- John Wesley
If you say things on the Internet for any length of time, you will eventually discover that there are other people on the Internet WHO DON'T LIKE THOSE THINGS. In fact, what you may discover is that actually these people DON'T LIKE YOU AS A PERSON. (Aside from what is being said, the use of all-caps and bold in saying it is one helpful way to distinguish strangers who don't like you from the people who know and love you and other normal people.)
In the early days of Internet tongue-lashings, I would take a lot personally. I wasn't used to having my eternal security, mental capacity, psychological well-being, gender identity, and sexual proclivities dictated to me and about me by little pixels on the web. It was, shall we say?, disturbing. It's still disturbing, but in a slightly different -- less personally offensive, more curiously ludicrous -- way, in that for the most part these days insulting random strangers on the Internet is basically the actual currency of the Internet. (I mean, how did we tell complete strangers we hated them before the Internet?) You can go almost nowhere online without wading through the froth of personal outrage. It's everywhere.
Accusations hurled over the web are cheap and easy. (Like your mom probably. See?) They are unrelational, low-investment, context-less, no-impulse-control, thoughtless. Rather than take them personally any more, however, I've decided to take a step back, look at the big picture, and systematize how I process criticism in general.
It's not that accusations from avatars on the world wide web don't count. It's just that I need to count them according to their approximate value determined by the relational context involved. So here is a scale you might find helpful -- I certainly have -- in determining whose feedback, whose criticism/complaint, whose valuation of you as a human being should matter according to degree. In descending order:
1. My wife.
2. My kids.
3. My church family and my church elders.
4. My friends (that are not in my church family).
5. My extended family.
6. My local neighbors (that I see in the flesh on the daily).
7. My readers and "virtual friends" on the Internet.
8. My publishers, colleagues, and other occasional employers.
9. The people sitting next to me on airplanes.
10. The people in line with me at the coffee shop.
11. My dog.
12. The guy in the next stall or at the next urinal in a bathroom.
12. Joel Osteen/Oprah
13. The government.
14. Strangers on the Internet.