Inviting comments on your blog can, at times, become a double-edged sword, as one blogger recently found.
One of the most satisfying elements of having your own blog, is the ability for the reader to comment instantly and give their view on your work straight after reading your post (should they choose to). For writers who have had works published in magazines and newspapers only to date, it must be somewhat frustrating at times – mustn’t it? - not knowing how their readers have responded to it. That is, not until a reader writes a letter or an email to the author/publication in response to the article (if they are so inclined to do so). So, how great that now, a writer/blogger/whatever you want to call yourself, can now get instant feedback, with a click of a button (and perhaps the typing of a word verification)?
Likewise, how wonderful is it as a reader of a blog, to be able to express your opinion on the post you’ve just read, straight after reading it? I don’t know about you, but sometimes I read an article in a magazine, and the author’s thoughts I either agree or disagree with passionately, and I immediately want to add my two cents worth on the subject. I convince myself I’ll sit down and write a letter/email that night, and then, I’m suddenly off busying myself with chores or Brothers & Sisters comes on tv and before too long the need to write a response has faded and I don’t do it.
I love that when reading blogs or websites that welcome comments, that I can instantly speak my mind right then and there.
Of course, in relation to comments, there’s also a downside. Sometimes, in the heat of the moment when someone reads something that they particularly disagree with, and with their nostrils still flaring from the anger within them, harsh words are penned/typed and before you know it, a comment (or sometimes a whole blog post) nastier than a toilet is left for the unsuspecting author, and for all the world to read.
I’m all for expressing one’s self, and I believe that everyone has a right to their opinion. However, I don’t believe that there is ever a time when you need to resort to name-calling or nastiness to get your point across. Unfortunately, some do this (and almost always under the pseudonym of ‘Anonymous’, funnily enough). Doesn’t it tell you something, that if you can’t put your name to your opinion, whatever it is your writing is probably highly inappropriate? Quite frankly, there are just some things that don’t need to be said. (The only time I agree with using ‘Anon’ is if you are commenting on a sensitive subject and you don’t want your partner/family/friends finding out!) Once, on another blog, a commenter replied to a comment I had made, calling themselves “Up Yours Jodie” – which, to be honest, I found quite humorous. I don’t think all bloggers/commenters would feel that way; and I would have preferred that person had given their real name, just as I had done when making my comment. For the record – I just ignored their reply. ;)
And comments like these are for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes, people who make these comments have short fuses and just can’t help themselves (I’m not saying that makes it ok – more a lack of self control). Often, they’re looking for some sort of attention – a way to draw readers to what they have to say. That’s why ‘trolls’ exist. They are there to cause trouble. If that’s the case, then if those commenters don’t have one already – they should start a blog and say it there. But if they do have their own blog, and choose to reply there, they should refrain from putting others down whilst getting their point across.
Quite frankly, if you don’t like what you’re reading – don’t read it.
For the most part, the blogosphere is filled with good-natured, respectful people (both those who blog, and those who read and comment). But occasionally, someone comes along and upsets that balance, and that’s unfortunate, because it can have devastating consequences for a blogger.
I was asked a few weeks ago via my own comments on my blog what I thought about The Real Sydney (as she goes by – or TRS as she’s often referred to) finishing up her blog, Get Real recently. Get Real was a fairly new blog, which quickly became incredibly popular over the last 6 months or so since it was established. It was shut down recently by TRS due to a number of incidences where TRS was hit with, by her own description, snarky and/or nasty comments in relation to a few things she had posted. (Her blog has since been taken off public access, hence I have not linked back to it.)
I’m not going to go in to too many specifics here, as I can’t link back to any of the final posts that TRS wrote and it would take me a long time to give you the complete background (not to mention that I was not directly involved), but in short, what triggered TRS’ decision to shut down her blog was a comment on her second last post, made by a woman called D*. TRS was trying to raise funds for D (due to illness in D’s family), using her blog to do so. However, soon after posting information about D and her family, TRS received an email from someone she did not know questioning D’s authenticity (after finding information that related to D on the internet), even referring and relating it to this post I wrote recently about the blogger who posed as a cancer victim – who was found to be a scammer. Basically, the person who sent TRS the email and her mother’s group had discussed what they thought were “inconsistencies” in D’s story, questioning whether or not D was telling the complete truth about her circumstances.
I believe, in good faith, TRS then sent D a private email, explaining the issues raised in the email she had received, and attached it so D could read it. D obviously took offence to this, and posted a rather long, out of context public comment on TRS’ second last post on Get Real, titled Randomlicious (where readers were invited to post about anything they wanted to).
Now, if you post a comment on someone’s blog out of context, then I believe what TRS did next was unavoidable. She posted everything. The email she received, her email to D and D’s subsequent email back to her (which, it seems, D sent after making the comment on the Randomlicious post) and a final email that TRS sent to D expressing her disappointment with D’s decision to post the comment on Get Real.
Now I know that some in the blogging world may have been upset with what TRS did. Some believe that D’s cause should not be questioned, and by posting the information on her blog, TRS is highlighting information that could potentially threaten future monies raised for D and her family. (Even though, strangely in my mind, it was actually D who raised the information publicly first with her comment on TRS’ blog. TRS stated in her final post that she had no intention of making the accusations public on her blog, and no one would be now the wiser had D not posted that comment. One might argue that D wanted to be very open about everything, or, it was simply a case of “she protesteth too much”.)
Can you blame TRS? Don’t you think, had you received such a (highly detailed) email yourself, you would, at the very least, question the facts? Especially after reading about J – the women who faked cancer and a coma? Admittedly, had I been the one in TRS’ shoes - I’d have done the Exact. Same. Thing.
Quite frankly, where money is at stake from people generously giving their earnings for a certain cause, if there’s even a whiff of indecency going on, the appropriate thing to do is check those facts and make sure it’s all above board. (Which seems to be what TRS was attempting to do.) Too much is at stake. I could never promote a cause that had even the slightest hint of possible fraudulence about it. (It should be noted that D’s cause is also publicised on another, major Australian blog. The author of that blog seems to not be buying in to the accusations against D, as was evidenced by her reply to a tweet I made to her on Twitter recently asking if she planned to comment on TRS shutting down Get Real (TRS was a long-standing and well known commenter on this author’s blog, and had also supplied this author with a Guest Post of her own, prior to starting Get Real). Her reply to my tweet was simply: “Who?”
And whether D is telling the truth or not (she disputes all accusations made in the email sent to TRS, and I can’t tell you the answer to that one) what D did, in replying to TRS’ email in the form of a public comment on TRS’ blog, was, in my opinion, inconsiderate and wrong. If someone sends you a private email, isn’t it common courtesy to reply to that person privately, and not use his or her blog as your own personal soapbox to air your opinions/make a response? Random post or not? If people like D do this, and get away with it, no one will trust that anything they write in a private email to someone is safe or will be kept private. What a shame that would be.
At the end of the day, this was the final straw for TRS. Her foray in to the blogosphere – even though incredibly successful in once sense (her Randomlicious post alone attracted close to 700 comments), unfortunately also left a bittersweet taste in her mouth about the blogging world. I don't blame her, and I wish she hadn't let it get to her because she is obviously a fantastic communicator that people really relate to, but I believe she will be back in one way or another down the track.
I’m sad to say, no doubt TRS won’t be the last blogger to end her blogging days in the same way and for the same reasons.
I read a post recently that asked if a blogger needed to have thick skin in order to blog? I believe the answer is: yes, it most certainly helps. But even the most thick-skinned of people are not immune to nasty, spiteful and/or inappropriate comments. TRS is a good example of that.
I implore all commenters to think before they click PUBLISH. It’s more than ok to disagree, but at the end of the day, if you couldn’t say what you want to in person to the author of that blog, don’t say it at all. Or if you feel you can’t keep your own emotions in check when writing your response, best let sleeping dogs lie and shut it down without commenting.
But that’s just my opinion.
* I have kept D’s complete name out of this post, as I can’t link back to her comment on Get Real.