Weekend Wisdom

Sarah Bunting ’90

“Don’t read the comments.”
“I’ve written about TV on the Internet for more than 20 years, and there’s an expression in my field: ‘Don’t read the comments.’ I don’t mean block out all opinions different from yours or ignore perspectives you can’t relate to. Keep learning and listening and engaging with stuff that makes you uncomfortable. Life has a way of making you do that anyway, so you might as well view it as an opportunity.

“The Internet, although often a wonderful, hilarious, generous place, can also be a mean, judgmental, corrosively sexist one. I’ve learned that if I write something funny or insightful, most of the people who like it assume that someone else will tell me and thus say nothing. But the people who take offense can’t wait to join the comments and let me know I’m wrong, and dumb, and hateful. And . . . fat and ugly. The online commentariat REALLY wants any woman who doesn’t align herself with its point of view to know she’s unattractive.

“And here’s where the metaphorical utility of ‘Don’t read the comments’ comes in: The world in general is very eager to let women know what we should do, how we should be, and when and how much. We care too much about our appearance or we don’t care enough. We can’t cry at work unless keeping our cool makes us ‘unrelatable.’ And kids, oy: whether to have them, how many, at what age, whether to breastfeed — eeeeverybody’s got an opinion and it’s always more important than yours.

“Wrong. It’s noise. Trying to tune in a signal from it won’t do anything but drive you crazy. You’ll make mistakes and poor choices because you’re a human being, but as my (very wise) mother once told me, ‘Nobody else gets to tell you who you are.’ Reading the comments can make you think otherwise; don’t let that happen. You do know best, and if you don’t right now, you will eventually. Mute the world and trust yourself.”

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Kent Place School is an all-girls K through 12 independent college preparatory day school with a coeducational Preschool, located in Summit, NJ.