Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Blogger culture: Dealing with negative comments

Though I am definitely a newbie to blogging, I am by no means unaware of the fact that blogosphere comes with its own set of rules. The one I find most conflicting is the almost complete absence of dissenting opinions. While the words stunning, awesome and cool are a daily feature in the comments section, I rarely see anyone openly oppossing.

Močilnik, source of river Ljubljanica

It's absolutely impossible that this apparent unity of opinion is real. The practice of voting by walking has reached alarming proportions. It would appear no one is willing to rock the boat.

And all is fine and fair in blog land.

In all my time blogging I haven't yet received a negative comment but I am "guilty" of writing dissenting opinions myself. Every time I've written a particularly strong dissenting opinion a flurry of violent and demeaning words ensued with the purpose of ostracizing me. I was shocked and hurt each time.

I grew up in a culture that emphasized the right of opinion and rules of engagement were: you are free to attack the ideas, opinions not the person voicing them. I ventured into blogosphere hoping to connect to different people, discussing our thoughts and ideas openly without fear of verbal conflicts and attacks. Am I being naive?


  1. I don't think you're being naive. However, I have found it refreshing that in a world where you can tune into negative when you turn the tv on, it's a welcome change to have supportive and sweet comments come my way when I blog. I'm grateful that the people that don't like what I said or what I made, just don't leave comments. I recently posted a comment of opinion on another bloggers site after she ASKED: please give me an honest opinion, don't just say it looks awesome. So I felt free to carefully consider the question, and try to give help as best I could. I can see that it may make you feel that people are not being true to their own selves, but I just think that the blogging world is different from most of the other situations we find ourselves exposed to; and I'm grateful. I realize that people follow blogs for all sorts of different reasons, and the reason I follow yours is're different! So don't get discouraged, just maybe be selective about where you share your honest opinion.

  2. Thanks for your posting. I also think laptop computers are becoming more and more popular these days, and now in many cases are the only type of computer included in a household. The reason being at the same time potentially they are becoming more and more affordable, their computing power keeps growing to the point where there're as effective as pc's through just a few years ago.
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  3. Like Shirley, I feel like there is so much negativity around us, so I try to keep my online activity very positive. And generally in life, I've been trying to focus on the positive. So while I may occasionally disagree with a blogger, I try to do so as gently as possible. And if I write about a negative experience, I also try to write about a positive resolution to it.

    While it's true that people don't always voice negative opinions, I think they also hold back on positive ones. I've found myself doing that. I'll think of something positive but I don't always say it out loud. So now, when I think of something nice, I make a conscious effort to go ahead and say it.

  4. I wonder what happened to four of my followers, who never hid their interest in my blog, bloggers , who never found anything irritating in my blogs. Well, they are gone.
    Even the blog world is full of people, who are mentally disturbed. Another explanation could be jealously.

    What ever the reason, I have felt hurt.

    I myself try to be honest in my comments. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes not.

    Actually I follow only few blogs. Time sets limits.
    There is a tremendous amount of blogs, but so far, I have not sought up new ones.

    Your blog is warm and comfy.

  5. Oh honey. Trust me, I've received a ton of negative comments, but they mostly come anonymously.

    Most of my great negative (or I'd rather say, dissenting) comments come when I do my book reviews on I get some great conversations going there, and I actually like when someone disagrees -- we both learn something.

  6. As someone very new to social networking I joined a forum connected to a turned out to be very cliquey run by a few women & if anyone disagreed however pleasantly it turned into a vicious bullying situation with some people even receiving horrid phone calls....I think certain people get a kick out of causing mayhem.

    When I found these blogs I was very careful & watched the posts to get a feel,when I joined it was under my pseudonym way was I going to put my name & details out into the wide is so easy to forget we are not talking to a few but the WORLD!!
    It is so easy to trace & make life difficult for people.....sorry to be so cynical but I have seen what can happen when too much information is given.

    It is not easy to have different opinions on blogs as things do not always come over the same as personal interface you cannot see the gestures which might soften words,also being from different countries translation from one language to another does not always help!

    Using colloquialisms is a no,no...sadly I am guilty of this!

    I enjoy the few bloggers I follow...

    My motto is "treat everyone as you would wish to be treated"

    Thank you for this very interesting post which I am sure many of us must have noted & thought about. Ida

  7. First of all, I just want to say how tremendously pleased I am at the feedback. Just really feel this post was an opportunity to dig a little deeper and to get to know my readers a bit more.
    I also feel the need to say that I didn't delete (or receive) a single offensive, disrespectful comment.

  8. Shirley: you voiced my concern well. The fake sweetness scares me, probably because I'm unusually well at detecting it. However I fully admire people who are genuinely kind and good spirited and it's simply in their nature to focus on the positive.

    makeup artists in Sydney: was there perhaps some sort of a glitch?

    Ms. M: I couldn't agree more, I miss open compliments given on the spur of the moment without any hidden agenda. Such a small, but significant act of kindness and attention.

  9. Mette: That question has me puzzled too. The people who simply stop commenting or following my blog. I feel like such a failure when it happens.
    And I love it that you comment on my blog often, even when you disagree.

    Lori: The anonymous slur that doesn't bear repeating wasn't what I had in mind. I'm talking about polite, constructive critique where the writer of course leaves hers/his name. As for the former, it's just white noise to me.

    Ida: the clique ideology has me scared stiff too.
    I agree that blogging is different, even emoticons can't get the message across as well as actual conversation and things definitely get lost in translation.
    And being careful with the information you put on the internet is essential, it really is turning out as Orwell predicted, isn't it?

  10. Big brother is alive and well in the UK...apparently we are the most watched country in the world as we have more CCTV on the streets than any where else!!!!! Ida

  11. A bit off the very topic: I try to follow the blogs I have listed. However, there are quite a few, I only sometimes comment, simply because I find very little in common with the writers.
    However, there are some wonderful people, so far faithful to me, who don´t keep a blog ( wish they would ), I feel connected with.
    I am ready to receive negative comments, as long as it is about differences of opinions. Personal insults are something I won´t tolerate.
    You seem to be exceptionally grown-up, judging your blog and comments: )

  12. Ida, I had no idea. I always assumed it would either be the USA or some totalitarian country who had the most surveillance. But it's still scary.

    Mette: still within parameter, I think ;-) And I absolutely agree with everything you wrote. I too have circles of blogs I follow and comment on, the first circle are the blogs I read daily and respond almost always, the consecutive circles have blogs, with marginally touch my interests, I do always read (or sometimes just skim over), I just seldom respond.

  13. I don't mind when people disagree with me. I always try to take it as an opportunity to learn. That said, it does sting, sometimes, depending on how it's phrased. I hate losing followers, even though I have a fair number of them, but I just try to put myself in their shoes, and realize that I stop in on some blogs for a while and then move on. Doesn't mean anything bad about them, or me, just that people read your blog, not you as a person.

  14. I'm not a blogger, but I do read a number of blogs. I enjoy when there's a "discussion", even some disagreement - but don't appreciate really nasty comments.
    I totally understand you and Mette both wondering why certain readers have "left" your blog. I think that probably you are both taking it too personally. A lot of people decide that they're spending too much time on the computer, and simply "take a break." This happens on Facebook all the time. The internet has become a very seductive, yet addictive thing.
    Really great post - I like posts that cause people to really think!

  15. Great post, and an important topic! (I wrote some of this on Metscan's blog already.) I personally really appreciate the positive vibe of the blogosphre. I don't think my blog attracks only superficial yay-sayers; I trust that the people genuinely have positive things to say. I try to only leave comments with a positive tone myself. If I don't agree with someone, I don't feel the need to say it, unless we are talking about an intellectual topic rather than a personal one. This post of yours is an excellent example: I don't mind "disagreeing" with you a little bit, because to me it seems like there is no danger of you taking it personally. But when it comes to people's personal choices - style choices, lifestyle, body issues, life decisions - I believe that silence is golden if you don't have someting positive to say. If I think there is even a remote chance that the person might be offended, I'd rather be quiet. But then again, I mostly only follow bloggers whose worldview is somewhat similar to mine, so I rarely disagree with any of them. :)

  16. coffeeaddict - I think it really depends on the blog and the topic. And the culture.

    If someone is posting something personal and not specifically asking for input or feedback, I tend to avoid critical responses. I think people in the US are more inclined to take things personally than people in some other cultures, but this is based on personal observation and not any kind of scientific data.

    On my blog, I'm fine with commenters who disagree with something I've posted, as long as people keep it civil. The nasty "drive-by's" are ALWAYS anonymous, so I don't take them personally.

    As far as lack of commenting or followers dropping off, I don't take that personally either. People's available time and interests shift, and since most of us are reading, writing and commenting as a hobby on top of work, family, school, etc. I don't like to attach a lot of obligation to it. I read a lot of blog posts daily but don't respond to all, more due to time constraints than anything else.

    (If you ever hang out on any political blogs, you see LOTS of dissent, much of it really nasty and personal.)

  17. LPC: I agree, it is about how you phrase the comment. I also think Ida put it well, when she said that she likes to get the feel of the blog before commenting. As for the blog vs. the person, it rather depends how much of yourself you invest in the blog or particular posts. But I agree, one still shouldn't take it too seriously, easier said than done. I'm currently working on developing thicker skin :-)

    Kathy: I enjoy discussions as well, which was the motivation behind writing this particular post. It's absolute joy to check my mails to see another wonderful, insightful comment. I also loved it that Mette "passed on the torch". It's good to shake things up and get people thinking.
    As for people quitting my blog, some of they may absolutely be shifting their priorities away from the internet but I'm no fool when it comes to topics and/or bloggers that get the most followers and attention. Sadly it's still the bloggers dealing with fashion and pop culture that get the most attention and my quiet blog is anything but mainstream.

  18. This seems like an important post, C.A. I think, as you do, that a good discussion is hard to find--people are often afraid that disagreeing is perceived as "being negative."

    The mode of so much blogging is sweet and superficial, non-controversial. A steady diet of that gets a bit treacley.

    On the other hand, commenting on a blog can be like email: TONE is very tough to convey. Sometimes what sounds bitchy is meant to be humorous. Sometimes what seems mean is rushed articulation. Because we don't *know* one another, it can be tough to judge how something is actually meant.

    I enjoy your comments!

  19. The Waves: I occasionally hop over to your blog and I've noticed you to be exceptionally gentle and kind. You have a way with words, a way of formulating your opinion that doesn't come off as conceited, deprecating or shallow. As such, I'm quite convinced that plays a huge part in the response you get from your readers.

  20. Une femme: first an apology: your comment got lost in the spam. No idea why.
    And secondly, my first draft of this post expressed the exact same issue you brought up, that the Americans are by far most likely to take a comment personal. I eventually decided to leave that paragraph out, because quite frankly it might be misconstrued.

    Charlotte: I can't help but feel that your academic background plays a decisive role in the way you approach blogging. As for the second issue you raised (I briefly discussed it in my first response to Ida's comment), let me take the chapter from my own background: it's the concept of a bona fides conduct. A legal term that denotes a person's commitment to act according to law, custom and moral standards. In this light, even a comment mistakenly viewed as rude might be simply a case of the author failing to get hers/his message across.

  21. I have recently started an art blog ,www.ahuskofmeaning, so this is a very relevant topic for me. Luckily I've generated more followers than I've ever expected, and for the most part comments are simply nice, and generically supportive. I have had quite a few active dialogues, and some with a lot of heated disagreement. I don't mind this at all when it is substantive discussion about relevant issues and opinions. I'm steeped in the Socratic tradition so I rather like it. A couple of times, however, it has crossed over into what I consider personal and judgmental terrain that is out of order. i've had to get in the middle of comments between two people as well as directly tell one person to refrain from the tone of their remarks. People do seem to ebb and flow with their attention to blogs. i think a lot of it has to do with what's going on in their own lives...etc. I try to keep focused on presenting material that is meaningful to me, and take most all kinds of interest or engagement as positive.

  22. I often find the blogosphere too syrupy, there are a few very well known blogs where the writing and `Polyanna attitude makes me feel sick but yet so many love that sort of thing - escapism I guess.

    As to negative comments, I happily accept them when they have a name attached to them, I don't want yes people around me all the time, it's the cowardly Anons that i can't stand who can't stand up to their opinions.

  23. A Husk of Meaning: Mr. C once gave a very observative comment concerning my blog and blogging in general and I tend to agree with him. He said that the level of culture a blogger maintains will inevitably reflect in the kind of crowd she/he attracts. An art blog is by definition an arena people will consign to if they themselves have some knowledge of the art, thus reducing the population considerably. I hope that doesn't make me sound like an elitist :-)

    Bourbon & Pearls: I love your bold comment, very refreshing.
    As for anonymity I don't know which was more shocking, the fact that I expressed a negative opinion or that I left my screen name and link to the blog. It was quite "amusing" to see the level of views I get on my blog raised by a staggering 300%