The rise of the internet has often been heralded as the rise of the common man. No longer are news, literature, and written communication in all its more general forms something that remain the exclusive domain of the rich, famous, or well-eductated. These days, anyone can - and does - have a say.
Nobodies can rise to fame in a matter of hours via youtube; authors who otherwise wouldn't stand a chance can develop a sales base through blogging and social networking.
Everyone can have a say.
The internet is a remarkable beast, one to which I owe a hearty portion of my life - keeping in contact with family and friends, finding support groups for my writing habits, devouring news and information - but all this makes me wonder: What's the value of an opinion?
In the days where anyone can have an opinion, where everyone is entitled to one, where any person can preach from the metaphorical rooftops and garner a following - what is such an opinion worth?
As writers, too often a large portion of our self esteem rests on what others think of us. Actually, that's true of everyone, regardless of occupation. A mentoring seminar I once attended gave the self esteem equation thusly:
Your Self Esteem = what YOU think people you CARE about THINK about YOU.
Convoluted, but totally true.
Writing is hard. Writing in a vacuum is really hard. I couldn't get to the end of my novels without the love and support and writing cookies and knocks on the head with admonishments to quit whining and write of my critique group - and they are all online.
But what about the critics? Not Critics, people who critique (or criticise, depending on your opinion :D) things for a living, but critics - the ones who live to tear people down. And yes, they can be the same thing :D And what's more, they can be unintentional.
In the age of the internet where everyone can not only hold an opinion, but can publish it to a wide audience too, someone, somewhere, is bound to make a hurtful remark about your writing at some point. Someone, somewhere, is bound to not only dislike it, but hate it - and they'll tell people about it.
What's the value of an opinion?
To whom do we entrust our self esteem?
Everyone can publish an opinion, whether they are trained in their field of critique or not. Does the level of education lend weight to the opinion? Someone who is uneducated in a field can be equally perceptive as someone who is; someone educated in a field can be just as ignorant in it as someone not.
What's the value of education?
Whose opinions matter?
I'm throwing these questions out here with little intent to answer them. The answers differ for everyone, for every situation; there's no one-size-fits-all. There rarely is, in life.
But the opinion of the people you trust matters to you. So what can you do about it?
Who do you trust? It's up to you.