In high school, I was met with ample criticism over a movie review I wrote for a fellow student’s independent culture magazine. I’d been contributing to the publication for a while, and for the most part, everyone enjoyed my take on the films of 2003. It wasn’t until the end of sophomore year that I caused a stir with one of my pieces, and at the time, I was extremely offended that people I barely knew found it necessary to trash my work.
The guy who disagreed with my views happens to be a good friend of mine (and reader of this blog), and I’d soon realize he did me a huge favor by not only reading my stuff, but also taking the time to explain why he didn’t connect with my latest review. I’ve learned a lot from this individual over the years, and it’s because he has always engaged in a civil debate with me.
As you can imagine, I’m much better at handling flak now than I was as a teenager, but every once in a while it frustrates me, and it’s usually because the person who doesn’t like my beliefs also decides to attack my character and label me however he/she pleases. This happened a few hours ago after what started as a nice, undramatic weekend.
Last night, I accompanied my boyfriend to his work holiday party, which was very fun and gave the both of us an opportunity to dress up. I got along with his colleagues and convinced him to watch an episode of “Girls.” He liked the first few installments of season one, so I figured he’d enjoy some of the second half as well.
This morning, we walked to the local coffee shop and I bought our drinks with my own money that I earned myself (you’ll see why these facts are relevant later on) before we parted ways so I could finish up some freelance projects and he could put in a few hours at the office. On the way to my car, I checked my email, Facebook, and Twitter, as I hadn’t looked at my phone since the previous night and wanted to see if I’d missed anything important.
When I got to Twitter, I noticed a rather aggressive “mention” from a non-follower who apparently violently disagreed with my most recent HG article:
“Ever wonder how a spoiled, rich brat rationalizes unpaid internships? Well look no further than @lauradonovanua: http://hellogiggles.com/please-dont-ask-whether-my-internship-is-paid
With that, I immediately went into defense mode and punched out a nasty, mean-spirited response, which I went on to delete a few minutes later. I said something hurtful and it was wrong, but I didn’t name call, and I certainly didn’t attack a random internet writer out of nowhere on a Saturday morning. I can also admit when I’m being cruel — can this fellow do the same?
After a couple exchanges, one of which entailed him stating “It’s great to hear that you stumbled into Starbucks and paid for your own coffee once upon a time,” I decided to halt correspondence. Like many internet users looking to get a rise out of others, he didn’t want to engage in a healthy debate sans name calling or misguided assumptions, he just wanted to fight a stranger for daring publish something that goes against his own beliefs.
So what is this controversial article of mine, anyway? It’s a post about not asking interns if they’re paid. I argue that it’s impolite to inquire about money, and naturally the guy thinks that’s something only rich and poor people say. I’m neither rich nor poor, and you cannot categorize me as either based on a single column. You don’t know my financial situation, but if you think you’re entitled to that information since I’m such a “spoiled brat” who refuses to buy her own Pumpkin Spice Latte, then I need to know what your salary is. It’s only fair.
Unpaid internship controversies have been covered many, many times, and I didn’t intend to argue for or against the system. I merely wanted to say that it’s none of your business whether another person is paid or unpaid, and if they are compensated, their stipend or intake is of no concern to you. No one forces anyone to take an unpaid internship, and as a friend on Facebook pointed out, other jobs can be much more valuable than internships, so it really isn’t necessarily to have one in order to get ahead.
It’s fine to disagree with my ideas (without calling me a “dumb” “spoiled, rich brat”), especially as an activist trying to stick up for the little guy, but it’s unacceptable to attack an article writer off the bat. I know that’s the easy route, but focusing on a person’s argument keeps the debate respectable and intelligent.
You can blame me — a young writer trying to make it in a tough industry — for a system with which you find fault, or you can lead your cause by reaching out to people of different views in a thoughtful way to spark a healthy conversation. I’m no activist, but I do know you’re harming the intern justice mission by picking spats and encouraging your own followers to join in on your little hatefest. I hope you find a more effective method, because that’s no way to start your Saturday either.