Snarkville, population: Me

Are we what we read?

As I get ready to ring in the new year, I’m considering either a cold turkey approach to some of my online blog-reading habits, or at least limiting myself a little more. I want to know if it’s something that affects my day-to-day me-ness.

You see, I follow a lot of smart, thoughtful blogs; artsy blogs; library science blogs; blogs about life, the universe, and everything. But what I really like are snark sites. You know, the sites dedicated to providing biting commentary and witty asides regarding famous/semi-famous people, online personalities, blogs, and drama. I grew up on MST3K; snark is my native language. Tom Servo is my spirit animal, and it’s like MST3k-ing the ridiculous bloggers and celebrities one .gif at a time. I frequent certain forums where I make witty banter with other snarky folks in my free time—places like Oh No They Didn’t!, Get Off My Internets, Fandom Wank, etc. Right now, I have two separate tabs open all about some bloggers I follow purely to hate-read, joyously languishing in my dislike, like it’s a wonderful bubble bath.

The thing is, I’m not jealous of these people I sometimes virtually roll my eyes at. They blog about things I don’t even care about. There is literally no reason why I should care so much. Like, none. I frequent these forums and sites because it makes me feel good. Plus, it keeps me on my own blogging toes and reminds me what not to do. The thought process is mostly, “well at least I’m not doing this or saying that.” In a way, it’s sort of like watching trashy TV–you watch it to feel better that at least you didn’t have a bridezilla meltdown while drunkenly beating seals with a club or something.

But if I’m honest, it feels mean-spirited to bash the ever-living hell out of someone’s blog, and that’s where I’m conflicted. One could look at it and say I’m just a mean girl on the Internet, playing a part in a mean girls clique. If so, it’s kind of a off-balance mean clique because I’ve gotten really good, caring advice from people who, like me, spend their time also snarking on stuff. When people are down, the condolence comments come in waves. Plenty of people post praise about bloggers they love, too. We’re not all heartless monsters.

But I have a personality that tends to get into stuff I care about–I want to immerse myself! But the immersion seems to be potentially problematic. My big fear is that the daily snarking is starting to kill my real life empathy outside of the forums, and that my eyeroll-mindset is slowly making me less kind. If I spend two hours on the forums one evening, is it slowly wearing down my caring glands? Sometimes it feels like it, or at least it feels like I enjoy things a little less after I’ve spent so much time actively disliking other things. I’d like to think I’m caring and kind, but I wonder sometimes if my native language of snark is somehow slowly turning me apathetic and mean IRL as I sharpen it on the online-snark-forum whetstone. I don’t want that. I worry I get too caught up in the something is wrong on the Internet mindset, and that I let it take over.

I’m wondering if I should just keep trucking, happily scrolling through the banter on my lunch hour, or if I should take a step back and swap my snark for an episode of Fresh Air every day. I’d like to think that what I do online doesn’t really change who I am as a person, but that’d be a lie. I grew up on Internet forums, and they did shape me as a person–in plenty of really good ways! I have to assume current interactions have the same potential, but for ill just as much as good. Interactions online are still interactions I’m making as the human being I am. So that leads me to believe that snarking online, even mildly, does in some way affect me, too, and I want to be mindful of the long-term side effects.

Maybe there’s a better, slightly more kind person lurking beneath my constantly-raised-eyebrow exterior. Maybe she would become more prominent if snarky-me were to back into the shadows just a little. My spirit animal may be Tom Servo, but Servo was never mean in his mockery. So maybe my little robot patronus is something I need to try a little harder to emulate.

How about you all? Do you have any guilty-pleasure/hate-reads? And do you feel any true, well, guilt over them?

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Hayley DeRoche

Hayley DeRoche is a librarian with a penchant for cardigans and corduroys. Luckily, her professional life revolves more around technology & information than fashion.

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