I hang around on a wide variety of different Web sites, all of which offer me social connections. I also write for a few Web sites, which pay me some money. The secret is out. I don't have a full-time job, but I do earn something. While my writing doesn't make me wealthy, I do get a lot out of it.
Epinions.com is one of my favorite sites. I mostly write reviews there and have been doing so since 2003. In exchange for my writing, I've made well over $7,000 and have run into some very colorful people from around the world.
I remember one day, back in 2005, I got a low rating and confrontational comment on one of my book reviews. This guy basically slammed me for not writing a thesis about the book I was reviewing. He was interested in my economic analysis of Barbara Ehrenreich's book, Bait and Switched. I remember reading the comment and thinking "What the fuck? This is a review site!"
I entered into a comments exchange with this guy and finally just told him I would not be able to give him the review he was looking for. Looking back on the comments for that review, I actually realize our discourse was quite civilized. But I still thought he was a pompous ass. I was left thoroughly disgusted and hoped to never run into him again.
Alas, he turned up in another comment when I wrote an essay about military recruiters. You see, my husband is a member of the U.S. Army. My friend, the Epinions commenter, was born Italian, later became a naturalized U.S. citizen, and then became disenchanted with America. He looked for Epinions reviews and essays about the U.S. military and politics and then left lengthy comments bashing America's government. Here I had written a heartfelt opinion piece about why people should not be rude to military recruiters who are just trying to do their jobs. And the Italian/American Epinions member-- we'll call him Vic-- felt the need to leave a long comment about how corrupt and horrible the military is.
Naturally, that comment offended me as well. But I was determined not to get into a pissing contest with Vic. I kept my responses to his inflammatory but articulate comments civil. Every time he tried to goad me into a debate with him about efficacy of the military, I reminded him that wasn't what my essay was about and I was not interested in arguing about then President George W. Bush or the validity of the War in Iraq. I just wanted to remind people that military recruiters have an important job to do. The U.S. military must have people to staff it. It's not useful to encourage people to be rude to recruiters because the government will get recruits somehow. Right now, it's completely voluntary to join the military. But if the shortage of military recruits ever became critical, you bet your ass there would be conscription. I think if a young person expresses interest in the military as a career, he or she should be allowed to pursue that interest without harassment from other people. It's a potentially dangerous and dirty job, but somebody has to do it.
Vic eventually relented when I stuck to my guns. He bowed out gracefully. I still thought he was an asshole and hoped I wouldn't run into him again.
But he did, in fact, show up again... and again. In fact, Vic is probably now one of my most consistent readers and commenters. He routinely leaves comments on my reviews and has expanded his commentary to other areas besides books and essays. For instance, Vic moved back to Europe. My husband and I were lucky enough to live in Europe for a couple of years, so we did a lot of traveling. Vic had things to write about that. My husband and I are also committed foodies, so I occasionally review restaurants. And Vic usually has things to say about those things, too. He consistently busts on my husband for being in the military. He makes comments about how my husband is a warmonger and "handles weapons". My husband neither loves war nor handles weapons on a regular basis... not unless he's in a war zone, anyway.
Most recently, I read and reviewed a book about constipation. Vic commented and of course, brought politics into it. For the next few days, we've had a lively bantering session, lobbing good natured barbs at each other. I thought he was an ass when I "met" him, but now he's kind of a friend. I don't agree with all of his views, but usually learn from what he has to say. I almost always get a laugh. In fact, I have a feeling that I might have even earned Vic's "respect", such as it is. His comments now are generally more friendly, rather than critical and sarcastic. I actually enjoy them.
I have met a lot of fine people on Epinions.com. In fact, of all the web communities I have been a part of, I would say that Epinions has more people I would actually want to meet in person than almost any other. It boasts a wide variety of people who are good writers and... for those who stay around anyway... they are mostly good people who care about what they put out there to the world. When I write on Epinions, I care too, and mostly try to keep it respectful. Here on my blog, though.... different story! ;-)