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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Tantalizing Allure of Sour Grapes

Question: What's easy to grow and hard to swallow?
Answer: Sour Grapes.

We're all guilty of it at one time or another, even me. Bashing and belittling something out of our reach makes us feel better about ourselves. That lottery jackpot we didn't have the winning ticket for? Money is evil. The job promotion they gave to someone else? Power corrupts. The contest you didn't win? The prize wasn't that great anyway. Yes, we all do it, whether we mean to or not. 

What happens when the object at the other end of our snub isn't a what at all, but a who? In our own little world, it may make us feel better to vent, especially if we don't know the person on the receiving end. The jackpot winner is probably already a millionaire or It was most likely someone on welfare, using our money to buy their ticket. The new manager? He's a brown-noser. The winning contestant? Can't (fill in the blank) to save their life.

While venting makes us feel better, what about the person on the receiving end? I know what you're all thinking; the person on the other end got what they want. They're laughing all the way to the bank, corner office or wherever they go to celebrate. Sometimes this thought process isn't true and the words spoken or written, get back to the subject of our disdain and cause hurt feelings. Never has this been more true than with the implementation of the internet and social networking.

For the sake of ease, I'm going to use the recent cuts in ABNA as an example. For anyone not aware, Amazon provides discussion boards for the contestants and anyone interested in order to network, discuss writing and the contest and generally pass the time between rounds. Each time a cut is coming up, the whole community girds itself for the onslaught of sour grapes bound to be hurled by disgruntled contestants.

We commiserate with those freshly cut and cheer on those continuing. After all, only two of us will be left standing when the ink dries on the final reviews. The camaraderie is wonderful until the inevitable happens, and it will happen. One person starts on how the contest is unfair or a joke. Sometimes this person is alone in his view. Other times he is joined in his mission to dismiss those continuing on as 'mediocre' and 'run-of-the-mill.' This is when their sour grapes can taint the winners' celebration wine.

This year we had gems such as: 
"If you've really written something different (and few have)..." (the rest of this quote has since been 'edited' by the original author. Perhaps the taste of sour grapes wasn't as nice as he thought.)  

And this: 
"I should have known better than to submit "NOVEL" to this contest. Collective minds cannot judge value, only decide on the least controversial or on the most mediocre. Howard Roark would't have won the Cosmo-Slotnik architectural contest, either. I was just curious to see how far my novel went, which was apparently nowhere." 

"Entering this contest was a disinterested experiment, with no expectation of making the second rung. I would have been quite astonished it my novel had made it that far. It would have been evidence of other sentient life in the field. As for rummaging through five years of past posts, that isn't going to happen."

Now, venting is all fine and good, but turning your frustration on others who have worked as hard as you have and succeeded, isn't going to win you any friends. Belittling someone else's victory, no matter how small, stings and will be remembered the next time you try to tout your own accomplishments. 

Yes, the internet has made these insults easier to sling around. You can't see the person on the other end or how much your words hurt. Remember, while those few words will make you feel superior for a short time, they are out there forever. Whether on a discussion board, Facebook, Twitter or any other social network, what you say will be seen by many and can always be found down the road. Sour grapes will always be out there, waiting to return and haunt you.

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