If you’re the type of person who’s completely unaffected by shitty emails and dumb asses on the internet going full retard, this post probably won’t apply to you. Here’s another funny cat meme, and stay awesome. To the rest, read onwards!
So you sit down at your computer one morning, or you’re still laying in bed fucking around on your phone.
Eventually you get to your email and open something from an unfamiliar name. All of the sudden your heart rate spikes, your fingers shake a little bit, and you hold your breath. Someone has graciously decided to spew some rage infused, poorly spelled, grammatically challenged words together in an attempt to bring you down. For a moment, it works, somebody you don’t even know hates you. You sit there, get angry, get sad, and maybe even message some friends to try and make yourself feel better. But the reality is that email will bother you for a few days, or weeks. It just kind of hangs around, causing you to doubt yourself and your decisions. Hate mail is right next to boiled spinach and prune juice in my list of lamesauce things.
The Internet is an amazing thing. It’s made our world smaller, more connected, and more educated than ever. The collected knowledge of our species is literally at our fingertips, if all we do is click and search. This is an amazing time to be alive. However what goes up, must come down. Access to virtually instant communication worldwide has also opened the door and given voice to some that in my opinion do not deserve to be heard. With great power, comes great responsibility – and some people are just cunts.
Hate mail is a thing and if you have any kind of a following online for whatever you do, it’s only a matter of time before someone decides to spout something shitty. It’s tough when you put yourself out there only to have some random stranger write something deplorable about your creation or you as a person. Especially when you’re still insecure about whether the work is good or not. We are creators, and thus, our own worst critics. Our taste is often better than our skill and this makes us vulnerable to people who would derive pleasure in seeing us fall.
This kind of trashy email only works when the recipient has some part of themselves who believes the things that are being written. It might not even be a conscious belief, it could be buried beneath layers of psychological experiences to that one time your older brother said you weren’t good enough to play ball with his friends. The event was eventually forgotten, but somewhere your little child self created a belief that you weren’t good enough, so you spent your life either trying to compensate for that belief or drowning in it.
The other thing about hate mail is it signals the “fight or flight” part of our brain. Technically this is designed to keep us alive back in the good old days of running from predators or stepping on things that were poisonous. We remember it so we don’t put our hands on the hot stove again as kids and so on.
In the digital world this gets all fucked up and murky because our brains remember it as trauma and even in some cases can associate opening emails with receiving Bad Things. At one point I received so much hate mail for so long, thinking about opening my emails would make me want to throw up. Unfortunately, the linguistic atrocities will never stop showing up, especially the more public your artwork becomes.
The only thing that can change is you.
My beautiful creator, don’t let them have power over you. Don’t let somebody who really doesn’t know you, what you have been through, and where you are going, impact that thing that makes you awesome. It’s far easier said than done, trust me I know. It’ll take time and deliberate effort on your part to take back your power (or better yet, not let it be taken in the first place). It’s like learning any new skill, practice, practice, practice.
I’ve collected a few skills over the years of people sending unsolicited cock photos or telling me I was a terrible human being and my artwork sucked. There are ways to deal with the nasty little troll beasts who come out of hiding to shit all over everything they see but could never hope to create themselves. I hope there’s one or two in here that help you.
First, I’d like to acknowledge the fact that I’ve yet to meet a successful, happy person who maliciously trolled.
That should speak volumes. They’re either way too damn busy running their own empires, or they know what it took to get there. Guaranteed they’ve had their fair share of shit said about them, and they pushed through anyway. Show me a troll, and I’ll show you someone with too much time on their hands.
Which leads me to my next point. Don’t give up. Fuck those guys.
Anyone who says you can’t do it, shove your success in their faces by every single piece of content you put out. Who cares if it’s hanging in the Met Museum or if it’s just wandering around on social media with just a few likes. Never fucking give up because someone said something mean. Every single completed project is proving that you are stronger than their words. Justin Timberlake (of all people for me to reference, I know… Hear me out) was accepting some award for something. I wasn’t paying that much attention… However! What he said was totally solid and caught my attention. He said “Your critics do not count. Their words will fade… You wont.”. Let them become noise, because that’s all they deserve to be.
I picked up a great tip from a fan on my Facebook page. When he receives hate mail, he sends the most adorable photo of his dog as a response, and left it at that. Being a person of extremes, I like to take it a bit further. I send them so many cat memes they fucking block me. If I get a dick photo, I spam them with the raunchiest shit I can find till they block me. Sometimes it’s really obvious someone is just having a shitty day and they took it out on me, so I’ll find an adorable baby animal photo and write “Aw looks like you’re having a rough day, here’s a kitty! I hope you feel better soon.”
I’m a big fan of humor and turning something ugly into something funny, and I have yet to not enjoy a good meme war.
Then at the end of the day I’m thinking about the hilarious cat photos and their nonsensical baseless spew turns into nothingness and I forget about them.
Talk about it.
I don’t share all the hate mail I get, but sometimes I’ll share a post here and there. I usually block out some or all of the name and share it on social media along with some kind of a comment about how not to behave on social media. Cause let’s be honest, we should be better than this, but there’s a few cro magnon twats out there with a high speed internet connection and a keyboard. You’ll realize you’re not alone, because unfortunately this stuff is still a daily thing for a lot of people. Your friends will back you up and you can spend part of the day drawing epic stick man battles slaying the mighty ogre on your coffee napkin.
Get critiques and advice from people you admire and trust.
Grow, get better at your craft, whatever that looks like. Nothing shuts down noise and feels better than progress.
If you read something that hurts or upsets you, move your body. Get off your device and take 5 mins out of your day and do a few exercises. Do a few push ups, sit ups, and hold the plank for as long as you can. Our bodies were meant for moving, and a stagnant body is easier to plant negative things than a body that’s been thrashing some resistance.
The last one is really a pre-work thing that I think helps a lot on the day to day.
If you’re having a shit day, get a notebook and write in all the stuff you are upset about.
Write till your hand cramps and there’s nothing left in you. Once you’re feeling all empty, start filling it with good things. Write your goals, your craziest as fuck dreams. Totally wild and unrealistic, and some realistic ones. Once you’ve done that, stand in front of your mirror in the bathroom. Keep your posture as straight as you can, then tell yourself something you like about yourself. Even something minor like “Yeah I ate my fucking greens yesterday cause I had a bowl of microwaved peas!” or “Hi self, I really like your eyes” or “I’m so excited about this upcoming project!” if you can’t muster that try “I love animals so much”. Something positive, and as much as possible. Stand there and spew nice things at yourself. If you’re really stuck with what to say, find all the comments you can that have been positive, from friends, family, anyone at all. Put them all in a list and read them to yourself in the mirror. Look in your own eyes. This feels crazy awkward, to this day I still get shy about it. The internet will say all the terrible things to you for you, so might as well fight back where they can’t even see you. Build that armor up!
When you really value yourself, your work, and your efforts, no one can take that from you.
There is nothing anyone can say that can take away the fact that you are comfortable with yourself and what it took to get you where you are.
The first time I realized this I was sitting in group therapy, a few months before I had ever picked up a camera for the first time. The therapist asked the group if they could change one thing about their lives, what would it be? The answers went around the room like “I wish I’d never started drinking” or “I wish I’d been a more considerate husband/wife/parent” and so on. When my turn came, I sat there quietly for a moment and realized that for the first time in my life I was starting to be OK with who I was and what it took to get me there. It was the first time I’d actually appreciated myself for all my malfunctions and breakdowns. I wouldn’t have changed anything, and it felt pretty good!
Does that mean that it’s been a smooth ride since then? Of course not. I’m just a fucking talking monkey with a list of psychological blips and a camera experiencing life like the rest of the fleshlings. I’m not special or unique. I just want to grow old with a sweet ass book of stories of crazy shit I’ve done, and I doubt I am the only one.
No matter what you do, someone is going to dislike you for it, so you might as well stand up and own whatever it is that makes you YOU.
To quote the Internet: Be that thing you were before something came along and stole your fucking shine.