Do You Truly Want to See Me Fail?
I want to start by saying this is not about me; or at least it’s not just about me. I’m writing this on behalf of many fellow bloggers who, over time, have privately, quietly – sadly – relayed similar scenarios. I’m writing this to hopefully bring some focus to an issue which impacts so many of us, yet seems to go largely unchallenged.
I love my blog, and likewise the other bloggers I’m referring to will no doubt feel the same way about their little corners of the internet too. Most of us started out of a passion for writing. How we each came to blog professionally will differ. For some it was natural progression, for others a necessity, for others still it is a desperate battle they’re determined to win but they’re yet to reach where they hope to be. For some it’s our only job; for all it’s our vocation.
What we all have in common though is you. Our readers are the reason it’s all possible, why we began, why we continue – and why brands are interested in working with us. You make it all possible, and for that reason among many, we love and respect each one of you. Whether we know you personally or not, we never lose sight of you (or if we do we won’t last long!).
With every post we write (the tiniest part of what we do, by the way) we’re constantly evaluating how our words could be received by the myriad of personalities who may read them. Some will agree with us, others will not. Some will feel an affinity (in which case we allow ourselves to take pride in a job well done), while others, from time to time, will be affronted. We hope that’s the exception, but of course it does happen.
Unfortunately, it’s inevitable – the larger an audience becomes, the greater the potential to offend somebody.
But that is very rarely a blogger’s intention. Most of us are looking to build connections and rapport – it’s our bread and butter. Damaging that is not only a negative trait, it’s also self-sabotage. We’d be very silly to set out to upset the masses.
What I’m trying to express is that on those occasions when we do cause indignation, it’s highly likely to be inadvertent.
Having said that, personally I welcome discussion on my blog. The braver or more opinionated among us court controversy from time to time (I’ve certainly been known to do that!) – but it’s usually for what feels like a good reason. I’ve been outspoken on issues which I believe need to be openly discussed but aren’t; perhaps due to stigma, or fear of condemnation. It’s a privilege to be able to start those difficult conversations. But we’re inviting debate, not disrespect. I can’t speak for anyone else, but for my part, if it remains respectful then I love hearing others’ opinions – whether or not they match my own, and I won’t censor comments unless I really have to. And yet…
I sometimes find myself wishing others would remember to censor themselves online, using a diplomacy filter, in the same way they would in person.
The specific issue I want to mention today is something which doesn’t have an official name in terms of online etiquette. Essentially it feels like low-level trolling. But it’s insidious – because it comes in the form of comments which while not explicitly rude, are nonetheless negative and undermining. And worst of all, very specifically, are from people we know or are acquainted with. It’s basically gaslighting at arm’s length.
Those responsible may be friends; relatives; colleagues; in-laws. But the common denominator is that these associates make it incredibly awkward for us. Strangers who behave this way can be – and are – simply blocked. We can’t easily do that to the haters we know IRL. Especially not when every jibe is so subtle and expertly veiled that taken in isolation they appear innocuous.
But we know better. And the problem is that anybody else reading the harmful words won’t see spite (a red flag to read with a pinch of salt); instead they’ll find a well-thought out argument which merely serves to subvert and weaken all that the blogger has worked tirelessly to build up.
For many of us, blogging is our means of income to support our family; in no other career would you find somebody unwittingly ruin a friend or relative professionally. I’m presuming it’s not calculated, because I sincerely hope nobody would be that deliberately spiteful.
It would make our lives so much simpler if the people closest to us refrained from commenting in a way that’s unhelpful and brings zero value. If we’ve made an error, by all means point it out; far from objecting I think most bloggers I know would be grateful if tact is exercised ie. maybe in a private message. For the record, as I touched on earlier, if somebody I know comments on one of my posts with an opposing opinion to me I’ll be delighted with the discussion it brings about – assuming it’s not done in a way that undermines me or questions my ethics.
And actually I think that’s the greatest problem: bloggers seem to have unfairly acquired a reputation for being unethical.
While this may be accurate in some cases, for the most part it couldn’t be further from the truth. The majority of us are completely transparent and work incredibly hard. So hopefully that dispels the other misnomer about bloggers: that our job is easy. It’s really not. Granted, it’s often highly rewarding, but – just like in any other successful career – boy do we work for it.
For what it’s worth, much as cold hard cash speaks to us just as it does anybody else, the other currency on which we thrive is engagement. So if you want to support us – truly support us – a like, a share, or even a comment (regardless of content, so long as it adds value), is always, always appreciated.
We want to hear from you; we just get so hurt, both personally and professionally, by negative comments heaping doubt on our competency and integrity.