This is fascinating experiment, like giving people an invisibility ring and watching how they handle it.
We have a lot of people reaching into their souls, as you expected, and we have a lot of failing grades as well.
I was impressed at some of the thoughtful and heartfelt confessions people were posting. To those of you who took your time to register those comments, thank you. I appreciate your courage and hope the experience was cathartic.
On a darker note, I was surprised at the number of people who seized the opportunity of invisibility to vent their personal vendettas - both against others and myself (in spite of my warning in the previous post, I ended up having to screen/delete a large number of abusive comments). Welcome to the internet. Please keep your hands inside the ride at all times and your asbestos suit securely fastened.
Since working as a columnist at a newspaper, I've dealt with nasty, vicious criticism in all its forms (including two death threats phoned to my home, when I lived in San Diego). I've recieved a variety of hate mail in my time at the paper: my column torn to shreds stuffed in an envelope, an obscenity-filled letter describing pornographic impossibilities, and other bits of disturbing verbal venom.
I'd like to say that I'm above it, that I can shrug off the negative judgements of strangers with a laugh. How facile, the glib lies we tell ourselves!
Truth? For those of us who live and breathe by the words we write, an audience's reaction to our writing cuts to the core of how we define ourselves. When I recieved a six-page handwritten letter from a Vietnamese man who spent ten years in a P.R.C. laogai prison, thanking me for writing a column condemning China's shameful cruelty to its citizens, I rode high on the emotional joy of his praise for weeks. Conversely, after receiving death threats over one of my columns, I was seriously spooked (far more so than I ever let on to my editor and friends) ... and against many, many gun-safety rules, began sleeping with a fully-loaded SIG-Sauer P229 semiautomatic curled loosely in my fist (note: though I kept my SIG in Condition Three, this is NOT the appropriate way to maintain ready access to defensive firearms).
Do I care about what others say about me? Absolutely.
Whoever said that "words are cheap" or believe the nursery-school canard "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" fail to understand the immense power that words can wield. Never forget that words can break hearts and crush spirits, or inspire greatness and restore wounded souls.
Our words - benevolent and ill-intentioned - ripple forth from where we stand to splash onto the shores of the lives they cross. Ultimately, we are judged by the words we create, anonymous or otherwise.
What do want your words say about you?