In the Aftermath

I used to think that when I wrote a post that pissed people off that it was automatically my fault. That I fucked up in some way. Either my whole point of view was flawed, or my delivery was botched, or my supporting arguments were weak or SOMETHING was messed up, and it was my fault that people got angry. I guess I assumed that if I wrote well, no one would get hurt or upset. (Interestingly I felt the same toward other bloggers, that if *I* got upset reading a post then they had done something wrong. At least I was consistent.) Anyway, it took a lot of evolving for me as a person to understand that I was as much responsible for my own interpretation of what someone said as they were for writing it. Sometimes even more so. Eventually I was able to take that and realize that other people were as responsible for their interpretations of what I wrote, as I was for reading it.

The short version? It’s not always my fault when what I write pisses people off. (Just like it’s not always someone else’s fault when what they write pisses me off.)

I know, crazy right? I can’t tell you how long it took me to get to that place.

Of course sometimes it is my fault. There have been a few posts in particular that I know I fucked up on. The “When I am being a SAHM in the summer it doesn’t feel like a job” post (jeez, I still can’t believe I wrote that) comes immediately to mind, and there are others. I don’t think yesterday’s post was one of them (though in hindsight, I do wish I presented a few things differently–more kindly). I also don’t think some other posts that I’ve read that have inspired heated (and sometimes very hurtful) comments were wrong either. How can I tell the difference between when I got it wrong and when someone is bringing their own issues to the table (or just doesn’t agree with me and never will)? Well, there are a few ways.

One is the other comments. If there are a considerable amount of comments that agree with me, then I probably didn’t totally miss the boat. If other people understood my intent then I probably made it clear, or at least clear enough (I’m sure I could always make it more clear) and I’m probably not totally misguided in feeling that way. The second is how I feel about the piece as I read comments. If comments make me change my mind about what I believed or how I wrote about it, then I recognize I messed up something fundamentally. If clarifying comments help other people to better understand what I was trying to say–and we can come to an understanding of some kind in the comments section–then I know I faltered in my delivery. But if the comment section is just an endless back and forth, I know that someone either straight out disagrees or that their reaction to my words is about them, and not me.

I used to do that. All the time. I used to read a post about one thing and then my own pain and guilt and issues would twist the words into something else. Natural parenting stuff was a big trigger. I was so insecure in my own parenting that I felt other people writing with passion about their style of parenting (when it conflicted greatly with how I parent) was an attack (explicit or implicit) on my own way of doing things. I wrote a lot of comments coming from that place of insecurity and hurt. It sucks to look back at those responses, but I understand that I had to go through that to get where I am today. I’ve tried to offer reparation for my actions in those instances but some people couldn’t forgive me, and I get that. You can’t take back what you say and some people can’t forget.

I still notice that posts about blissful breastfeeding relationships chafe me in certain ways. When someone boasts that they could never have the bonding experience they had with their child without their wonderful breastfeeding relationship it makes me feel shitty, like I’m somehow less of a mom. But I’ve grown enough to know that they aren’t saying that to hurt me. They are saying that because it is their experience. In fact, there is every reason to believe I would have felt the same way if I had had a great breastfeeding experience. That is why it was so hard to let it go, because I believe I missed out on something that has no equivalent. I suffered a real loss, and it sucks, but that doesn’t mean other women shouldn’t be able to talk about it. That expectation is absurd, and frankly, unfair.

It took me a lot of years to get to that place. It’s still hard with some issues, to just let it go, but every encounter with words that my guilt and insecurity twist into something else I handle better. Recently a cousin posted an article to FB about how a new study shows that CIO damages infants, with some diatribe about how she hoped all parents would see it an know the error of their ways. In the past I would have felt an uncontrollable urge to defend my parenting, but I didn’t even click to read the article, or browse the comments or anything. I just walked away, because I knew the people supporting her there were not interested in hearing about my very positive experiences with CIO and because I knew I didn’t need to defend myself to her or anyone else. It made absolutely no sense to engage.

I am proud that I have gotten to that place. I don’t always stop, I don’t always resist the temptation to engage, but more times than not I do.

After a lot of long, hard, exhausting contemplation, I think I know why yesterday’s post inciting such a shit storm. It was a couple of things. #1 the tone. Obviously, I could have been nicer. A LOT nicer (I was not imply anything in that post, it was all VERY explicit). I could explain why I wrote it like I did but that doesn’t change the fact that I could have presented it in a much kinder way. #2 In my vitriolic introductory statement I didn’t make it clear that I not only meant bloggers who left without any explanation, but also bloggers who left abruptly and especially on the cusp of some major transition. I thought I made that clear later in the post but some people didn’t register that, so obviously I wasn’t clear enough. #3 I shouldn’t have included the final part about being bummed out that some bloggers I really love are gradually fading away, because some people thought I felt the same way about those bloggers as I felt about people who just abruptly fell off the earth right before some major change, with no explanation or warning.

Still, I realize that even if I had done those things, the angry people still would have come to comment (I’m still flabbergasted as to how they ended up there, as I have no reason to believe any of them still, or ever did, read me). It is clear now that there are some people that just absolutely do not agree with me on this issue. We couldn’t find a common ground. I thought a simple, “Hey I’m out,” final post is a reasonable expectation, but it was clear that for some people, even expecting that is absolutely too much.

I learned something really valuable in the comment section of that post, which is that some people have VERY different reasons for writing a blog and very different expectations of the relationship that are participating in with their readers and commenters. For some people, their blog is not a ongoing dialogue and their readers have no relationship to or with them whatsoever. That is NOT how I feel about my space, and I don’t think that is how most of the people that I follow feel about their spaces, but it’s valuable for me to know that some do. I think now, when someone stops blogging abruptly, I can better understand how they walked away–the whole blog experience means something fundamentally different to them than it does for me.

Finally, I’m left with some stinging words rattling around in my brain, about whether or not I take my blogging relationships too seriously or depend on them too much. I’ve always known that my IRL relationships are lacking. It’s not that I don’t have some great ones, but circumstances make it hard to connect. I’ve tried to make IRL friends that are more accessible but it’s so hard to find people I click with. I don’t know how to find more meaningful friendships, but maybe I need to step away from this community more, so things like a blogger leaving abruptly or another one slowly fading away don’t hurt so much. I may not have appreciated the way those ideas were expressed to me, but that doesn’t mean they are inherently wrong.

To sum up this novel-length post I will say this, thank you for those who came and voiced your thoughts, despite–or maybe because of–what was happening in the comment section. I really appreciated it.

And now, back to what the beginning of this post was about…

How do you explain when someone seems read something in your words that you didn’t intend? Do you ever feel like a writer’s words imply something they are not explicitly saying? How do you feel and what do you do when your words incite angry responses?

16 responses

  1. Oh.my.gosh. I cannot believe the direction some of those comments went in. I realize, again, what thick skin you have to have to blog in this community (thus the reason I don’t). Thanks for continuing to put yourself out there; I am thankful for our (mostly one-sided) dialogue and want you to know that I would be quite upset – angry even – if you ever disappeared without a goodbye.

  2. Wow, I just had a chance to go through the comments, and WOW. Some of ther personal attacks seemed really out there. I really don’t see the logical leap in which worrying about people who abruptly left their blogs=need to get a life/make more friends. You CAN have both!
    Thanks for having a thick enough skin to post about controversial issues and keep coming back. Like I said, I agreed with you, but going back to read the post I could see where the all-caps and curse words might have offended some people that ALREADY felt some guilt/shame about they way they left their blogs (clearly there were underlying issues, like you said, your words alone should not stir up anger/hatred unless something is already going in with the reader).

  3. I really admire that you can post about things that are controversial (or turn out to be controversial) and take hits in the comments and keep on writing. REALLY ADMIRE. That’s not a skill I have 🙂 I know you’re don’t tweet anymore, but there’s a hashtag that floats around from time to time #confessyourunpopularopinion. People chime in to agree or disagree. I read your post in the spirit of that. When I saw things blow up and re-read your post in a new light, sure, I could see why they felt it was over-the-top. But it still just seemed like the long form of confessing your unpopular opinion. Or maybe I’m just immune to argument because I read too many legal briefs.

    As for real life friends, I spent yesterday wondering if I take online life too seriously too. Being in a new place and living a hectic life, my friends are mostly online ones. And sometimes online friends, just like real life ones, disappoint.

  4. I didn’t get a chance to read all of your comments but I get the idea from what you’ve written here. I just wanted to say that I understand what you were saying in your post and I agree with you. I also get invested in people’s words and am sad when the relationship ends abruptly. And I say this as someone who had to change her password in order to write this comment because it has been that long since I’ve blogged! The truth is I’m sorry about this (I know you didn’t write to receive a personal apology from all of you old ghost bloggers but I do feel that way).

    Honestly, I think it’s great the way you put your thoughts out here as a way of working things through. I continue to read here, though I haven’t been commenting, and I’ve really seen you grow over time. As long as you have the energy, I hope that you will keep writing (and re-writing as necessary). And this lost ghost continues to hope that she will again find time for herself so that she can return to her abandoned blog.

  5. I think the most important reason that people responded the way that they did was the tone of the post, as you said. I read through the comment exchanges with SRB and J. It’s easy for me to say as someone who has no skin in the game, and no feelings involved, but I think it would be good for you to read through them again when some time has passed and you’re not feeling so raw and attacked. I think that they made some good points about the ALI community and blogging in general, and maybe because you felt attacked by their words, you attacked back rather than listening. That was what I got out of reading the exchanges, but I could be wrong, of course. Just my thoughts.

    Later in the post, you said:

    “A blogger doesn’t owe her readers explanations or certainties, but she owes them some basic information.”

    As I said in my comment on my last post, I don’t think a non-monetized blogger owes anyone anything, ever. What information does a writer owe her readers? Who decides? You have decided what you think is required (to know that someone is “OK”), but what if another reader thinks that they need to know details about how OK someone is/how a baby is doing in order to get closure?

    Anyway, I’m sorry that you had a rough time yesterday. Hope you have a great weekend.

  6. I read and reread your post from yesterday and decided I’d just do one comment on both this and the previous post, so here it goes. When I first started blogging, I remember I really connected with 2 bloggers who had just gone through IVF. They both ended up pregnant and I followed their pregnancies and secretly wished that I’d be pregnant soon too. Fast forward, they had their babies, blogged their birth stories and then boom…they stopped blogging. For awhile, I figured they were just adjusting to being new moms and were short on time to blog. Then, months turned into years. Nothing. I even tried to email them and I never heard back. (I’m assuming their email was linked to their blog account and maybe they check it anymore). It did make me sad, I missed reading them and enjoyed their writing! I totally get what you mean, when blogs you enjoy leave so abruptly, it is really heartbreaking. You go through the grief stages similarly to a death. Maybe not quite as extreme, but I remember feeling angry, confused, sad.

    That all being said, my purpose for blogging started off as blogging b/c I needed support while going through IF. When I got pregnant, my purpose changed to documenting/connecting with other pregnant/IF ladies. When I had my boys, my purpose became documenting their milestones and my ever changing life as a stay at home mom. I often take little breaks here and there because my days are busy (I have a small in home daycare) so most of my nap time (only free time during the day) is spent cleaning, prepping snacks/dinner, or I’m just too exhausted to type/blog. I read blogs daily, but I know for me, commenting is hard too. I want to connect, put something deep and thought provoking down on blogs I follow, but I’m mentally fried.

    Sometimes I wonder how some of my favorite bloggers are going to leave the blogging community. Sometimes I wonder how my end to blogging will be too. Will I leave upbruptly? Will I do a “Goodbye post?” It’s just so hard. I think it comes down to priorities. If blogging is a priority in my life, maybe I’d do it more. But at what sacrifice? Sleep? Time with my kids? I dunno. I wish I could blog more. I wish I was brave like you and a great writer like you where I could just put it all out there so to speak…

    Not sure where my comment is going, but just wanted to say that even though I don’t comment often, I do enjoy reading your blog. I get where you were going in your last post too…it hurts when blogs you invest in disappear.

  7. I was a blog stalker for years before ever starting my own blog, and I think your post was great. There are people who either stopped blogging, took down their bogs, or went private YEARS ago who I still wonder about. Life is full of shitstorms and of course we all have hard times to deal with, but it would have to be a very uncommonly bad occurrence that would actually prevent someone from doing some kind of quickie “goodbye” post or update. I think most people don’t mean to do it, it’s just a combination of being busy and inertia and, for some, not caring that much. And you’re totally right, I thought the same thing as I was reading the comments, that the people attacking what you wrote were coming from a place of guilt or shame and felt attacked themselves. I do understand that feeling; I’ve had a hard time with blogging lately, because I haven’t really been feeling it, but at the same time feel like I’m being selfish, letting people down, etc, and there is guilt there. I would suggest that one of the big issues arises from the word “owe”. The idea of being beholden is one that always seems to get people’s hackles up. Nobody likes to feel that they are *required* to do anything, especially when it comes to the most informal and voluntary of relationships – blog friends. I think I’m rambling now, but point being, this post is very insightful and I think you hit the nail on the head. Glad you’re not internalizing the criticism because it REALLY wasn’t you!

  8. I received one very angry, and I’ll say BITCHY, response to a post that I never thought would bring up such feelings. I mean, it was about our IF journey and how painful it was for us, and a reader came out swinging saying that her experience was just as awful as mine. Not once had I said mine was worse than anyones. So I commented back, kindly, and then sent her an email saying that she obviously does not like me (she’d been snippy in the past) and that if a sad post all about my feelings upset her so much, that she needs to stop reading me. She wrote back again, still pissed off, and I ignored her. It was that simple. I have no time for this shit in my happy life.

    You took a lot from those people yesterday, E. I say this with 100% certainty, and I encourage them to think about this – they would NEVER have let anyone talk like that about them on their blogs. They would have deleted the comments, never letting them see the light of day. I am appalled by their treatment of you, but not surprised (unfortunately). For people who talk about their space, their blogs, their prerogatives – they took liberties that were so left-field, it was appalling. You are a trooper, and a great example, for taking their abuse so well.

    I really value your courage and desire to post some of the things you post. My ONE negative experience with that commenter years ago made me take a giant step back. I found it so disheartening that someone would treat another person that way, and so publicly. I felt the same way reading those nasty words to you yesterday.

    And you’re right – they’re not your issues. They’re theirs.

  9. I’ve never really received a nasty comment. I think because I rarely post a confronting post. But, I have to say whilst your tone yesterday was definitely confronting and yes the language was harsh the topic, not really. We all talk about our spaces and our freedom to write whatever we want on our blogs. You did that yesterday and some people violated your space. I was really shocked and saddened by some of the responses. Some were carefully worded and respectful and some were outright rude and bitchy. It made me realise how lucky I am for my IRL community because if i relied on my URL community and that’s how they really thought of me. I would be devastated. And frankly I was quite saddened yesterday that this was how some people thought.

    • Chon, if you and I lived on the same continent, we’d have wine together at least once a year. Most of us do not regard each other the way a few described it yesterday. Please value your IRL friends, but also know that most of your URL friends value you like a “real” friendship and would expect to hear from you before you closed up shop. Because real friends don’t hang up on each other. 😁

      • I have to agree with Courtney. I think an online community is like any community – we make some friends, we find others annoying, and there are a lot of friendly acquaintances who are important in our lives for a period of time, and then we move on. I’ve made some wonderful IRL friends who started as URL friends. Those friendships are real and valuable, and now over ten years old.

  10. I feel like my readership is small enough that this isn’t an issue. It’s hard to offend the 6 people who found me amusing enough to stick around all this time.

    That being said, I’ve seen your posts insight significant negative responses multiple times while I sat in sidelines bewildered. Weird.

    • It’s interesting that you wrote this because one of the things I was going to write about (but ran out of time on this crazy long post) was that I generally write with the 10-30 commenters who voice their opinions here in mind. I need to remember that a) there are about 100 other people who read regularly but never comment (if my site stats are to be believed) AND b) people who don’t read can suddenly show up and voice their opinion too. Of course if you try to make sure you don’t upset anyone you may end up never saying anything of substance ever. And who does that benefit?

  11. I’ve often been frustrated when someone – in a comment on my blog – has focused on a sentence or two, usually as introduction to a post, rather than the post itself. I do try to explain my point, or where I’m coming from to have said whatever it is I’ve said, but if I feel they won’t “get it” then I’m not going to push it. Or sometimes it gets me thinking and prompts a separate post to elaborate.

    Most of the angry or abusive responses I’ve had on my blog have come from people who are “not my people.” (That usually means people outside the ALI blogging community). So by and large it hasn’t bothered me very much. And of course, I only came to this community after I’d “resolved” (as we seem to call it these days) my infertility, and so never had the issues of blogging through IF, pregnancy, parenting etc. I have though seen upset reactions on an ALI messageboard, and have to remember that hurt people hurt people. Sometimes unwittingly, sometimes lashing out. It is regrettable, but I don’t think reflects our community here.

    And the bottom line? There’s always the delete button. (On the comments, not the Post!)

  12. Oh wow, I just read through all the comments on the last post. You definitely hit a hot-button topic! So, I constantly feel like I’m on the outside of the ALI blogging world and I’m one of those bloggers with like 10 readers or something. I just blog about whatever I want and I’ve been blissfully unaware of crappy commenters, or the unspoken rules about not sharing the realness of the journey after actually bringing home a baby. Well, maybe I do feel it, because I don’t exactly blog about parenting… I totally understand where you’re coming from and I’ve been frustrated when people just stop blogging as well. I can think of one blogger in particular who was active in the open adoption blogging community who kind of just dropped her blog and dropped the open adoption community like a rock. She was someone akin to Mel and Lori and I never expected the entire community to fall apart, but it did. It happens, and it sucks when it does, and I wonder about those people who just stop blogging one day. A weird thing happened to me recently where a blogger who hadn’t blogged forever (but whom I had met IRL) started a new blog, let me know about it, I commented a few times, and then deleted her new blog not long after. I know they were adopting through the same agency and their profile disappeared from the website, so I assume that they had a successful match. I have her e-mail address, but have been so hesitant to reach out, because all I can think is “Does she hate me?” But really, I don’t know this person, and even though I thought we clicked when we met previously, it’s either she and her family are too busy to try to form new friendships, or she didn’t think we clicked. I have to let it go and focus on the people I’ve met online who have turned into IRL friends. The ones who are happy to try to get together or interact on-line. Those are the ones to focus on. It’s hard because as women I think we’re always thinking we did something wrong, and what was it that made the interaction stop? What was wrong with us? It may be nothing was wrong with us, and most of the time that’s probably the truth. It’s just…life.

    I also realize I took a turn from your point, but it’s kind of related…

  13. Wow, I didn’t think your post was that rage-inducing or whatever. People have lots of different reasons for not writing any more, and it’s hard to balance the feeling like you have a responsibility to your readers AND living real life. And then there are the people who try and cope with their IF by getting distance and time. It’s hard to do that when you’re blogging about it; you stay in the thick of it in so many ways.

    Unless you complete your family, and then you can blog about how complete you feel and feel guilty for your happy posts.

    Bottom line, which is clear from the comments on your last post: this can be a tough community to stay in. IF is painful and awful and there’s connection sometimes, but anger at other times. I admit it: I felt defensive about my lack of writing this past month when I read your post. But it is what it is. I have too much going on, no space or distance to process it, and everything I’m dealing with isn’t anything I feel comfortable with putting online. At least right now. And I think that other bloggers feel that way too – with the betas, they have to cope by stepping away and going into denial, maybe. Or needing space from the community when they HAVE their babies… and feeling weird about coming back to the space to say goodbye. There are lots of reasons why people don’t write anymore, and though I’m sad when a favorite stops blogging, I get it, you know?

    Anyway. I’ll stop now. I should really write a post about this, because I have been struggling with this for, oh, the past month or so. Thank you for writing about this.

    xoxo

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