Archive for March 22nd, 2007

Brutal Honesty…Gray Charles…and…the Internets

March 22, 2007

do-i-look-fat.jpgNot so long ago I discovered the intriguing, beguiling, and, yes, brutally biting world of…the blog.

It didn’t take me long to become ensconced by its appeal. And it took me even less time after that to latch on to the medium and decide to try a little experiment…total honesty.

I spoke my mind freely at sites here and there…and soon found a home at Gray Charles.com. Before long I was learning the lingo and loosening my tongue to allow for foul language and caustic remarks.

It seemed harmless. After all…no one knew me and it seemed safe to make fun of Katharine McPhee’s tatas or Kelly Pickler’s bumbles. Who could lil’ ol’ me possibly be hurting?

But one night, a discussion started at Gray’s that made me stop and think…”Why should I be allowed to make fun of these people who put themselves in the limelight to entertain others?” I quickly realized that I don’t have the right to be hurtful and callous just because I think the subject of my jabs will never read my words. It’s not okay to condemn or belittle…no matter if zero or a thousand people hear it.

From then on my wheels started turning…slowly…but steadily.

About nine months ago, I started this little blog. My goal was to be as honest as I possibly could…about myself and others. I shared all about myself…pictures, audio, embarrassing trips to the dentist, doctor, and beauty salon. I bared my soul as best as I could…all in an effort to see what I could learn by it…to see how such honesty would help me as a writer…help me as a person.

I tried to be honest with how I felt…but I also tried to make that honesty as constructive or fruitful as possible. (Okay…maybe my brutal honesty in recapping “America’s Got Talent” was strictly for laughs…but bear with me, folks.)

I soon learned that total honesty ain’t all it’s cracked up to be…actually, it serves little purpose in this venue. Not only did I learn that I was hurting my family with my foul mouth…I was hurting myself professionally and socially.

And, on top of all the self-reflection, I’ve seen how my behavior feeds on and feeds into others’. One seemingly benign comment grows exponentially in this medium. It’s copied and quoted here, there, and everywhere…with just a few clicks of a mouse. And heaven forbid you are misinterpreted…talk about a nightmare of a different caliber.

I’ve also seen how the liberation of being “anonymous” online allows for people to bite and tear into criticism and “honesty” with a fervor that is downright scary.

Too often folks type out a quip as they would throw a dagger…quick…with dead aim…and without thought that we, each of us…bleed…and cry…and hurt…and scar.

This revelation doesn’t mean I think we should stop being honest…just that that honesty should have a purpose…a goal…a constructive point. If it doesn’t, it’s not honesty. It’s cowardice and mean-spiritedness dressed up as arrogance.

A lot has been said online and off in recent months about the state of Gray Charles.com.

I have been a very guilty party…and for that I’m sorry. I’m not sorry for having an opinion…I’m sorry for not sharing it as constructively as I should have.

So, here it is…my official break down of Gray Charles.com. If I had a chance to talk candidly, face to face with Gray Charles about his site..here is what I would say.

At one point in this journey, I honestly felt I wouldn’t be able to exist without setting up camp at Gray Charles every single day. I was there from 6:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. most weekdays and even more on weekends. I lived and breathed it.

As American Idol ended and the Taylor Hicks dust began to settle, I found that I was purposely distancing myself from the site. I wanted to reclaim my life. Though I was sad (and a good deal panicky) when Gray closed down, it was good for me. I was able to catch my breath and live again.

When he came back online…I noticed right off that things had and were continuing to change. More people were there. There was a different feel to the comments. And a renewal of that frenzied mania was resurfacing. I think the combination of my clearer head mixing with the rebirth of the online Soul Patrol did more to put me off than did Gray’s efforts to run his site with all the changes.

But that didn’t stop me from placing the blame solely on Gray’s shoulders.

Yes, I thought he should do more to stop the take-over of his site.

Yes, I wanted more meaty posts.

Yes, I thought he was letting folks get away with virtual murder. (This particularly bugged me as he had never hesitated to “slap my wrist”…a phrase which now ranks up there with “th*d” and “w** dust” in my book.)

I mean, how could Gray do this to us…to me? Hadn’t we…I…proved our loyalty? Hadn’t we worked almost as hard as he did to make the blog soar? (‘Fess up…a lot of you are nodding now aren’t you? You want to shout…”Testify, sister!”…don’t you?)

I had fully felt betrayed by Gray for letting “interlopers” on the site…and letting them talk about “on*ons” and “squ**” and “th*d” and all that icky stuff.

I e-mailed Gray more than once about “laying down the law”…and “reclaiming what was his”…but what I was really saying was…”make it better for me.”

In retrospect…that was a crappy thing for me to do. Had it been the other way ’round…and someone was telling me what to do on MY blog…a blog that I put hours a day into…I would have set the remote to “mute” then huffed and stomped and fumed.

But Gray didn’t. He heard me out…just as he heard out the glitters.

And he put up with some pretty harsh comments…from all parties.

Even to this day…when he has tried and tried to adjust the blog to accommodate a variety of people…to maintain its musical integrity…to satiate contracts with the big wigs…and to still have his own voice…we ask for more. And when we don’t get it, we bitch about it…me included.

I can’t imagine how he must feel.

He’s criticized for posting other places…for being a micro-manager…for not managing enough…for being quiet…for being vocal.

Really…why do we care?

Well, let me see if I can figure this out…at least why I care.

In my earliest days at GC.com, I was compelled to share and comment because I sought the status of being a part of what I perceived to be a highly intellectual and elite group of people. As I grew more and more bold with my posting, my ego grew more and more bold. People recognized me…read me…got me…laughed with me. These were people I respected and sought validation from. It was a great time.

But…as my infatuation with Taylor grew and as Gray’s connections to Taylor grew stronger…my view of GC.com changed.

Okay…I’m going with brutal honesty here…after a while GC.com became a way for me to possibly meet or associate with Taylor Hicks.

There…I said it.

That was just as (or more) thrilling than the feeling of inclusion I experienced when I was a newbie at Gray’s.

Yes…I was a glitter-lite. I’ll admit it. Heck, I have to admit it because anyone can go back and read my old comments. I think it’s pretty apparent. I spread glitter with my tongue in my cheek…but that didn’t mean I wasn’t loving it.

Do I still feel that way? Hmmm….not really. Though, since I’m being honest, I gotta see it through…I was disappointed that Gray didn’t offer to set me up with a Meet & Greet in New Orleans. I mean, I would have never asked him for it…but I thought he’d offer. I know it’s irrational and ridiculous…but that’s how I felt.

But those feelings of exhilaration in thinking that Gray was a direct link to Taylor began to take a backseat several months before he closed down. We all enjoyed Gray’s snarkiness in the comments and on chat. And his mystique was intriguing enough to create his own aura of fame. Plus, every so often, Gray and I would chat via e-mail, discussing the site and other shared topics of interest. And all of this led to me caring about Gray for Gray’s sake. He was a real person to me…a person with a family and a job and goals…and feelings.

Well, then the whole ballgame changed. I was still irritated at the changes at his site…but because I had a better handle on Gray as a friend, I felt he should listen to me even MORE. (This comes from being an older sister of three younger brothers…I can’t help it…I always think I’m right…even when I know I’m not.)

Okay…now let’s move on up to recent months…now that things have gotten even more oogey at Gray’s. Folks are divided. Glitters are bitter. Old-Timers are bitter.

People are fussing more and more.

Why?

Well…I think it simply boils down to this…the public posting forums on the Internet…are the equivalent of playgrounds.

If you let kids loose on a playground, even under supervision…they are going to go ape-shit nuts. Some will run around until they collapse. Some will head for the jungle gym and climb until they fall. Some will head for the swings and fight for turns. Ultimately, a playground is only truly fun for those who use it constructively and learn to share and learn to play together…otherwise, it’s a miserable and dirty and chaotic place.

As for me, personally, I think I’ve found my spot on the playground. It’s somewhere off in a grassy corner of the yard, seated under a tree, and watching the madness at the swingsets and jungle gyms from a safe distance.

I’ve finally moved on and am done complaining about the site. The thrill is gone…to quote one of my favorite Mississippians…but my interest lives on.

I will still visit GC.com a couple of times a day to see what’s new. And if there is something that interests me but that won’t take me eons to reflect on and research before commenting…I’ll share my thoughts. I refuse to participate in the open “Runaround” threads. I think they have their place…but MY place is away from them. I’m happy to hear from Taylor…but I can live without all the updates and discussions and dissections. He’s simply a favored entertainer for me now. Yeah, I’d still like to meet him and get a picture and sing a song with him (who wouldn’t)…but I can sleep and exist and be peacefully content knowing that that will never happen.

As for my feelings about Gray Charles, the man…I still care.

I just miss my friend…but I take comfort in the idea that he might be trying to move into his own grassy corner and find some peace. If that’s the case, I wish him luck…especially since so many folks are still at recess.

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