I worked in media/journalism/publishing full time starting at the age of 17 and for 20 years had a wide audience reading whatever I wrote or enjoying products I created when I became a publisher. Even when I wrote something controversial, there was rarely a “kill the messenger” vibe unless I made a mistake.
I believe, especially later on, since I had a certain amount of influence through the media, people put up with me more than they would for somebody who had my personality and didn’t have tens of thousands of readers behind it. You’ll put up with somebody being an asshole, and you won’t talk bad about that asshole if that asshole is willing to write a three-page article in his magazine about you. It’s thousands of dollars in free advertising, so why not just deal with it?
The products I created and worked on, especially in the last decade of that life I had, were mostly non-confrontational and non-controversial. They say you can’t make everybody happy, but locally, people really loved the magazine, especially those who didn’t know me personally.
The first time that I dealt with a situation where you can’t make everybody happy, no matter who you are, was when I was elected to the local city council. It was a mostly miserable experience and I did not like being the one moderate among three liberals and three conservatives. It meant I was the tie-breaking vote. On the surface, that seemed to play to my control, power and ego issues, but it quickly got to me on a personal level. I wasn’t attacked much for my decisions, but I really grappled with my decisions hurting some people while helping others. Do you give the $1,000 grant to the abused women’s group or to the meals for seniors group — especially when both plead their case to you? It’s a no-win.
The magazine ended with my life imploding as my addictions went very public and having to recalibrate almost all of my life, both internally and externally. I had to get over the people not liking me thing quickly, because of the circumstances around my outing. I actually think it helped me grow as a person a lot. My natural tendency to try and get people to like my work, especially strangers, had to die for me to move forward as a person. Today, I really hope people like my books, this site and the other things I do, but if they don’t, I feel no stress over it.
Late last week, I launched a survey/poll looking for feedback about a TED Talk I’ll be giving later this year on the topic of porn addiction. I’m trying to figure out a baseline for the people listening and how to best present the speech. I posted it on this site, LinkedIn and a few Reddit forums. I figured now, four or five days later, I’d have 50 or 60 responses. Before I go to bed tonight, I think the number is going to hit 700 responses.
Between the sections of the survey that allow people to give open-ended answers or the ability to give feedback through LinkedIn and Reddit, I have probably had 150-200 comments/suggestions/criticisms/ compliments/insults/attacks/thanks/etc. as well.
Of course I appreciate the people wishing luck, wanting to see the talk online when it’s published and thanking me for doing it, there’s a lot of people who want to argue about the validity of pornography addiction, criticize the methodology of the survey, or attack me as a person.
I do appreciate some of the professional criticism as it allows me to consider things I didn’t, and perhaps should have, in creating the survey. It also allows me to defend why I made certain decisions with questions or options for answers. I’m the first to admit that no poll/survey is ever going to be an unbiased reflection of what it is purporting to be. The government can’t even get the census right, how am I going to do it with tough questions? I don’t know how pollsters determine what the margin of error is in what they do, but in most of my responses, there are clear first and second place finishers that haven’t changed since 30 people responded. But, even with the professional criticism, there’s often a tone of “I’m better than you” coming from doctors or professors who I am well aware know more about statistics and polls than I ever will. It’s somewhat off-putting and I have a feeling it may be close to the air of intellectual superiority I gave off back in the day (and I’m sure still slip into now and then.)
The haters are the haters. If they have a Reddit profile and you go digging, you’ll find one of three things: 1) They spend most of their time looking at pornography, 2) They are incels who hate women or 3) Have a lifestyle of sexual openness (swinging, BDSM, etc) that they have jumped to the conclusion I am trying to eradicate. There’s not much I can do about these people. Some are perfectly healthy, some are basket cases, but their sexual health or decisions are really not what I’m concerned with, but they can’t see beyond their world to recognize that.
No, the ones who are sticking with me are the addicts and the spouses of addicts, or the others who share their stories of how porn has negatively effected their life one way or another. Yeah, I’ve heard most of these stories before, but there are some new ones that really pull at the heartstrings, and I don’t think I’ve ever read so many in such a short period of time. Many have asked for help, have given email addresses so we can talk privately and I can tell have been hugely ignored. The idea of someone willing to talk about pornography is a big deal to them.
A lot of these people make suggestions about what I should talk about — as I asked them to do. But, like the Pussycat Dolls once sang about, you need to be careful for what you ask for because you just might get it. And yes, I know that quote is originally from an Edgar Allen Poe story.
I have 15 minutes to give this speech. I could have 15 hours and I’m not going to be able to tell the stories of these people, or hit upon points that they think are important to the presentation. I’m going to disappoint them by pointing out A, B, and C, but not talking about X, Y, or Z. I fear they’re going to believe their opinion and sharing did not matter to me if I’m not able to cater to them, but it’s super clear that most of the feedback I’m getting with not be catered to or come close.
I don’t like knowing that people will feel, at best, disappointed and at worst, betrayed. Yeah, a college professor can tear me a new one because I didn’t include “None of the Above” as an option of Question 2, but it’s the mother at the end of her rope because her 17-year-old daughter won’t stop looking at porn, refusing to get a job or have friends, that stick with me. It’s the 75-year-old guy who is still looking for a solution to his problem before “my time runs out” that I’ve been thinking about over the weekend, not the angry 20-something trying to tell me I’m worthless because “porn is healthy.”
Thank God I have some time to process all of this before I have to fully start committing.
And of course, if you want to take the survey and haven’t yet, you can find it here: https://forms.gle/7FKFLv47maVamHzJ9