Yesterday was my birthday, as you probably already knew. Lot of good things happened, but there’s one thing I’d like to focus on in this post. I’m on YouTube a lot (some argue it’s typical of my generation, and to some extent I agree), and yesterday Doctor Who’s official channel uploaded a short video featuring Sarah Dollard, who’s writing an episode for the upcoming season (you can watch the video here). Me being me, I comment on the video that someday I’d like to write for Doctor Who despite being an American. And that opened the commenter floodgates.

Now, YouTube has acquired a reputation where commenters can be the nastiest people around. I’ve seen this side of YouTube before. I once was called gay for commenting on a video of an old anime’s theme song that I used to love watching that show (wrong asshole, I’m bisexual. There’s a difference), one troll told me all the stuff in a video series I was watching was staged despite proof that it all actually happened (he was easy to fend off though once it was pointed out that he had only his belief to back him up), and infamously one guy joked I’d been raped by meditation music when I commented on how a meditation video really relaxed me (you can read my post condemning that joke here). With these sort of experiences, you learn to be a little guarded in what you comment. You filter yourself so that people don’t gang up on you, strangers using their anonymity to just be awful to you or take your words out of context or a hundred other nasty things.

Which is why yesterday’s experience was so heartening and uplifting. Throughout the day, I had people replying to my comment, telling me that I had to just be a very good writer and get on the DW team’s radar in order to work for them, that nationality had nothing to do with it (later I found out that Sarah Dollard is Australian, so there’s the proof right there). I replied that I was a writer, that I had a few books out and that they were on sale in honor of my birthday (and that sale’s still going on through Sunday, by the way. You should seriously check out my work on Amazon and Smashwords for marked down or even free books).

And that’s when it starts getting really awesome. People are wishing me a happy birthday, they’re wanting to know what sort of books I write, one guy even asks for the titles of my books so they can purchase them himself! All told, there were twenty-something replies to my original comment, some of them by me but others by the complete and total strangers I’d learn to be wary of over the years.

You know, the way YouTube is, they’re not very good at policing their comments sections for abuse. Believe me, Google’s tried, but the systems they use often miss the really nasty stuff and sometimes persecute commenters for relatively harmless stuff. Some content creators on YouTube even moderate each and every comment or don’t allow comments whatsoever on their channels because of these problems. And for those viewers like myself, we have to learn to cope with this, either by not commenting in fear of the replies we’ll get or just to learn to grow a thicker skin and develop tools to deal with it ourselves.

So I comment, but I sometimes wonder if on YouTube there’s only so much civility, that comments are on a spectrum from respectful and somewhat nice to just downright awful. Yesterday surprised me and made me very happy. Within those twenty-something replies was a level of kindness and support and love that I didn’t know I could experience outside of Facebook or blogging. I got to learn that people online, especially on YouTube, can still be decent human beings even with the protection of anonymity around them, so easy to abuse sometimes.

And perhaps maybe my faith in humanity was bolstered a little.

So from now when I’m on YouTube, listening to music videos or watching funny content or whatever, I might not be so jaded. I’ll remember this little birthday surprise and I’ll know that not everyone on YouTube has the potential to be a jerk. Some have the potential to be really, really awesome people (and not just because they’re probably Whovians, though that can sometimes play a factor). And I wish the best for the people who were so kind to me yesterday, because what they did was just so overwhelmingly positive and unexpected that it deserves special mention in a time when so many people are using the Internet for awful reasons.

Bravo folks. Bravo. And thanks. You made my birthday that much more special, and I appreciate the encouragement. Here’s hoping I’m writing with the BBC someday!

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