#2. People Who Dislike You For The Wrong Reasons
I don't want to spend too much time here because this is a lesson you've heard on every TV family sitcom for the last 40 years: "Well, if Tommy doesn't want to be your friend because of ______, then Tommy's not a very good friend, is he?" And it may be cliche, but it's true. Tommy sucks. You can't worry about people who dislike you for the wrong reasons. Superficial things. You're too ugly, too pretty, too brainy, too jocky, too gay, too into mixed martial arts and comic books, whatever. If you listen to them you'll get lost. You'll sink to the lowest common denominator. You won't be you anymore.
After all, where would Cracked's Soren "double bagger" Bowie be if he listened to all those naysayers who told him to never leave the house just because he's so fugly?
It is well-accepted that the comments section of anything located on the Internet is like a giant electromagnet for the worst people in the world if the worst people in the world were made of metal-plated pus. (Especially if the pus were also made of metal.) That's why many writers and well-grounded people avoid the comments completely. After all, taken as a whole, the comments section is, at worst, irritatingly worthless and, at best, fairly contradictory.
For example, in 2010, I wrote a piece staunchly in favor of our First Amendment rights and the rights of Muslims to build an Islamic Community Center on private property, and I was attacked as a flaming liberal. A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece criticizing some of the protesters in the Occupy Wall Street movement and received hate mail, labeling me a right wing conservative idiot. I'm also routinely called a bleeding heart hippie because of my Hate By Numbers series even though I satirize CNN far more than FoxNews. Probably the most irritating thing that's ever happened to me online was when I wrote a satirical piece, fully supportive of gay marriage, and took crap from some gay readers who missed the point completely. As a whole, the comments section of the Internet is indefensible, and trying to appease commenters is not only foolhardy, it's impossible. I mean, look at these comments that popped up side by side a few months ago. I couldn't please them both if I tried.
But I can have the one with weaker grammar skills traced and killed.
#1. People Who Dislike you For The Right Reasons
Here we are, and you don't need any explanations. These are the people who know why you suck and can describe your suckitude in accurate ways. These are the people we want to disregard so we can keep being who we are while we pretend to be someone else. But like the saying goes, these are the people who matter most.
"And if you look right here, you'll see why your personality is hard-wired to perform in such a way as to keep everyone from loving you."
This is the point where I admit I sorta lied. I do think listening to the comments as a whole would be foolish, but unlike so many of my brethren online, I often do read the comments. Why? Well, as one writer will tell you, it's because I'm a total lunatic, and that's true enough. I won't disagree. But I do it for another reason too. I'm just following the expression above like I have my whole life. And as much as I can read the comments for the ego-stroke of people who like me (for the right reasons), I'm really even more concerned with people who hate me for the right reasons. And it doesn't have to be hate. It can just be telling me I'm wrong. Even small things. Like with that OWS column, I made a metaphor about tigers in the Serengeti. Apparently, they don't live there. I read the comment and made the change. It was embarrassing, but I learned something.
In general, I don't think people who avoid the comments are wrong. I have read thousands over the years and there has only been a small percentage that told me something positive or negative I didn't already know. But most of the time I do it anyway because I think there's value in the search. In believing that people exist who can teach you something. Who might be correct in their criticism. Also, having practiced the other three categories, I don't really sweat having to plow through the wrong-reason haters and trolls to find anything of value. And who knows, if I can do it online, maybe some day I can do it in real life too?
For more from Gladstone, check out The 7 Worst Behaviors on Public Transportation and 8 Inexcusable Behaviors on Public Transportation: Part 2.