It’s rapidly approaching a full year since I got my tattoo and to this day I have yet to encounter anyone who has responded in a negative way. Yet, every time I go online I see people spewing all sorts of negative things about tattoos and the people who choose to get tattooed. I can’t help but wonder why there is such an apparent discrepancy.
Can it be explained by the fact that I live in NY? Are people in this area that much more open to the idea of tattoos? While it might play a role, it certainly doesn’t explain everything. I’m not an accomplished world traveler by any means, but I have logged a few miles since getting inked. It doesn’t seem to matter what city or state I’m in, or what type of neighborhood. Whether I’m walking the halls of my office in Westchester, dining at a fine restaurant in the heart of Manhattan, or just hanging out at the local dive bar in a small town in NJ or suburban CT. From the affluent NJ towns of Princeton and Cape May to the crazy boardwalks of Wildwood. Virginia, Tennessee, all the way to New Orleans and back.
In each and every one of these places, I have had discussions with people about tattoos and I like to think that I have changed the way some of them view tattoos. This leads me back to my original question. Why is there such a divide between the way people react to tattoos online vs. what I have experienced personally? I have been thinking a lot about this lately and have a few theories.
The first explanation I can come up with is context. When an article is published online, the people and places involved are often completely unknown to the reader. The author only gives the details that they want the reader to know about. They are in complete control of the context and can steer opinions very easily. When you meet someone in person, there is always more information to be gathered. From the people they surround themselves with, the clothes they are wearing, the way speak and carry themselves. Even the location of the meeting comes into play. If I bump into someone at I place that I like to visit, chances are we already have something in common. Whether it’s a favorite restaurant, the gym, or even at the office. The fact that we both ended up there can sometimes be enough to start a conversation. All of these things help to tell your story and tattoos become just a small piece of the big picture. When reading an article about tattoos online, the focus is 100% on the tattoos.
The other big factor is anonymity. It’s easy to insult someone from the comfort of your own home, hiding behind a made up screen name, hundreds if not thousands of miles from the person your comments are directed at. When facing someone in person, it’s much easier to be positive, even if you don’t really mean it. It’s human nature to tell people what they want to hear when the situation calls for it. If someone walks up to you with a terrible tattoo and wants an opinion, it’s easier to pretend to like it than to risk hurting their feelings with the truth. This dynamic doesn’t exist to the same degree in the online world. You are not held accountable for what you say when posting anonymously. On the other hand, when you say something directly to someones face you better be ready for their immediate reaction.
I have been meaning to write this post for a while, but just never got around to it. But I was recently contacted by someone who found my blog while searching for information about tattoos. He’s 30, has a degree, a great job, a house and a family. A self described poster child for a “normal” person. He has wanted a tattoo for 15 years and after doing extensive research on artists, he finally made an appointment. But after reading some of the disgusting comments like the ones I love to highlight here, he began to second guess his choice just 3 weeks before his appointment. It was his story that made me realize that this needed to be written. This is a man who has obviously put a lot of thought into his tattoo, but is ready to back out because of the negative perceptions that can be seen all over the web. I want people like him to see that things aren’t as bad as they seem. Don’t be intimidated by what you seen online, because it just doesn’t seem to represent the real world.
As long as you put enough thought into your tattoo, both the content and the placement, you should never have a reason to regret your decision.