We've featured several weddings that have gone viral and caused internet shit-storms, and Megan and I always feel terrible when it happens.
- There was the iPad wedding, which made one commenter rant, "If I was the father of the bride who had to PAY for all that nonsense I would have just shot them both in the face and left them united in a ditch."
- There was the Katamari Damacy wedding, which was first lambasted as too dorky and then caught the attention off a group of anti-miscegenation bloggers who said shit like, "They made a joke out of their nuptials, but then again, interracial nuptials are a joke." Those comments made me shiver.
- Then there were the pop culture-laden comic book invites, which made the Tastefulness Police turn on their sirens and decree that it was dated and regrettable within about 15 minutes. One commenter went so far as to say, "That is the most cringeworthy heap of shite I've seen in my entire life. I'm actually going to find out where they're holding it and go and kick them to death." Oh, the interwebs: where a wedding invitation can incite someone to so much moral outrage that it garners a death threat.
Honestly, I don't care whether you agree or disagree with any these opinions. We all have opinions, and Internet Rage is everyone's favorite hobby. But, putting aside all our Very Important Opinions about the audacity of people having weddings we don't like (…CAN YOU IMAGINE!? I am FROTHING with OUTRAGE), I want to address the other side of this issue: how to deal when your wedding (yes, your incredibly tasteful, personalized, awesome wedding that you worked on for months or even years) goes viral, and then gets shit on by dozens or hundreds or even thousands of strangers.
1. Don't read comments
(and if you do read them, DON'T RESPOND)
Offbeat Bride's comment policy has made us an industry-leader when it comes to "don't be a dick" commenting. The rest of the internet is not so kind. Many times, we've linked to nontraditional weddings featured on other sites, with a note cautioning Don't read the comments! In fact, that's how I first found Pushba: I found her wedding on a snark site, in a post featuring 200+ comments about what a freak she was. (And oh yes, SHE IS! In the very best way.)
If you skip reading web comments about your wedding, you'll skip 90% of the most cruel, poorly thought-out rants. There's still that 10% of people who, if they REALLY hate your wedding, will write about it on their own blogs — but when folks take the time to do this, they generally take the time to frame things a bit more coherently than your random drive-by troll who types BITCHEZ MAKE ME A SAMMICH!! on your gorgeous lesbian wedding. (True story: that was a comment we received after this wedding went viral on several video game blogs. Oh 12 year old boys. You're so witty!)
Also, resist the urge to dive into the fray and start defending yourself in the comments, via Twitter, on your own blog, etc. In the first few days after your wedding goes viral, you're going to be understandably VERY emotional — any responses will be fueled by defensiveness and outrage. Even if you're completely in the right and totally lucid, chances are about 99% that you're going to come off as a little crazy. Seriously: other than saying "Wow, this attention has been really overwhelming," DO NOT RESPOND AT ALL FOR 48 HOURS. Just shut the fuck up. Honestly. For your own good, please PLEASE just don't type anything. You will only fan the flames and make it much, much worse.
2. Step away from the computer
When a friend hurts your feelings, you don't sit and stare at them for six hours afterwards. When the internet hurts your feelings, you need to STEP AWAY. Turn it down. Go for a walk. Exercise does wonders for an internet-bruised ego — I think it's really important to get out of your head, and back in your body. Get grounded in the real world. Go talk to some real people. Even if you're like "Oh hi, mailman — I'm crying because the internet called my wedding stupid," you're still getting out into the real world and reconnecting with tangible reality, where people don't walk up to you face and tell you they're going to kick you to death because of your wedding invitations.
3. Surround yourself with friends
Related to step 2 is gathering with the people who care about you. Spend time with some real life friends or family. Have them over. Go out for drinks. Get some hugs. Confess your insecurities. (Are those people on the internet right!?) Get some perspective. Share some laughs. Touch some skin. Drink some wine, if that's your thing.
4. Go into digital hermitude
If it's really bad (people making threats, harassing you via email, etc), go into digital hiding for a week. Take the wedding photos off Flickr. Take down your Twitter. Password protect your wedding website. Put your blog on hiatus, or at least close comments. Filter your emails to send hateful shit to the trash. Protect yourself digitally in whatever ways help you feel safe.
5. Wait it out
Internet news cycles are ridiculously short. In a week, most hobbyist haters will have moved on to a new outrage. Within 10 days, your stupid wedding will be such old news that people we be like, "Oh man, I hated that wedding before it it was cool." If the wedding hating goes on for more than 10 days, then it may be time for Step 7…
6. Consider an apology
In some special cases, there may be distinct validity to people's concerns about your wedding. In the case of the now-infamous Colonial wedding, the photographers who'd posted about the wedding wrote a very sincere apology, recognizing the ways that their wording had contributed to problematic framing of a sensitive cultural/racial issue.
Another example of a great response to viral criticism is the "Wedding Dance" folks. When their dancing wedding entrance video went viral, they were criticized for using a Chris Brown song, a legitimate concern given Chris Brown's issues with domestic violence. The couple responded by collecting donations for a domestic violence non-profit — $34,000, all told. They heard the feedback and responded not by defending their choice, but by essentially saying "That's kinda fucked up and wasn't our intention — here, maybe this will help." A $34,000 donation absolutely helps.
If people are saying your gamer wedding is tacky, obviously there's no need to apologize — what would you say? "Sorry you think I'm silly; we clearly have different taste." But if you're being criticized for, say, cultural appropriation or privileged entitlement? There may be some real opportunities for some personal development.
Take some time to cool down, collect your thoughts, and consider the feedback. Once you're feeling solid about what it might all mean (give it at least a week), there can be real value in saying, "Thanks for taking the time to share your perspectives with me. I've taken some time to really think about this, and I think understand what you're saying. I can see where I didn't think this all the way through. This experience has been enlightening and I've learned a lot."
Because while I think we can all agree that the Tastefulness Police should be ignored… every once in a while, the internet isn't just being shitty. Every once in a while, it's trying to teach you something. And every once in a while, you should listen.