Jackie Mitchard on How Negativity Breaks Hearts

Be Nice on the Internet Week

About two years ago, the bombastic son of a beloved pal came onto my Facebook page extolling how presidential new Massachusetts senator Scott Brown would be. Along with several friends, I retorted that having been an underwear model would be devastating for a woman candidate. “Not so!” he cried. “Sex sells!” When I wouldn’t back down, this fellow—not a child, mind you, almost 40 years old at the time—wrote, “Oh, Jackie, you’re just jealous because nobody would want to see you in your underwear.” A shamed silence descended on my page. I wrote to my friend, asking her to call off her dog. She maintained a neutral silence. Until I blocked him, he continued to insult me, moving on to thinly veiled comments about “immadoption”(referring to my Ethiopian daughters) importing problems we have enough of already. When I snapped and, in a private message, cut him down, my friend of nearly 20 years wrote me a letter about my temper. I refused to read it and fired off a furious response. I suspect that the man, who, like all bullies, also is a coward, made his mother choose. Not surprisingly, she chose to champion him and, by extension, to champion bad behavior masquerading as opinion. Yes, we all have a right to our own beliefs, but Internet “commenting,” especially anonymously, is a license to hate. I never heard from my friend again. Sticks and stones might not break bones, but they break hearts.

— Jacquelyn Mitchard

Jackie Mitchard

Best-selling novelist Jacquelyn Mitchard is the author of The Deep End of the Ocean and almost 20 other books for adults, young adults, and children.