Back from New York, brimming with the kind of cheer that only Mozart, NYC, and new friends can bring. There’s so much coming down the pike I am surprised that I even had time to check my YouTube channel’s inbox. You know, the one that has rewarded me so mightily in the past. Well, it had another present for me! This time it was a threat, and a string of profanity so long and childishly enthusiastic in its vulgarity that after the initial shock, left me a little sad, and a little pissed off.

There’s something about the internet. I was active right as it began to swell, sending telnet emails and chatting via IRC, later joining email lists, which were the sort of precursors to blogs with long threads of comments. Even then, in 1996, I remember users hiding behind screen names and saying incredibly mean spirited things, often times to people who had accidentally joined our list and had misspelled “unsubscribe” (so the majordomo didn’t receive or follow the command) or ventured to say something that was outside of the norm.

The internet-written word is vastly inferior to the hand written or spoken word. It’s so easy to type up something that sounds punchy and clever (or menacing and lewd) and hit “submit” without any real reflection. The chink in unedited internet correspondence’s armor is not in how it makes the recipient feel. In the end, I’m actually getting used to it. As this blog started getting thousands as opposed to hundreds of hits, my inbox began to fill up with all manner of commentary, most of it really cool, some of it…not so much. What makes this method of communication so hard to deal with is also its strength, if you can get past the unpleasantness of being on the receiving end.

It allows you an unfiltered look into the personality of the sender.

No artifice, no pretense. All you have to do is ignore the words.

So when I get a threat that advises me to “…die, and stop putting up stupid cello videos you cant play” (the rest is absolutely unpublishable) or an all-caps rhetorical question “…WHAT DO YOU THINK THAT SAYS ABOUT YOU YOU MISRABLE ****”

I do feel sad, which is the intended effect. Then I get mad, which also feeds their mania.

But only a few minutes afterward, I realize that any time someone lobs a grenade into my inbox, I have an unobstructed view into the kind of world they inhabit. And from what I can see, I’d rather be in my shoes, turning the other cheek when I am the recipient of hurtful words…

…than be the sort of person who is so uncomfortable in their own skin that they feel compelled to send them.

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7 thoughts on “The good, the bad, and the jackass”

  1. "die, and stop putting up stupid cello videos you cant play"

    Good gawd, what kind of person gets this insane over DIY cello videos? There's almost no reason TO turn the other cheek, because it's not as much hurtful as just … nuts. It's like watching someone hop up and down on one foot and recite the pledge of allegiance backwards while picking their nose and farting. Baffling, gross, and stinky, but that's about it.

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  2. As with all criticism, consider the source. I used to run an advice column on keeping fish back in the early days of the internet – maybe got a question one or twice a week and I would post the more interesting ones with the emailed answer. As you say, there's some really disrespectful people out there.

    Also received a really nasty note on my class recital's Brandenburg Concert YouTube video post. Obviously, the person had no clue that it wasn't meant to be professional. 🙂

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  3. Marisa: First off, what a cute profile picture! I just love it! Second, I suppose my beef is with the compulsion for critique in the first place. Even if your Brandenburg was professional, what's the benefit of insulting someone?

    I suppose I feel so strongly because I come from the other side of the equation. Like many music school survivors, I used to be so insecure that I would spend a lot of energy picking other people's playing apart in my head. (this was eons ago, before I started teaching) It never really made me feel better about myself, but it was a gesture I repeated in the hopes that it would.

    Now that I'm perhaps a tiny bit wiser (though I reserve the right to make a complete ass of myself at any moment) I see people as the intention they have, not the product they peddle. I can love a pitchy Popper on YouTube but be turned off by a flawless Elgar, based on the sincerity of the effort.

    I just want to see someone risk being genuine, which is why I'll enjoy your Brandenburg and continue to manufacture my bockety videos, even if I have to duck a little bit when the arrows come flying.

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  4. Emily you totally Rock! You contribute so much to the culture of society through your blog, Stark Raving Cello & your beautiful musical notes flying & sparkling throughout the world via the internet. Thank you for your guidance, inspiration & humour. With Love, Katie x

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  5. Just Say No: my philosophy on YouTube comments. I turn them off for all of my videos. Love YouTube. Great service, but not a place for intelligent conversation. If they can't find my blog, well…

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  6. Definitely – YouTube comments are the worst! Laughably. Maybe you could encourage people to comment on your webpage where you have a bit more control, or sthg.

    cello-y good times!

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