion about what they should and shouldn’t discuss? Keep it to yourself probably. They’re not there to please just one person. They’re there to speak their truth, something they have a right to do on their own pages that they maintain themselves and pour countless hours of time and energy into building. You wouldn’t tell someone what they can and cannot talk about in their own living room, would you? Of course not. That would be ridiculous.

No one’s forcing anybody to read or even like everything we put out there. We get that not everything will resonate with each person. And that’s OK. Chances are, there will be plenty for each person. Just maybe not everything.

So the next time you encounter FREE entertainment that no one’s requiring you to interact with, think about the people behind the screen. The people trying to contribute to the mortgage payment or reach someone out there who may have a similar experience. And then think before you interact.

And when in doubt about whether or not you should say something cruel or complain about the free entertainment you’re able to take or leave at your pleasure, probably just go with not. And then come back later.

We’ll have something you’ll likely enjoy real soon. We promise. (After all, we love providing for you. It gets us going to entertain or write something that speaks to you, even if we’ve never formally met.)