Alright, first in a series on how to take some of the scary out of blogging.
Just so you know, I’m writing this with two types of people in mind.
It’s for those of you who are thinking about blogging — or at least about maybe eventually thinking about getting around to it later — and for those of us who are already doing it, but keep getting tripped up by some of the what-ifs.
Not planning on “solving” a “problem” here. Just to:
1. clarify the issue so that people who aren’t experiencing it can have some empathy for those who are. And then …
2. offer some useful concepts to help us talk about how to deal with this should you ever want to. Food for thought, at the very least.
Shall we? Yallah.
Aaaagh! What if people are mean to me?
Where this is coming from and what it’s about.
The sincere and scary worry that your blog will be trolled by some snarky, insulting jerk (or worse, a whole bunch of people like that) is pretty darn normal. It’s actually something that keeps a ton of people from even starting a blog.
And I know this to be true because they all email me about it. And because I also worried this to death before I started.
This particular what-if has been getting louder recently (at least in my inbox) ever since Naomi cut off comments on her blog.
Aside from the resulting general hullaballoo in the blogosphere (which I don’t feel like talking about at the moment), there’s just a lot of fear coming up.
Basically, people come to me, point to her situation, and say (I’m paraphrasing here):
“SEE? That’s why I don’t blog!
I don’t even want to think about having to deal with the kind of abuse that would make me need to shut off my comments. I don’t want those meany-pants trollface jerks on my blog and that’s that.”
Like with any fear, you’re absolutely allowed to have it.
You know, I really do get that this is a legitimate fear.
Obviously blogging is a pretty personal venture. It can be vulnerable and intimate. You share your thoughts and your words, and you don’t even know who you’re sharing them with.
It makes sense that you don’t want to get slammed for showing up and being who you are.
It makes sense that you don’t want to process criticism (especially the mean-spirited insulting kind) from random strangers. It just doesn’t feel safe or supportive.
Sounds like maybe you’re feeling kinda anxious because you really need to know that you can have a safe place to lean into, and you’re not convinced that a blog can ever be that place for you.
And that’s okay.
And at the same time, I really, really want to read your blog! And now I can’t — because you’re not writing it.
So if this particular fear is the reason that I don’t get to read it (yet), let’s talk about that a little, okay?
Some thoughts to consider …
1. Can I share my own personal experience with this?
This was totally something I agonized over before starting this blog, and you know what? There has never been anything negative on my blog.
Seriously. Tfu tfu tfu, spit three times to avert the evil eye, knock on keyboard, nothing.
Sure, it happens that people disagree with me, but they do it politely and respectfully, and we talk. That’s it.
The people who read and comment on this blog are the sweetest, kindest, most thoughtful and considerate people ever. Just gentle souls who are also smart and funny and have awesome insights.
I’d been so worried about having to deal with energy-sucking duck-haters or something, and instead I found a whole community of people who draw strength from my writing and who show up just to cheer me on.
It has been one of the most awe-inspiring, humbling experiences of my life so far. And yeah, I was wrong.
Okay, a number of you are probably coming up with a thousand reasons of why you’re not me, and how you actually will attract all the mean, crazy people.
And anyway, what about so-and-so and all the horrible things that happened to them?
Okay, fine. So let’s say that for whatever reason you might get some jerks spouting off on your blog. In that case, please see the next point.
2. You also have ways of protecting yourself.
There are ways to diffuse this situation both in advance (before you even start the blog) and if/when it ever happens.
It’s all about boundaries. And the trick to boundaries, in this case, is getting clear about how you want to handle comments on your blog. Some structure. Some guidelines.
Not necessarily a comments policy. You don’t have to go that far.
Personally? I detest the idea of a comments policy because to me “policy” sounds very top-down and authoritative. And I have issues. Sorry about that. (You can have a policy if you want one).
But there are ways to get around this. For one thing, you can use descriptive language (“this is how we do things around here”) as opposed to prescriptive language (“you are not allowed to do blah blah blah”).
For another, you don’t have to call it a policy. Tim Ferris, with whom I disagree on all sorts of things, has something awesome called Comment Zen.
I love Comment Zen because — unlike a policy which I already want to rebel against even before I know what it is — it doesn’t sound like it’s wagging a finger at me.
And because its very existence inoculates you against criticism if you end up deleting stuff that’s mean-spirited. (And again, I’ve never had to do that).
And you don’t have to actually use your non-policy policy thing. It’s enough to just have it in your head. I wrote mine about a month before I started blogging.
Just in case. I’ve never had to use it. In fact, I’ve never even mentioned it before now. But because I know it’s there, I feel a lot safer and more comfortable.
And since you’re going to beg me to share, here it is. My non-policy policy.
Comment Zen: We’ve all got our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff. We try to respond to each other with as much, you know, compassion and respect as we can stand. Mensch-like: it’s how we roll. That’s it. Have fun and comment away!
3. Every blog has a personality.
And not just a personality, but its own energy and its own voice.
The persona of your website is determined by you, but it’s also something you get to play with. In other words, you have more power than you think.
Every single thing you do on your blog — the look and feel, the colors, the way you speak to people — it all comes together to create a sense of who you are and what you’re about.
In Naomi’s case — and I’m not in any way criticizing her because she’s my favorite everything and I’m completely in love with her — her persona is brash and loud and fabulously obnoxious. Which is totally greatl Because we’re drawn to it and we adore her for it.
But because not everyone is capable of differentiating between a persona and an actual human being who is behind it, apparently some people took this as an invitation to be rude and abrasive in her space. Which is not cool.
This is so not the case with the people who write to me saying “Oh noooooooooo! I can’t deal with some Meany-Pants McGee insulting my honor!”.
Seriously. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you don’t have an abrasive tell-it-like-it-is persona. So the likelihood of your ever getting that kind of response from people who don’t get it is a lot lower than you think it is. Tfu tfu tfu!
4. Be prepared: have a way to respond.
It never hurts to be a good communicator. If you have ways to respond to people, you’ll be less frightened of what they can say.
I use compassionate communication (NVC). And a concept from the super genius linguist Suzette Haden Elgin called “Miller’s Law”, which I can talk about some other time.
For me, it’s all about remembering that if something I said triggered someone else’s stuff, it’s their stuff. All I can do is meet their hurt and find out what they need. And acknowledge my own hurt and state what I need.
It’s really important (and hard) to remember that it’s not about you. Actually, it’s never about you.
And if that doesn’t help? Well, the delete button is there for a reason. May you never have to use it, but it’s there.
Feeling a little better?
Good. Or maybe not good, because I’m about to freak you out again.
The truth is that the likelihood of this particular fear coming true is not especially high. What’s much, much, much more likely is that no one will show up at all.
But we’ll deal with that particular what-if (and what to do about it) next week. In the meantime, I wish you the kind of awesome readers that I have, and can’t wait to read what you’re writing!
I guess it really is hard for people to put themselves out there.
I see now that it’s not just easy-peazy for everyone (I recently upgraded my empathy/sensitivity chip).
Mean people are out there, but one thing I’m learning is that it *really* is about their stuff. Some people get off on being snarky and disagreeable for entertainment (they probably don’t have ducks or television).
The thing is, there’s a higher ratio of nice people to mean people, but I think that the mean comments stand out more because the nice people usually don’t want to get into a comment-sparring feud. Usually. Everyone has stuff now and then.
So, with my new understanding and empathy for those who are fearful of blogging, I ever-so-gently encourage people to dip their toes into Big Blog Lake. It can be cold, but it’s also refreshing.
Davids last blog post..
Havi this is a great post, now down to the reason I’m commenting.
I think that getting past fear should be the cardinal goal of every blogger who wants to eventually be worth more than their two cents.
It’s stunning how much this resonates with me and with people who I’ve spoken to about blogging. For whatever reason we all focus only on the bad, frustrating, mean-spirited people trolling about the web — we focus so much on that that we ignore the fact that for every troll passing in the dead of night you’ll find 5 great people, the type of people who make the job of blogging worth doing.
I guess as far as the fear is concerned, this can really be extended to anything you do online. You just have to accept that not everyone is going to like everything you do and that’s OK, in fact, you should encourage people to disagree because it means you’re doing something interesting enough to get people to think critically about it.
One way or another, I really enjoyed this post — thanks for writing it.
Oh good. Because how awkward would it have been if only trolls showed up for this one! 🙂
@David – Big Blog Lake! Love it. And yeah, it’s interesting how some people freak out about this and other people don’t even think about it, and everyone’s right.
Your point about the ratio is a good one too. That’s really important for me to remember.
@Steve – I love your idea that blogging really *is* therapy, in a way. That we can use it to work through stuff, and then realize that this work gets reflected in every other part of your life.
It’s really beautiful when you look at it that way. Thank you.
Well said Havi. I recently started blogging on my business’s website. Although I’ve been a journal writer since I was in teenage angst (loooong time ago), writing a blog kinda unzips your soul and slightly exposes it a little bit to the cool, crisp air.
Empowering and frightening all at the same time. Empoweringly (??) vulnerable is how I feel when I hit the “publish” button.
I have recently witnessed abusive troll behavior on a Facebook group. It was those who replied to her or were triggered by her that really added fuel to the convo. However, by ignoring the troll’s incessant remarks and talking over her, she eventually skulked away.
Thank you for the post. So happy I have come across your blog.
A lovely look at part of the issue, meany-pants McGees being only one (ugle but managable) reason not to blog.
Like does attract like, in person, on blogs, and sometimes in dating. You are the type of person who is in your type of industry; need a lock fixed? Go to a locksmith; need educomfort? Go see a certain duck’s roommate. It’s not just that different people and their personally-voiced blogs attract those who’ll grok them. It’s that certain industries (mine) are full of a particular type of person that makes for a bad guest list at a blog party.
Thanks for the smart post — !
I’ve not seen any snarkiness yet, but I’m just beginning to go for the blogging really. I think it’s fun to meet new people, sort of, in the blogosphere and see what they have to say.
Justins last blog post..Patterns and insecurity
Great ideas Havi, made me think of this:
I had the delight of meeting Penelope Trunk in person when she came to Arizona to do a keynote presentation. We spent a couple of hours over tea talking about all kinds of great stuff. Then I mentioned my respect for her cojones (if girls are allowed to have them) for not being too impacted by all the vile, personal attack comments on her articles when she wrote for Yahoo finance (they truly were awful, and I would have curled up in a ball). She said they didn’t get to her too much, then asked me how I dealt with my mean comments.
I paused. I thought hard. Then I realized that I had hardly ever, in 3 years, gotten what could be construed as a nasty comment. Perhaps only one that qualifies was from a post I wrote about “how the techno-geeks kicked my ass for my own good,” and it was so poetic in its criticism that I loved it:
“Another tip your article missed: geeks don’t worship meatheads, especially when they flex to make up for mental deficiencies.”
Yes, the meathead he was referring to was me. Hilarious, no? (see orig post here: http://tinyurl.com/23hyzt)
Penelope could not believe that I did not get mean comments. But, like Naomi, she is known for taking very strong stands, bucking conventional wisdom and sharing LOTS of personal stuff that drives some people crazy.
So I guess my long-winded point is that if you are a very strong/zesty person like Naomi or Penelope, you may get flack, but you can take it cause you are strong and zesty.
If you are more of the mellow yoga/duck loving variety of bloggers like you and me, not so much.
Great advice — I hope this inspires some people to start blogging who have held back.
Pamela Slims last blog post..Stop searching for the perfect job and start finding your life’s work
@ GirlPie — “Roommate”. I love it. That was a very classy way to put their utterly scandalous relationship.
Seriously, though, I want to second Havi’s point about attracting people like yourself. Seldom do we, as bloggers, create communities of people very different from us. You probably won’t run into too many Big Fat Losers because Big Fat Losers like to generally hang out with other Big Fat Losers.
When you reach a certain level of internet-famous, you’ll get the different people coming out, which is why we need step four: have a plan. My plan was to tell everybody to shut up, and it worked for me, but it certainly wouldn’t work for many.
(I totally wrote that “many” as “manly”, by the way.)
Naomi Dunfords last blog post..Marketing in Troubled Times: Selling Power
I hate it when people start comments by saying ‘This post couldn’t have come at a better time for me” Really? There has never been a more pertinent time in your entire life? What’s the odds of that happening I wonder?
Anyway, this post couldn’t have come at a better time for me. Honest, it just couldn’t and if you don’t believe me go and read my post today.
Now you see, that looks like a blatant attempt to poach your good readers, and maybe that’s exactly what it is.
I’m not sure where the hell I’m going with this now. It seemed like a great idea when I started but I’ve forgotten what my point is, other than the extremely lame “I agree”
Tim Brownsons last blog post..Your Mind Plays Tricks On You
Okay, okay, already, Havi. I get it. I’ll get on with writing a blog for my busines vurry, vurry soon. I promise.
Thanks for writing this post just for me. 😉
@Jennifer — looking forward to your coming blog — !
I have gotten trolls on my blog. People have told me I’m an idiot, people have told me I don’t know what I’m talking about, and I got completely bashed on Kotaku and several other gaming blogs.
But then, so many more people have told me that they love my blog. People have come to my defense against the trolls. And… I got featured on Kotaku! Sure, I got bashed, but still… how exciting is that? 😀
So yeah, there are trolls out there. It sucks to have them visit your blog, and it might make you sad. There are a heck of a lot more awesome people out there than there are trolls. Of all fears you could have about starting a blog, don’t be scared of trolls. If anything, worry that you might not have enough to write about, or worry that no one will read your blog (those were my two big fears)… trolls are much easier to deal with. 🙂
Seriously people, don’t be scared! Look at all the nice people here who *do* want to read your blog and won’t be mean old trolls! 🙂
Allison Days last blog post..Mitch’s Fish Market – Honolulu, Hawaii
The only wierdness I have ever had on my blog was that for a little while I would get these very noncommittal comments like “Good idea” or “I like this” but they would come from different sources. However when I tracked the comments back they were always from some shockingly sleazy ( well, to me, but I don’t get out much) porn site. And then all of a sudden it stopped. I never did figure it out. Maybe it had to do with the name of my business being Creative Juices Arts, and maybe “juices” is one of those ……. Oh, never mind!
Anyway, it’s been fine since then. Only nice, interesting, thoughtful people have commented.
I have actually not really used my blog as a blog so much as a repository for articles that I have written for my newsletter, and now that I am trying to make it more of a blog with interaction and stuff I find that my bigger concern has to do with what you are promising in your next post, which is “How the heck do you get people to find you????”
chris zydels last blog post..PINK BARBIE POOLS, ALIEN SPACE SHIPS AND LIVING A LIFE OF YES!
There. Now I’ve spouted off three times on your blog.
(it’s late – w-c-i-say)
rudy kehlers last blog post..Oprah, Flip and Frank
Havi, great article. I blog on spiritual development and definitely do not get any mean comments … but I think that goes hand in hand with my subject matter.
GirlPie had a great point – like attracts like. Naomi (whose blog I subscribe to – and I just figured out the other day that her comments were closed! I was sad!) definitely doesn’t hold back and I guess neither did her commenters.
I guess I’m with Pam on being a mellow, yoga-loving type of blogger …
But to all wannabloggers out there … I advise seeing every dissenter as a teacher. We create our reality and attract everything for a reason. If a comment pushes your buttons, then it’s time to examine and heal that button. So even our most “difficult” readers serve us on our blogging journey.
Well, if my inbox is an indicator of anything there will be at least a couple of new blogs starting soon-ish …. hurrah for that.
@Rudy – well-spouted! Spout spout spout.
@Pam – meathead, eh? Awesome. I’d forgotten how much that post pissed people off … just not your “right people” and they didn’t have context.
Which I think is a big thing. When Mark Silver from Heart of Business guest-blogs over at Huffington Post, he gets all kinds of mean comments that would never show up on his own blog. And a lot of them are really suspicious of his advice because they don’t have the context of knowing what an incredibly heart-centered honest guy he is.
Anyway, it’s an interesting theme, and I think also (hmm, maybe this is another article) a lot of the time we think a comment is mean when actually the commenter just got triggered by something and is expressing their true feelings. We take it as mean but it’s actually just hurt or scared or upset.
Even on blogs where the discussion gets a lot louder than I find comfortable it always seems to me that here aren’t nearly as many trolls as there are people who don’t feel heard or acknowledged. It’s harder to maintain that perspective though when it’s *your* blog.
My experience at least.
This post helped me a lot.
We were insulted and trolled last week, and it hurt my feelings. We created our blog so we could help people, and then people criticize us for what we say or who we are.
Though, as you say, they’re not actually criticizing us, they’re reacting to their own stuff that we brought up. Two of the chapters in our book are spot-on related to this, so you’d think I’d have internalized it by now, eh? (:
Anyway, this is something that continues coming up for me, perhaps because there’s so little difference between my blog persona and the actual person that is me. I try to be as authentic as possible, so it feels like the mean people are actually attacking me instead of just sticking pins in their little Pace voodoo dolls. Thanks for the reminder that I don’t need to say “Ouch!” when they do that.
I’m feeling quite a bit better now. Thank you, Havi! (:
Paces last blog post..Today is Pace’s birthday.