Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Now That I Hate Puppies, I'll Hate Blogs, Too

I'm not really a part of DC's blogging "scene." I tried to go to two happy hours, which didn't work out. So, I figure I'll chuck a few water balloons and see what happens. Hopefully, this will engender some healthy, respectful discussion. Or at least keep me amused for a bit.

I read and comment on a fair number of blogs, but, honestly, there's so much out there that just isn't to my taste. I don't see the point of monotonous woman-bashing, writing posts that are full of in-jokes and nicknames (sort of like one of those epic TV shows you have to watch from the beginning), posting tons of photos of myself (unless they serve a narrative purpose, or are funny), or dutifully cataloging every aspect of my weekend. So I choose to click my way over to things that catch my fancy. I like thinking blogs and humor blogs, vs. this-is-what-I-did-yesterday blogs. Differences in taste are not moral failings.

By the way, I'm not talking about any blog in particular. This is a post inspired by five years of writing this site, reading blogs, and thinking about what it all means. I got here a long time before most of you, and I have no plans to hang up my spurs. So if you're still convinced that I'm talking about you, lower your defenses for a minute and hear me out.

Because the defensiveness is exactly what puts me off reading blogs. Especially comments sections. Yes, blogging is a very personal thing. No, that does not mean that everyone is going to laud you as a misunderstood genius. We're all imperfect beings. So when we put ourselves out into the world, it's totally unreasonable to expect perfection back. Far too many blog comment threads run something like this:

Anonymous: I don't agree, because of A-B-C.
The Blogger: Well, I cannot believe you just called me a stupid hairy ape, you twit.

No, I'm not talking about random anonymous hate comments. I get 'em too, after all, and if they bothered me I'd forbid anonymous commenting. I'm talking about bloggers who respond disproportionately to any opposing view, or freak at even the slightest whiff of criticism.

Criticism is an opportunity. It helps you grow. When your boss gives you feedback, do you whine or do you listen? You listen. Well, your audience is your boss. If you really were writing "just for you," you wouldn't be broadcasting live on the Internet. You'd keep a diary. So see what you can learn if you just put your dukes down.

Also, it's almost impossible to convey tone over the Internet. So if there's a nice way and a mean way to interpret a comment, go with the nice way. Guaranteed to extend your lifespan in no time flat.

We all have our reasons for doing what we do. But if invisible commenter elves are going to ruin your day, then you need to just chill. And if you respond to this post with anger and froth, or decide that it means I've called you out personally, well, then, you just proved my point. According to the rules I just made up in my head, you now owe me a drink.

What do YOU think? Bloggers, readers, lurkers, step on up. I promise to not call any of you stupid hairy apes.

PS - I really do believe commenters are a bunch of invisible elves. I also think that tiny musicians live inside radios, though, so don't take my word on it.

58 comments:

Michael J. West said...

Hell, I wish I got more substantive discussion on my blog.

Shannon said...

Which is the exact reason bloggers shouldn't overreact when they get less-than-stellar feedback. It stifles interesting discussion. I've given up on various sites for that reason.

Just rename your comments field "salutations and ass-kissing" if you want everyone to agree with you.

Kristen S. said...

I'm about to embark on political blogging, and I'm still hemming and hawing about what to do with the comments. I'm thick-skinned, but I keep thinking I'm not as thick-skinned as I need to be. I suppose deleting inflammatory comments that don't contribute to the discussion maybe the way to go. I've found the discourse at one particular blog to be pretty high-level, and can only hope I get the same response.

So, my answer is - I don't have a clue! :)

Jo said...

I tend to agree with you. Besides, mean comments spark discussions and that's the whole point right? I -like- it when someone calls me out on something. But then again, one of the reasons I started my blog was to improve my writing, so I guess it depends on your point of view.

Shannon said...

Kristen, perhaps you could set some ground rules? Have a dos and don'ts section that spells out - no profanity, no personal insults, but you are more than welcome to disagree with me?

Jo, glad to hear it. I've reached a point where I hardly ever comment on blogs any more, because I get bashed or dogpiled on for simply disagreeing with the author. (Apparently I'm emotionally stunted, an ugly feminist, hate animals, etc.)

Look, if you want everyone to agree on everything, move to a totalitarian state. Or keep a diary.

Bridal Bird said...

In the spirit of this discussion, I'm going to disagree with you.
;-) I don't think by having a blog that you're required to view anyone who happens by as your boss. I think it's just that--your blog. You can control the flow and tone in any way you want. If you want to jump down critics' throats, then go for it. If they don't want to read further, they'll move on. If you want to allow for freewheeling debate, go for it.
The problem I typically have is that commenters who are critical often come out of the gate with tone, tone, tone to let you know that you're an idiot/racist/sexist/anti-feminist/superficial. I'm almost always going to call them on it, just as I would if someone leveled the same assumption at me in face-to-face conversation.
Interesting topic.

Marissa said...

Whoa. You're making me think and readers of my blog know I much prefer snap judgments to actual deep thinking so I hope what I am about to type even makes sense...

I agree with Bridal Bird that readers are not necessarily a blogger's collective boss. They definitely can be -- but only if the blogger wants that. I think most of us want others to read our stuff (which, like you said, is why we publicly post it), but I don't think many of us would change our writing styles, senses of humor or views on life to gain the approval of some random group of e-people (especially since most of us aren't getting paid).

The happy side to all of this is that I also think that gaining an audience and writing about what you're passionate about are not mutually exclusive. At least that's what I've found...I think.

As for the random negative/hate comments: I say, "Suck it," er, I mean, "Bring it." Like anyone, I appreciate positive and/or sarcastic, joking words, but I also welcome negative comments. For me, in a rather unsurprisingly sick and twisted sense, I feel like I must have written something spectacular if someone actually takes precious time out of his or her life to tell me how stupid/ignorant/ridiculous I am. Plus, I love a good debate.

lacochran said...

YOU and YOUR BLOG SUCK!

Just kidding. Thanks for a thought-provoking post and congrats on the dcblogs.com listing.

Shannon said...

Bridal Bird and Marissa, thanks for your comments. I read both of you regularly, so hi!

I said the "Boss" thing to be deliberately provocative. My point is that feedback is an opportunity to grow, to improve as a writer, or to simply see things a different way. You don't actually have to change who you are to suit commenter elves (another point I had made - if they ruin your day, chill!)

I actually agree with both of you - I hate the attack comments and the personal insults. But all too often, if a commenter simply respectfully disagrees, the blogger goes apeshit.

Lacochran, you're the one that sucks. I bet your momma's ugly, too.

Shannon said...

While it's on my brain, here's another thing to think about:

If you have a blog, you are exposing the innermost contents of your brain to an audience. So these readers naturally feel like they know you as a person. SO...don't fuss if they "cross a line" or poke a bit of fun - that's an intimacy that you, yourself, created.

Mike said...

I've never understood why bloggers or commenters feel the need to insult someone who expresses an opposing view. I have no problem with people who disagree with me (in real life or on my blog.) In fact, the person who comments most on my blog is on the opposite end of the political spectrum, so we have a lot of good discussions.

I guess that behind the shield of anonymity that the Internet offers, some people feel they can work out their personal issues by insulting others. I could take the low road and rank on anyone I disagree with, but it's so much more fun to point out the flaws in their argument. (Talk about personal issues!)

lemmonex said...

Hm, I don't know I am exposing the inner most contents of my brain. I am exposing a certain part of it, yes. Sometimes I allow myself to be a bit more vulnerable and of course I believe what I say, but if people presume to know me and what makes me tick through my blog, they are sorely misguided. They are seeing "lemmonex", a part of "my real name".

Arjewtino said...

Bridal Bird is an idiot/racist/sexist/anti-feminist/superficial.

Just kidding. She's not an idiot.

But you bring up some valid points, Shannon, most of which I agree with. I often don't care about the "navel-gazing" some bloggers do and just choose not to read them. You're right when you say that if you truly wanted to write something personal, you would write in your diary or keep the blog posts password-protected. By that virtue, we bloggers have a social contract in place with our readers in that they are involved in what we write, not just passers-by.

Great post.

Shannon said...

Thanks everyone for your thoughtful comments.

Mike, I agree. Think how boring life would be if everyone thought the same stuff. Unless they all thought the same way as me.

Lemmonex, your Internet identity isn't you. Most of us play a character, at least to some degree. But by virtue of posting regularly, you've created a persona that your readers can get attached to. So I laugh when bloggers are all, "But that crosses a line, how dare a stranger say that to me!" Because they've been in your mental living room, they aren't strangers.

Arjewtino, you're a hairy ape. The internet is supposed to be interactive, so why kick up a fuss when people, y'know, interact?

Hammer said...

When your boss gives you feedback, do you whine or do you listen?

I file a hostile work environment lawsuit as part of my ongoing quest to never have to work a real job ever again. One of these days it's gonna work, I swear.

As for blogs, in the end they're your space and you can make your own rules about how serious to take it. For me, the mark of a good commenter (beyond the typical and always appreciated "friends checking/chiming in") is someone who makes me laugh, makes me consider something I hadn't thought about, or just someone who keeps the dialogue rolling. People who throw grenades just to throw them aren't much use.

Nothing wrong with returning a little fire though (in a proportional Bridal Bird kind of way.) Life's too short to take unnecessary crap, especially in your own house.

Personally, I like to see a little fire in mmy bloggers. The accomodating little kiss-asses who try to be everyone's buddy make me want to vomit sometimes.

foilwoman said...

I just avoid blogs that annoy me, and I've been surprised at how few flames I've gotten. The one really racist commenter on my blog I decided to explain why I found his comments hurtful. He actually changed his mind and how he expressed himself (and is now the fond godfather of two beautiful interracial kids in a only-in-real-life plot development of almost unspeakable Disneyesque irony) and has become a friend. Others, well, feh. But if you put it out there (my issues are mainly religion, sex, and misogyny), someone is going to disagree.

I don't understand not wanting a bit of cross-pollination.

Oh, and Shannon, check out how Jewish Atheist (I think at http://jewishatheist.blogspot.com) handles comments: he insists people be polite, and then they disagree up the wazoo. Seems to work. And they are arguing over who's right about god, a topic people have been torturing and killing each other over for thousands of years. So he must be doing something right.

carrie m said...

since i have few of my own original thoughts these days, i'm going to piggy back off of bridal bird. when the tone of a comment is telling you to eff off or informing you that you are an X when that wasn't your point at all, i can see how defensiveness pops up. at least, that's when i get defensive, but it doesn't happen too often.
overall though, i do agree with you.

lizzie said...

so i'm assuming the recent comment thread on my blog may have something to do with this post. well, if it does, i think i have already explained to you why i was defensive. people have disagreed with me on my blog many times (some even telling me to go kill myself). i think that you need to have a thicker skin in order to blog. but not all of us come with that thicker skin. it develops over time, the more you post and the more you put yourself out there. and that thicker skin brings less defensiveness.

Shannon said...

Hammer, at the very least, your lawyer will be able to retire early. I think there are two ways of seeing things - are you a host or a writer? If you're a host, and your site is your castle, then you shouldn't be taking any guff. But if you're a writer, you need the feedback in order to grow.

Foilwoman, thanks for the link, I'll have to take a look at that one.

Carrie M, you're a stupid whorish boysenberry yogurt if you believe that. Kidding.

Lizzie, you Saracen pig, sort of, so thanks for that. I used to be a lot more thin-skinned, and would put the smack down on negative commenters. Then I realized that sarcasm doesn't always travel over the Internet, and many of these elves were actually just kidding. So now I give people the benefit of the doubt. Life's going to hand you trouble, so why go looking for it?

Dennis! said...

Once, I commented critically on someone's blog -- politely pointed out the fallacy of his reasoning -- and he excoriated me for it. Needless to say, I stopped commenting on his blog shortly thereafter, then just stopped reading it entirely.

But I do believe that there's "we disagree," and there's "I disagree with you and you're a [expletive] because you think the way you do." I'm fine with reasoned criticism; I'm fine with being taken to the mat when actual facts don't support my position; I'm fine with being corrected. What I'm generally not fine with is the ad hominem attacks that sometimes accompany the corrections to my assumptions/understandings.

And don't get me started on posts that brand me as a vile person posted by "Anonymous." Cowards.

Shannon said...
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Shannon said...
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Shannon said...

Dennis, you twitterpated ogre, I don't really mind anonymous commenters, especially if they're so completely insane I can just stand back in awe.

And in teh Random Reader Shoutout category, the sitemeter fairies tell me there's a WebMd-er who'd like to be my friend. My real-life friends have been completely drained of beer, Cheez-its and bail money, so step on up.

KassyK said...

Ok this is going to be long but I think as someone with a lot of experience with " crazy commenters" I can give a bit of insight.

I see what you mean and I agree with you AND with the collective Hammer/Carrie M./Bridal Bird comments.

I enjoy discussion but unfortunately in the past have been the target of a few hate commenters (thankfully it has been almost nil in the past year or so and all normal people now).

I have been friends with people that are not necessary "well liked" in the blogging community and as such have been punished by others.

Even though I am also friends with a million other bloggers...both "sides" if you will. I feel exhausted just thinking about it and for this reason (among many), I am so glad I moved away from DC and the drama.

I had to turn on anon commenting for a while when I first started.

I went through it all...no more commenting, writing too personally, not writing ANYTHING personal, fighting back, not fighting back, getting defensive, not giving a shit -the whole gamut of emotions.

I think the key is to know yourself and really UNDERSTAND people amd your limits.

I enjoy some disagreement on an issue but if it is something derogatory for the sake of hurting me or someone I am writing about, then I defend.

BUT ALSO,

If you write HARD CORE things, expect hard core responses...if they bother you--then unfortunately, either grow a thicker skin, password protect your blog, change your blog or stop blogging.

I hurt easily, hence I try to be somewhat more vague in my posts...although by nature I am a giving person--even with my thoughts--so I know that if I write something a bit kooky, I may have some kooky comments.

Phew.

I used to post pictures all the time and now that happens maybe once every 4 months...I am not "anon" (I have hosted like 6 Happy Hours)...I suggest to anyone who is even REMOTELY sensitive about their looks to keep pictures to a minimum....

BUT some of us love posting fun pictures just to share them so if that is the case, why the need to rip someone apart?

Ok I am just babbling now.

Great thought provoking post.

Shannon said...

Hi Kass! Thank you so much for all of your thoughtful comments.

It's funny that you mention the blogger "drama" - that's exactly why I tend to avoid happy hours and the like. I pick and choose whom I would like to befriend. I can read and comment on the blogs of those who, to my view, make women feel like crap over things they can't fix while men get a free pass on just about everything. But I wouldn't cross that line into friendship because I have plenty of guy friends who don't spout those attitudes.

I think it's very, very important to separate the blogging self from the actual self - I wouldn't be friends with some of the online versions of some local bloggers, but maybe they're lovely in person.

As for pictures, I'm not really "ripping" anyone, I just don't see the point. Personally, as a woman, I spend all frickin' day being judged by my appearance. ("Oh, she's small and cute, we don't have to take her seriously," or, "Over 30! Therefore hideous!") It's exhausting, and why would I subject myself to more of that? I consider my blog a break from that sort of nonsense, where I can be judged on the merits of my writing and ideas. When bloggers post photos of themselves, I deliberately skip over the photos and go straight to the post. That's where the meat is.

And now, I'm babbling too. Must be contagious.

Thanks for all of your comments!

KassyK said...

Oh no I realized it came off that I was calling you out in terms of pictures...and I did not mean that, so sorry!!

I meant the exact people that say things like the examples you used...

I have had way too many people comment on the way I look. Either to tell me I am cute, tell me I am ugly, etc...

I wanted to warn all female bloggers that with posting pictures, comes mean people saying mean things and also nice people saying quite nice things about the way you look and to BE PREPPED for it.


:)

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