When I was little, I hadn’t a care in the world. I’d frolic around in sprinklers and on swing sets, and the biggest event of my day was making sure I pedaled my Tonka three-wheeler fast enough to make it home in time for dinner.

My favorite place to be was at my neighbors’ house. I was there often — my two best friends, a brother and a sister, lived over there, so why would I be anywhere else? Plus, they had cool toys to play with that were way more fun than playing alone with the Barbies I had strewn across my bedroom floor.

There was one toy at my neighbors’ house, however, that I hated. It was a video game, actually, called “Sesame Street 1-2-3″ or something like that. One of the settings brought you to outer space, where Grover, dressed in an astronaut’s uniform, would float in the air over a series of numbers. There also was a face in the moon. Whenever you got a math problem right, the moon face would shake its head in delight and make a happy noise. But when you didn’t get the problem right, well, all hell broke loose for me. The face would frown, and the sound the game made in response to the mistake was a fiercely negative — and for some reason, frightening — sound for me to hear in my young age.

Every time I heard that sound, I’d scream and run out of the room, tears streaming down between the tiny fingers that covered my face.

Recently, I’ve been receiving some negative comments on my work in other avenues (not on this blog, though, thank goodness!). The newspaper I work for is notorious for receiving a slew of nasty comments on its articles, even if it’s just about the local elementary school’s recent spelling bee. It seems everyone has something to say, and it’s not always positive. Though I’ve learned, at least in my profession, to stop reading the comments on my stories posted online, I still can’t help but read what people have to say on other people’s stories sometimes — and when I do, it makes me want to run away, hands covering my face, tears streaming down.

Why have we decided, in social media, that this is the norm? To put others down personally, just because we have the privilege of hiding behind a “mask,” or an anonymous screen name, gives us no right to treat others any differently than we would if they were standing right in front of us. There is little tact left when it comes to the reactive community, whether it’s on blogs, Facebook or an article in a newspaper. We’ve lost touch with the human being behind the words.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying we aren’t entitled to our opinions. Lord knows I have plenty of my own, and it’s wonderful to share them. That’s what fuels creativity and change. That’s what gets us to post new recipes, to meet new, interesting people, to open our minds to things we never dreamed we would. But when a comment becomes a personal attack on the writer, not a constructive criticism on the specific post itself, that is something with which I take issue.

I didn’t intend to write about this on my blog, ever — really, I know we’re all friends here and we just want to talk about bread. But when I see posts like this or this or this (Joy The Baker once had a nice response about some Negative Nancys trolling her blog, too), I know something’s up. This thing we call a blogging community is instead transforming into an ugly, offensive, unfounded roasting. Who wants to be a part of that? I know I don’t. All I want to do is write about what I love and share it with you; and I hope that you will only join in on the fun.

That’s why I’m preemptively instating a rule on my blog — no negative comments, ever. This doesn’t mean that if you have a problem with my recipes or a constructive criticism to make that I’ll delete your comment from my blog without question, but it does mean that if you feel the need to be snide, cynical or just plain rude, I won’t allow it. It breeds nothing but further contempt — plus, it hurts my feelings, plain and simple. And while there’s nothing I can do to change some people’s minds, I can ask that if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. My momma raised me right on that one.

I know that, as we get older, running around through sprinklers and playing Sesame Street video games while thinking all is good and right in the world is quite a stretch. But I also know that, despite all those negative noises out there, there’s a lot of positivity, too. Let’s do our best to focus on that, first.

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