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Wednesday, February 17, 2010


While talking with a friend not long ago she told me of something that had recently happened in her life. While at home on a typical weekday, she had a knock at the door. She knew the person at the door, mainly from previous visits, though not too terribly well, and welcomed the visitor into her lovely home. And believe me, her home is lovely. The front room is like something out of a magazine. She takes great care in how she adorns the walls of her home, really puts her heart into working to create a spirit that is welcoming, inviting, comforting, and enjoyable. Though every detail of her design style isn’t necessarily what I would choose for my own home, it’s clear that each embellishment is something of great value to its owner.

The visitor stepped two feet inside my friend’s home and the door was closed behind them. My friend offered the visitor a place to sit, to relax and visit, to enjoy company and engage in conversation. The visitor refused and stood, arms folded, face scowled. My friend was confused, so she remained silent. That’s when the visitor unleashed; the criticisms alternated between yells and sharp whispers. The blasts were many and specific; starting with a detailed put-down of each and every item in her home, the aggression escalated until the visitor finished off with insults of my friend’s very character and being. Vowing to never return, the visitor did an about-face, and quickly opened the door, stomped out and slammed my friend’s door.


A few years ago, my brother and I were talking on the phone about the tone with which people sometimes make comments on blogs. Our conversation resulted in a discussion regarding The Responsibilities Of The Blog Reader.

Are you expecting a list here?

It’s really rather simple:

Be Nice.

If you don’t like it, walk away.

I’ve done it, you’ve done it: You read a blog that somehow, for some reason, makes your blood boil. You disagree with the point being made, or you don’t believe that someone’s life could actually be as perfect as it is being portrayed. You become irritated. It’s understandable. What we choose to do next is where I make my point: If you don’t like it, walk away.

I’m not talking about when people write things that are (as far as you know) patently false. In fact, I think it’s a good idea to speak up, such as when someone might have said something incorrect about a topic close to your heart (religion is a prime example). Also, if someone has asked for their readers’ opinions in the comments section, it’s a great idea to make a comment and to be honest. This is where I make my next point: Be nice.

I don’t give this advice blindly; it’s something I’ve learned from personal experiences. There have been blogs that I’ve read and when I was finished reading I found myself feeling an almost rage at how ridiculous, not only the blog content was, but also my reaction to the situation. And so I’ve walked away. There are people who I know in real life (IRL? Is that how The Kids say it these days?) whose blogs I’ve stopped reading because I just couldn’t take the feelings I’d get after reading their posts. Often, blogs are – at whatever varying level of detail – a personal journal, and there are times when knowing someone on a more superficial level is the right path.

There have also been times when I’ve read a blog with incorrect information about something dear to me (religion is a prime example), or when the author has asked for honest advice/answers. Comments in these situations (and any, for that matter) can be made in a respectful manner. For a great example of this, please see this post I wrote last year, and check the comments for Caroline’s comments. Truly, top-notch and classy, civil discussion.

As always, I am Not The Boss Of You (unless I am), just trying to pass on a little wisdom so as to achieve my goal of World Peace Through Blogging.


Deena said...

Here I sit, open-mouthed after reading that story about your friend.

Seriously. Who does that?

(I followed b. and compulsive writer over here. I've been a lurker for a while.)

TheOneTrueSue said...

Be nice is sort of a good all around philosophy for conducting yourself - I don't know why we sometimes feel it's o.k. to go on the rampage online.

I recently accidentally read a HORRIFYING blog - written by a bunch of young, single, mormon NEANDRATHALS. I'd never seen it before and was so ticked off after reading a particular post that I composed a truly scathing, rage-filled comment. But then I closed the page before I could hit send and just vowed never to return instead. Because 1) why bother hitting my head against that particular evolutionary wall, and 2) be nice.

In conclusion, yes, yes, and YES.

b. said...

you speak the truth. Thanks for that.

Glittersma is an incredibly NICE lady, I've had her in my home. She's good to have delurk.

Gerb said...

World Peace Through Blogging, achieved.

Nicely done, ~j.

And amen.

Carina said...

Don't say anything you wouldn't say to their face.

Don't say anything mean when you can say it nicely.

Don't assume the worst.

Try to read THE ENTIRE blog post before commenting negatively on a specific piece.

If you read something that makes you upset, take a breath, figure out why, and try to leave a comment that presents an alternative viewpoint WITHOUT being cruel to the holder of the original view.

I appreciate when someone can disagree civilly with me, or show me a different perspective, but personal attacks and assumptions about the state of my salvation are NOT HELPFUL.

Michelly said...

I find it sad that this has to be continually addressed in the world of blogging. The only reason I can find that someone would write a comment on a blog that is mean is because they ARE mean and have nothing better to do with their lives than write horrible comments. And most of the time they do this anonymously; they don't even have the nerve to sign their name to their ugly words. In this arena you have the ability, like you said, to remove yourself from the situation. Simply log off the blog. I wholeheartedly agree with you.

Shellie said...

yep I totally agree.

Lucrecia said...

Why on earth did that lady attack your friend? That's outrageous! Seriously, some people think the whole world needs to hear their every thinking thought.

Naomi said...

Amen. I'm still surprised how rude people can be when leaving comments, like you say, stop reading if you don't like it!

Emily said...

I don't know if it's because I'm chicken or nice but I can't think of a negative comment I've left in response to a post. Like you said, unless you're correcting misinformation or clarifying something, it doesn't help anyone to leave something negative or nasty.

I tend to use that whole "walk away" thing in life as well. I don't send that email, I don't make that phone call...instead it all goes down in a journal (or it previously was written in a journal--that seemed to have ended with kids). I can vent there, turn the page and move on.

I simply must tweet this post--it's perfect and timely!

Carrot Jello said...

At first I thought you were going to say Jesus was the visitor, but then I'm all like, Ohhh, that's not Jesus, that's Satan visiting.
I hope she gave him a boot to the head when he left.
Or at least to his arse.
Of all the nerve.

Kalli said...

What I didn't comment on this yet? I'm losing my brain.

This is what blows me away the most about blogging. Yes, public forum, yes, freedom of speech, blah blah blah. All that aside, when did the convenience of "anonymous" or even the ballsy ones who leave their name and link make people into complete trolls??

La Yen said it best, haters to the left.

Christi said...

Muy bien, j, muy bien. How I loved reading the exchange to which you linked! :) THANK YOU!

I'm not at all surprised at the experiences mentioned here. I see far too much unfriendly banter in real life and it has just spilled over into the tech world. I think it's a universal problem.

QueenScarlett said...

That really happened? Holy cow!

I totally agree. That's why I don't understand it when bloggers get hate email... what is wrong with people?

Ditto on FB too... if you're just going to be a total wanker...walk away. ;-)

compulsive writer said...


i had someone in a trusted position (essentially someone who was "called" to be my friend) do that to me once. only he or she didn't bother with the house and got straight to business ripping on me.

it hurt.

big time.

anyway, well said. i try to be nice, but i probably could be nicer (i mean i really could be nicer) when i comment after someone has ripped on one of my friends. i get all mother bear about that. but ima gonna work on it.

Nicole said...

Excellent post. I really think that mean people suck. And that if you can't say something nice, you shouldn't say anything at all.

Bebe McGooch said...

I'm guilty of bad behavior online, and I will say it never makes me feel better--about myself or about anything.

There's nothing to gain from purposed cruelty, whereas kindness breeds friendship and growth.

Rhonda said...

I recently had to take down my blog due to some ranting and very, very rude and unnecessary comments. I always practice the tried and true advice of Thumper. You know, "If you can't say somethin' nice, don't say nothin' at all." Seems simple enough to me!

Krista said...

this needs to be shouted (nicely) from every rooftop. Thank you for this post. I've recently had the mean person experience both by blog and coming to my door, and it was (without meaning to sound too dramatic) crippling, for a time. Gradually, I remembered all the truly wonderful people I am surrounded by daily, in Bloggerland and where I really live, who cheer for me and stand by me. I will still be nice.

Elizabeth said...

I got on here intending to just say amen and amen.

And then scrolled through the comments only to see that other people obviously thought the same thing.

And I feel bad for your friend who invited that lady in her house. That had to sting. I'm just wondering how I would respond if something like that happened to me.

Jill K said...

First of all, I can't believe someone would do that to your friend.

Second of all, I agree with you.

Third of all, I make sure that everything I say online is something I would say to somebody's face.

And sometimes, I say things that aren't sugar-coated. But I keep it civil. Except one time I accidentally made one of my critical comments anonymous. And the fact that it was anonymous was the embarrassing part, not the critical comment.

sue-donym said...

"there are times when knowing someone on a more superficial level is the right path".

I'm glad you said that.

And Amen.

vanessa said...

Oh I loved that you wrote this.

I like Sue read that blog and was SEETHING SEETHING all night long! I did write a comment and wish I had not, that would have been a good time to ---walk away--- I haven't been back since to the blog and won't ever will. But I wish I hadn't of even left a comment.

So many people write such nasty things and do such horrible backtalking behind the computer screen. I know they wouldn't act like this "IRL" its sad that they do behind the screen :(

Thanks for posting this!

My Trendy Tykes said...

Woah....can't believe someone would come into someone elses home and act that way.

The world is filled with many kinds of people though.

Great post!

I have said it many times. If you don't like something there is always that white x at the top of every screen.

Quinn said...

I love that you wrote this! So important. I especially loved your "just walk away" advice for if something irritates you on a blog. It seems like many people feel it is their personal responsibility to right every wrong they come in contact with. Much more is accomplished with being nice than being cruel.

Steph said...

everytime i write something remotely controversial, a bunch of people unsubscribe from my blog.

i don't like anthropologie/ UNSUBSCRIBE.

it's funny, but really and truly, i appreciate that people are mature enough to just walk away. unsubscribe and walk away.

please bless the internet not to have trolls, amen.

Shelly said...

You make such a great point. I have walked away many times from blogs, people and things that offend me. It is easier that way and then no one gets hurt. I am so sorry about your friend. I can't believe that someone would have the nerve to do that.

Jules AF said...


Evelyn said...

Oh my gosh, that story about your friend is insane!! I can't imagine something like that happening. I agree with you, just walk away. Take Facebook, for example. Is there really a need for a "dislike" button? If you don't like something, no need to comment!

Kristina P. said...

Jenny, it was so great to meet you today.

And, in fact, after the brunch, I attended a baby shower, and Kalli was talking to me and Motherboard about this post.

There has been some negativity in blog world lately that I have encountered, and I just don't get it. At all. My favorite commenter in the whole world is Anonymous.

If you have to hide behind that shield, you know you wouldn't actually say that to that person.

You are going on my Reader, my friend!

K said...

I'm assuming that you got to go to Sue's blogarama? Lucky dog. I don't know whether the story about the friend was a parable or a real deal - I think people are far less likely to follow you into your physical house, stand eye to eye with you and deconstruct your life than they are to help themselves to your internet presence, and then, with the protection of mostly-anonymity - unleash the uncivil part of themselves in your face.

I've never understood this proclivity to ravage other people from a safe distance. The funny thing about the behavior is that, in being uncivil, the attacker is likely to expose him or herself as pretty much a big idiot - usually the way they use language is skill-less and really without effective impact.

When we write civilly, we can still disagree with quiet force - and sometimes it's a thousand times more effective to use the language in a civilized and obviously intelligent and measured manner while you're disagreeing.

I'm not sure about the walking away thing, though. Sometimes people really do say dangerous things in their blogs - and if the blog is public, I think an intelligent and responsible reader has to speak up - not just to defend a measurable truth, but to offer a differing point of view. But the deal is, you don't have to be rude and stupid to disagree - and really, who's going to listen to you if you are that way? But the point is, if you can counteract poison with kind and measured reason - you really should.

I'm repeating myself here, I guess. Here's another blog rule I'm making up right now: BLOGGERS ARE ALLOWED TO DELETE COMMENTS. Any time you like. You can call the police and have a nasty neighbor removed from your living room, but all you have to do is hit delete when the nastiness shows up in your net territory. Do it and feel no guilt.

And now I' think about it, I've actually had that neighbor thing happen to me. I'd forgotten about it. Whew. I avoided that person forever after that till she moved her brassy little self from the neighborhood. We had a parade -

Emily said...

Thank you! That is all I can say. If you don't have anything nice to say...keep it to yourself. I value your wisdom.