Elliot Jay Stocks is a designer, speaker, and author. He is the Creative Director of Adobe Typekit, the founder of typography magazine 8 Faces, one half of Viewport Industries, and an electronic musician.

Hello, I’m a human being

Posted on 04 March 2013 27 comments

Hi there. My name is Elliot and I’m the human being behind this blog, my Twitter account, and the numerous other forms my identity takes online. I’m the human being who reads your nasty, snide, and downright unnecessary tweets. They may be sent to my digitally-abstracted Twitter account, but they are read — and felt — by me. The human being.

I know a few other human beings, too. They are the real, living, breathing, emotionally-responsive creatures behind the accounts at which you so readily hurl your abuse.

There are many generous people out there who are kind enough to take the time to say nice things, but unfortunately — as many of my friends will attest — it’s the nasty comments that always seem to stick; the tweet that could so easily have been framed as constructive criticism, but has instead taken the form of a personal attack. Of course, the very fact that someone uses a personal attack devalues any argument they might make — so many of these people clearly have some sort of bitter agenda against so-called ‘web celebrities’ — but that doesn’t make it any less upsetting to read. And no, ‘enjoying an argument’ isn’t an excuse to be rude to another human being.

I’m not a religious man, but I abide by the concept of treating others as I would wish to be treated. Online communication is not an exception for me. Why should it be for anyone else?


  1. Stephane Deschamps

    Stephane Deschamps

    04 March 2013 @ 01:16PM #

    This lacks context but I’m sure everyone can relate. It’s easy to be mean, it’s hard to be constructive.

    It reminds me of an article by chris a few months ago: http://christianheilmann.com/2013/01/27/drive-by-criticism-must-die/

  2. Colin Ainscough

    Colin Ainscough

    04 March 2013 @ 01:17PM #

    I see some truly unnecessary venom posted to social networks, and I guarantee those same individuals would bite their lip if they ever met you in person.

    My philosophy is to be as kind and helpful as I can in every way to everyone, no matter who they are or how I communicate with them.

    It just helps me sleep at night.

  3. Martin Davies

    Martin Davies

    04 March 2013 @ 01:20PM #

    A thick skin is needed, especially when you post opinions and thoughts online. It doesn’t make the obnoxious tweets any less serious of course, but stiff upper lip and all that.

  4. Matthew Moore

    Matthew Moore

    04 March 2013 @ 01:22PM #

    Ask the person to come to your next talk and say it to you in person.

  5. Adam MacDonald

    Adam MacDonald

    04 March 2013 @ 01:23PM #

    This post doesn’t require context as it’s not about 1 particular event, it’s about the general idea that people fell like they can say and do whatever they want to people online and get away with it. Please correct me if I’m wrong Elliot.

    I’m sure he’s not just simply referring to criticism of his work, since he mentions “personal attacks”. I live by one simple rule online, don’t post anything you wouldn’t be willing to give a talk on or w0uld be willing to say over a pint with the original poster. I wish everyone did the same. Some of the stuff you see in comment threads is disgusting.

  6. Paul Christian

    Paul Christian

    04 March 2013 @ 01:54PM #

    Nice one Elliot, sadly it won’t change human nature though. This is an issue that’s been around for ages. As they say… higher trees catch more wind. It comes with the territory… as much as I don’t agree with it.

  7. David Fitzgibbon

    David Fitzgibbon

    04 March 2013 @ 02:25PM #

    It’s unfortunate that you’ve been put into a position where you’ve felt the need to write a post like this Elliot.

    I was at Responsive Day Out on Friday, my first real web conference. Everyone there, speakers and other attendees alike were all incredibly nice and welcoming. It was truly inspiring and uplifting just to be amongst all these other web enthusiasts.

    I’m not sure what we can do to encourage these people not to take out their frustrations on others online, but be sure that you and all the other people who are genuinely trying to be helpful online are much appreciated by us all!

  8. Jeremy Keith

    Jeremy Keith

    04 March 2013 @ 03:01PM #

    Whenever a get a tweet from a troll like that, I like to read it out in the voice of Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons.

  9. Ian Tearle

    Ian Tearle

    04 March 2013 @ 03:07PM #

    Unfortunately being in the spotlight because of what you do (and do so well) is going to lead to a (what I hope is actually only) small percentage of disgruntled individuals who view the “elite” as something they are not. Heck I fell into the same mentality for some years, until I realised (quite recently) that your not elite, you have just had the courage, the mentality, the right timings, the right support and friendship around you to put yourself out on a limb and take a chance.
    I discovered this after meeting, and chatting with Naomi Atkinson recently, who I quote, says: “I’m not a celebrity, I’m just me, I just do what I do, I’m just a normal person”. And indeed she is, she’s talented, and has been brave enough to stand up in front of people to give her opinion on our industry, who is talented enough to be recognised on the internet because of what she does.

    It seems as our industry grows and the quicker it seems that indie start ups make money, or a paper back book of fonts that one designer loves, cares for and takes the time to publish gets so much attention, (if it wasn’t for the rest of us wanting it, it would never have been so), the outward signs that anyone can do it in 15 minutes of fame is misleading. Where you are today hasn’t been an overnight process, and I am guessing not an easy journey for you. But the rest of the industry only see your successes, and you and many others who this year have come out and let their feelings known to the rest of us (http://www.sazzy.co.uk/2013/02/speaking-up/) are coming into unjust criticism because the individuals haven’t grasped that this industry is a long slog and success and fame doesn’t come over night.

    In fact, we should all be learning from your’s and others processes, not in what you do, or how you design, or how you personally RWD, but in how you have humbly put your work out their on a whim, how you have worked hard in your career in what you love, taken a deep breath and put yourself forward for criticism – in a small hope of it working out for you this time. Clearly a lot of what you have done has been an achievement, but I’m sure there have been failures, times when you have thought an idea would be huge only to see no hits month after month – only your not going to be telling the world about those times are you.

    Lastly, I have been touch typing this in a small comment box, I have not read the whole lot back, so I hope nothing loses itself in translation. My comments are not intended to offend (in fact I’m pretty certain that none of what I have written is offensive). I urge everyone in the web industry to “do what you do” ignore the “elite” you are all the best at what you do. Keep producing what you produce, and perhaps one day the next generation of web designers will look up to the work you have produced.

  10. Chris Da Sie

    Chris Da Sie

    04 March 2013 @ 03:25PM #

    Unfortunately haters are going to hate. It’s terrible that they do. I can only imagine these people were the bullies out on the school yard taking lunch money from the younger kids.

    For the rest of us, we need to overpower these trolls by sticking together and showing unwavering support for the individuals willing to speak up. We need to show our encouragement to people willing to share experiences (good or bad) because these are the thoughts and insights that are going to help our industry grow and evolve it. Not the hurtful personal attacks by a few people who just like to cause trouble.

    Thanks for letting us be a part of this with you. I’m sorry you are being targeted for sharing your insights.

  11. andy king

    andy king

    04 March 2013 @ 04:02PM #

    big, huge, virtual interweb style hug for all the times I’ve digested your online writings/posts/tweets and learnt/laughed/enjoyed

  12. Matthew Harpin

    Matthew Harpin

    04 March 2013 @ 05:00PM #

    Nice, honest article Elliot. There’s a little saying I try to remember… ‘People that mind, don’t matter… people that matter, don’t mind.’

  13. Jera


    04 March 2013 @ 08:48PM #

    Thank you for taking this burden on yourself so that many of us may continue to learn from you.

  14. Andreas Øverland

    Andreas Øverland

    04 March 2013 @ 10:12PM #

    Richard Dawkins some times read the hate-mail he receives on video. That is quite funny. I like Mr Keiths solution alot and will adopt it from now on. Thanks all!

  15. epynephrin


    05 March 2013 @ 12:53AM #

    This post sucks. Vrooooooommm.

    No, actually. It is a great sentiment, and something that needs to be expressed more widely. It seems to be very easy to forget that all of this online content that people read (all for free) is made by human beings. People who are investing time, energy, effort and several cliches into the content that people take for granted.

    At least in my job, I am often left looking at the comments and thinking, “I don’t get paid enough for this.” It does take a thick skin to post things, but negative comments can get to you. Thing to bear in mind is, I suppose, that most people who show up and don’t leave comments either didn’t hate, or actually liked the post…

  16. Craig Lockwood

    Craig Lockwood

    04 March 2013 @ 02:46PM #

    People can be dicks.

    I enjoy your writing and hearing you speak as do countless others. Don’t let a few idiots get you down.

    “We’re all in this together” – Cast of Glee 2009

  17. lefthandnav


    04 March 2013 @ 02:48PM #

    I’d also say on the flip side that there has been a lot of healthy debate, especially on the original blog post, that isn’t snide at all, with a wide varitety of experiences and viewpoints shared.

  18. Christina


    05 March 2013 @ 10:54AM #

    @Paul Christian “higher trees catch more wind. It comes with the territory…”

    I apologise for the strong language but, that is such bullshit. To infer that Elliot should expect negativity just provides excuses to the trolls and does nothing to stop the cycle.

    Right now you are enabling the trolls, when we all should be stopping them, ignoring them and shutting them up.

  19. Ben


    05 March 2013 @ 12:29PM #

    This is nowhere near as black and white as this post and the comments here make it out to be. Outright malicious insults thrown at people isn’t on, but will always happen.

    I’ll tell you what also isn’t on, it’s people who have a different opinion and want to raise that with the person who posted whatever blog has caused the noise, people who want to actually talk about it in a rational way, being branded as ‘trolls’ because they don’t agree with the status quo.

    It’s this group of ‘elite’ designers and speakers pedalling the same opinions, making the rest of us – the vast majority of the industry they claim to represent – feel like we have to bow down to these people, accept their process, work like they do, use the same tools, or we’re somehow not ‘cool’ enough, and won’t be successful.

    Shit, thats a point in its self, I thought about this the other day, what is ‘success’? To me it’s not how many twitter followers I have, how many talks at conferences I’ve given or how many people pat me on the back for writing a blog post. It’s simple – do I get paid a bloody good wage to do what I love doing? Yes. Thats enough for me.

    I’m probably branded a ‘troll’ now. I’ll get over it.

  20. lefthandnav


    05 March 2013 @ 05:49PM #

    I know what Ben is saying in the previous post. There is definitely something in that.

    Personally, I think if Twitter didn’t display the number of followers you had this would all work a lot nicer. It creates hierarchy and division, and is utterly unpleasant. People get high Twitter numbers for lots of reasons, sometimes through great work and sometimes through relentless networking + noise.

    The Twitter numbers create an impression of who’s important and who’s not and clearly this is silly silly stuff as there are tonnes of brilliant designers out there who aren’t even on Twitter.

    The Twitter segment of the web industry is just one small segment of the web industry, not THE web industry, and sometimes seems to get lost out there.

    However, I would also say that here Elliot has tweeted that his appreciation of the varied comments on the original responsive blog post, and doesn’t seem to be suggesting that you shouldn’t disagree with him.

  21. Matt


    06 March 2013 @ 05:27PM #

    If you (as in anyone) puts something online and that sparks a debate there will always be a couple of people who will call you a dick. Get over it.

  22. Eduárd


    07 March 2013 @ 03:47PM #

    As long as we have opinions, there will be arguments. No doubt about that and there is nothing wrong with it. What is wrong is offensive reactions. I read a post not that long ago, where the author said that you should think before you say anything, because it is not bad to disagree, it is bad to offend. You should respect the man or women who made his opinion public, not because he has 58 000 followers on Twitter, but because he or she is a human being and deserves respect, no matter what. But this is something that this world has lost, disrespect is in people’s blood and it is present on the web too.

  23. WrongPete


    08 March 2013 @ 03:38PM #

    I think at least part of the problem comes from disgruntled ‘fans’ who see high-profile web people as arrogant. I think what happens is this:

    High-profile web person: “Hey everyone, I think X”
    Fan person: “Yeah, that’s interesting. Do you also think Y?”
    High-profile: “Yes.”

    Fan person now thinks they are friends with High-profile. The next time Fan person responds to a tweet they expect to get a reply. Perhaps they don’t get one though becuase, hey, you can’t resond to everyone. Fan-person now feels slighted and convinces themselves that High-profile must be a jerk. Next time High-profile dares to ask a question fan-person (now hater-boy) attacks.

    There seems to be an issue with a lack of empathy in our society.

  24. Metrixa Technology Software Development Company

    Metrixa Technology Software Development Company

    12 March 2013 @ 05:58AM #

    We should always think before we click our post on our social media accounts whether it is on Facebook, Twitter or on Google Plus because words is so powerful that it can hurt people or can ruin someone’s life in just a matter of seconds.

  25. John Anderson

    John Anderson

    29 March 2013 @ 05:58AM #

    Pure Jealousy – That’s all that is. As someone that’s benefited greatly from the research and time you put into your blog, and other projects…. I can say it’s definitely not warranted!

  26. Aaron Delani

    Aaron Delani

    29 March 2013 @ 04:05PM #

    I think its a sad reality that most often, when people feel as though their will, or identity is crossed, burdened, or challenged, they tend to have a defensive prose to them.

    I think that as writers, we need to know how to handle our “stuff” the junk that may prohibit us from continuing to write, do, and create.

    I hope that you’re continually able to write as you do. Have courage, we’re right behind you.

  27. Manolo Recio-Sjögren

    Manolo Recio-Sjögren

    04 April 2013 @ 12:06PM #

    I’m really sorry to read this. I bump into a comments thread last night and was disgusted by how angry people’s comments were. I know it’s not easy but I really hope you manage to ignore those angry posts with the time.
    I’m the guy you invited to your inSites book presentation in London. That was nice of you.
    Big hugs man!

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