Shortly before Christmas I was introduced to Theodore Roosevelt’s ‘man in the arena‘ speech. It’s something that resonated with me quite strongly, as does (to paraphrase) “it is better to try and fail, than to have never tried at all”. Consequently I’ve decided to adopt this as something of a mantra for 2017.

The internet is full of people who think that their tuppence has value – it’s what social media encourages (demands, even): a constant slew of commentary and opinion that typically provides substance. I’m as guilty of this as anyone else. Naturally, I don’t think this is always a bad thing: I happen to love the trivialities, inanities, and irreverent reflections that people share. They add joy to my life.

However, with the man in the arena in mind, there’s one thing that the internet can always do with less off: negativity. Sometimes you have to talk about the bad things, and that’s fine. But sometimes if there isn’t a positive angle it’s probably ok to keep shtum.

Obviously I can’t control the rest of the internet (nor would I want to), but I can try to abide by the following in whatever I post:

  1. If it’s good I’ll post it. Personally, I do want to hear about the things that other people like. Those things may not be to my taste, but it makes me feel good to know that something has bought a little bit of happiness into someone’s life. Also, we’re typically quicker to criticise than to compliment, so this is one tiny step towards redressing that balance.
  2. If it’s offensively bad I’ll post it. Sometimes things just have to be called out, and if they’re not called out then we never learn from those mistakes. It’s a fine line on this one; it’s all too easy to interpret something in a way that you find offensive, but actually isn’t (and vice versa). I also believe that if you can be somewhat instructive about why something is bad (i.e. building a positive from a negative), then it’s justified.
  3. If I merely don’t like it I’ll just keep it to myself. Sure, if someone asks about it, I’ll share my opinion. But life’s too short for negatives. If I simply didn’t like something, it doesn’t mean it’s bad, or that someone did anything wring. It simply means I didn’t like it, and there’s almost no reason on earth why that should be of interest to anyone else. And it certainly shouldn’t of interest to the creator, a.k.a the man[/person] in the arena, who almost certainly hasn’t poured their soul into something with the express purpose of mildly dissatisfying me.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

(Unfortunately this means I’ll probably have to lay off my occasional habit of trashing Rob Liefeld, but we make these sacrifices for the greater good.)