Monday during dinner, he sat down at the table and gave a big, heartfelt sigh. Naturally my first thought was that he had a problem with the food (not uncommon, alas). But when I asked him it turned out he was thinking about a YouTube video he watched part of before dinner.
Apparently the video--which was about the Minecraft computer game--had a title in English but soundtrack entirely in Russian. Javier had read some of the comments, and he was upset for the vidders because so many people had said rude, hateful things to them over the language.
We discussed the concept of 'Trolls' on the internet. He'd learned about it in the context of 'pranking' from other videos, but not as referring to someone who purposely writes hurtful posts or comments just to upset people.
He didn't get why anyone would want to do that. He also didn't understand how people could watch videos on YouTube and then 'dislike' them with the thumbs-down button. Then he told me that he always clicks on the 'like' button before he watches a video. If he ends up not liking the video he just goes to something else.
And I looked at my amazing, generous sweetheart of an 8 year-old kid and I have to admit I got a little teary. Because he clicks 'like' to acknowledge people's effort, and thank them just for wanting to share. And I swear to God that never, ever, even occurred to me.
Sure, I have my own philosophy that if I read an entire fanfic story I give the author a 'kudo' or comment. And sure, I have to basically dislike a story enough to stop reading it before I won't do that. But to just thank something for writing a fic in the first place? No way.
It's because I'm an author myself, and I know from both fandom and the professional book industry that in real life, no one is going to reward you for something just because you went to the effort of making it. It's all about putting your stuff out there and hoping to hell you'll either get a positive response or hoping to hell you're thick-skinned enough not to care.
I'm never thick-skinned enough not to care, but that's my problem. And the last thing I would ever want is for someone to leave a comment, or kudos, or even pay me money as a 'thanks for coming out' consolation prize.
Somewhere along the line, among the millions of pieces of fanficton and art and videos and published stuff, I forgot that someone actually went to the trouble of making it in the first place. Maybe not for me specifically, but for the joy of creating something and sharing it, in the hope that others would enjoy it too.
Just because the ability to create is so easy these days doesn't make the act of creating itself any less meaningful, or any less worthy of acknowledgement. Jav may not always like what his parents make for dinner, but I make sure that he thanks us anyway, because we went to the trouble of doing it. And gratitude is never a bad thing.
It's humbling that my son was the one to remind me of that. I hope I don't forget it again.
The illustration is by Rien Poortvliet