Bloggers and You (the Reader)

duty_callsLet’s talk about us, shall we?

I have no doubt that someone, somewhere, has said that the first rule of blogging is that you never talk about blogging. Newspapers don’t often talk about the newspaper business on the front page, and bloggers don’t talk about their WordPress dashboard. It’s just not done. I’ve never been one to care very much whether something is done or not, though, so I want to talk about it for a moment. Specifically, I want to talk about the other entity necessary to make this thing go: You, the Reader.

Since you’re reading a blog right now, I assume you know what one is. Unless you blog yourself, I doubt you have any idea what it’s like to be on the receiving end of dozens of random readers’ comments. Allow me to enlighten you. I am a blogger. I am also a writer. Not all bloggers are writers, I guess, but the reason Get Along Home exists is so that I can make words do my bidding. I’m not here (primarily) to gain status, or money, or really anything else. I’m here to say the things that I don’t see anyone else saying, but which I think deserve to be said.

There is, however, a social quality to blogging that no other kind of writer has to learn to contend with. Newspaper columnists have editors between them and the rest of the world. They get feedback, but it doesn’t come the very second they commit a thought irretrievably to the ether. Authors of books don’t get immediate, direct comments, either. Often, by the time anyone responds to what they’ve written they’ve moved on from the topic completely, so the mailbag, while interesting, probably doesn’t make a huge emotional impact either way.

Blogging is different. With blogging, the feedback comes the moment a post is published. (Unless nobody is reading, which is even worse.) Many bloggers simply turn off the comments so they don’t have to manage that aspect of it, but I enjoy the different people who stop by to chat. Most bloggers leave comments open so that passersby can ask questions, make their own points, or leave their mental droppings on a given topic in a somewhat relevant place. This is, in fact, my favorite thing about this medium. I want to hear from you!

What a bizarre relationship this is.

If you’ve been here for very long at all, you know me in some small way. You know, at the very least, my name. I am Cindy. You, though, don’t have a name, because there will be about 5,000 of you just for this one post (and this is a very small blog), and that’s only if nobody shares it outside the usual readership. Five thousand of you. One of me. There’s safety in those kinds of numbers.

Let’s give you a name so I can talk directly to you for a moment, shall we? Let’s call you Whoever You Are That’s There, or Wyatt. (Note to my friend who actually bears this name: This acronym is a coincidence, and this post does not apply to you!)

You, Wyatt, have the advantage of me. You’ve been reading my writing for at least a few minutes now, just to get to this point in the discussion. If you dig a little deeper, you’ll find out, at minimum, my location, religious beliefs, food preferences, number of children, and even a great deal about my personality. If you’ve been here a long time, you know more about me than my own mother does in some ways. This pseudo-familiarity might even lead you to believe that you know how I could improve everything from my cooking to my writing to my spiritual walk. You might even be correct sometimes! You really do know a lot about me!

I, on the other hand, have nothing on you. I’m OK with that. It’s the price I pay for getting my ideas knocked around—and I do want them knocked around. But you need to understand where your rights begin and end in order to behave appropriately.

Last week, I witnessed an appalling spectacle. A God-fearing and exemplary mother (not myself) was giving some much-needed advice on child-rearing. Because of her advice, she was being berated by you, Wyatt, for her multiple perceived sins against…well, against somebody. Some of her readers thought that they detected some personal failings on the part of said blogger, and they told her so. And then, humble and contrite soul that she is, this dear woman began confessing her personal sins to people who have no business even noticing, let alone mentioning them.  I watched, aghast, as she felt forced to abase herself, publicly, for a bunch of faceless, random people whose own motive in confronting her was most assuredly not her own spiritual welfare.

Even though I admired her sweet-natured response, she had every right to delete the entire lot of them and not give it another thought. I yield to the blogger’s judgment as to whether those criticisms of her personal foibles were accurate (she seemed to think so), but that doesn’t mean that she deserved the treatment she received. The “close” relationship that we have with our readers often leads us to believe that we owe them more than we do.

I sometimes have the same issues here on my blog. Every blogger who keeps going long enough to build an audience will eventually receive this kind of response. Here at GAH, I allow comments about myself only to the extent that they have some bearing on the post on which a commenter is opining. For example, you can comment on my fat knees if I ask you how my knees look in this skirt. You may not comment on my fat knees if I just happen to mention that I kneel on them to pray.

You have no standing, Wyatt.

In the practice of law, there is a concept known as “locus standi”, or simply “standing”. If you bring a case against someone in civil court, or against the government, you can’t just do it as a random passerby. You must be personally and substantially affected by the case at hand. In other words, I can’t decide to sue some guy in a neighboring county simply because his extensive bathtub collection is right out in the front (and back, and side) yard for everyone to see. I have to be personally affected by that eyesore before my opinion on the matter can even be considered.

If I were to try to get a lawyer to help me sue Mr. Tubbins, any lawyer I approached would show me the door. Yes, those bathtubs constitute half an acre of ugly, and I doubt anybody in their right mind would disagree, but I am not the person to say so or to do anything about it! The blogger whose readers decided to call out her personal problems had that same lack of legal standing.

Who has standing, then?

I’ve often been accused of deleting comments that disagree with me. I don’t do that. Ever. You can say all kinds of things and I’ll leave it there. I am likely argue with you, yes. I don’t back down very easily, so you might have to interact with me more than you’d bargained for, but opinions that are on-topic may be expressed freely, even forcefully. I do, however, sometimes delete those whom I deem to have no standing to make a particular criticism. Sometimes I simply warn the offender.

Here’s a hint: If this blog, its email address, and its social media pages are the only ways you know to contact me, you don’t have standing to make a complaint about me personally. I welcome your comments about any given post, but I don’t need any more editors or spiritual advisers.

Believe it or not, Wyatt, bloggers have lives that extend far beyond the pages of our websites. (Most of us do, anyway.) We have husbands or wives, parents, extended family, co-workers, pastors and friends. Those of us who are Christians have the Holy Spirit. I, personally, have all of these (except co-workers), plus several networks of bloggers with whom I discuss these things.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend.

There are also many readers of this blog who have moved into the “real friend” column—people who can message me on Facebook (my personal page), call me, or text me (and believe me, they do!) to let me know if I went off the rails with a post in some way. They have standing because we have a two-way relationship. They don’t just know what I tell them about myself. They know me. They have a personal stake in being honest with me in order to improve me, not just to make themselves feel better. I know their motives are good. They know me well enough to know when I need to hear something. Their criticism is fruitful.

Yours, I’m afraid, is not. We just don’t have that kind of relationship, Wyatt.

Bloggers and You (the Reader)

But I have a right to speak!

You might say, “Listen, Cindy, you can’t just put your obnoxious personality on the internet and expect me not to notice! I can’t help seeing it!” The answer to that, Wyatt, is in whatever software and tools you use to browse the internet. There are dozens of ways you can avoid this problem. Among them are:

  • finding the little “x” that closes the browser tab
  • starting your own blog so you can say things the way you wish I’d say them
  • typing in a new url to take you to your happy place where people care what you think of them
  • hitting your StumbleUpon button and hoping for better things on your next hit
  • throwing your computer through the window so that you never have to look at the internet again.

The possibilities for appropriate behavior when confronted online with a person of whom you disapprove are absolutely endless. Use your imagination. Sky’s the limit.

Good bloggers—faithful, earnest, Christian people–have too often been hurt by the words of commenters who have no idea how much courage it takes to put yourself out there in a world where everyone is looking for your weaknesses while, being human, you cannot fail to exhibit some. I hope other bloggers (especially the tender-hearted mamas like the one in my example) will join me in refusing to allow this sort of nonsense to take place anymore.

Every blogger has to decide what is within the scope of acceptability for comments. And every commenter will think the line is drawn in the wrong place. I gave up caring what Wyatt thinks of me, personally, a long time ago (like, days), and I feel absolutely no guilt about it whatsoever.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Diana February 21, 2013, 5:50 pm

    Absolutely. Since I’m pretty sure I know exactly the situation to which you refer (and it was appalling), I can say that I agree completely with your assessment of the situation. That sweet blogger got blasted for no good reason, and I can only imagine how much needless pain was occasioned. Thanks for addressing this issue.

    Diana

  • Julie Clendenning February 21, 2013, 5:50 pm

    Cindy…As I’m reading this post, I am in complete agrreance . I just finished a post myself about a more specific type of “standing” that readers on my FB seem to believe they are entitled to. I’m a novice blogger with few followers, so most of the critique I face is on FB. I agree…some “wyatts” presume an attack stance in order to break down, instead of a building up and more encouraging style of feedback. It comes with having an opinion….and sharing that voice with strangers who are very much disconnected from us. I think the boundries you have made are much the same as the ones I’ve had to declaire a few times in my own correspondances. Thanks for sharing

    Julie

  • Lisa B...theTadey
    Twitter: TheTadey
    February 21, 2013, 5:53 pm

    Thank you Cindy.

    I keep too much that is in my head and on my heart off my blog because I don’t think I can handle the sharp-tongued Wyatt’s out there. I am left with small stats but a handful of loving readers that I enjoy fostering a relationship with.

    Thank you for standing up….for all of us.

  • Rebecca
    Twitter: momsmustardseed
    February 21, 2013, 6:01 pm

    Cindy, you my sweet friend are an amazing writer that God has placed in this day and time to bring ‘thinking’ back to the forefront of the brain. Though, my tiny little brain can never ever compare to your knowledge – I love reading your words and growing.
    HOWEVER, not everyone does because we live in a self-centered world based on immediate gratification and entitlement in which people just get their feelings hurt and run off at the mouth, then run away (or just ignore any or everything you 9- (not you, the figurative you) say). True friends, writers and readers understand the TRUE heart of good debate and “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.”

    • Cindy February 21, 2013, 6:08 pm

      Nonsense, Rebecca. I’m just an internet hack. But I love you.

  • Smockity Frocks
    Twitter: SmockityFrocks
    February 21, 2013, 6:13 pm

    STANDING OVATION!!! WOOHOO!!! (fist pump)

    • Cindy February 21, 2013, 6:15 pm

      :-D

  • Brandy February 21, 2013, 6:21 pm

    Cindy, you impress me. And not just because your lexicon is substantially more diverse than the naysayers who bother trolling blogs because they can’t get over themselves.

    • Cindy February 21, 2013, 7:15 pm

      Brandy! NOW I remember which blog that sweet face goes with! Thank you for commenting. I’ve been driving myself nuts trying to remember where I knew you from!

  • Dawn@OneFaithfulMom February 21, 2013, 6:47 pm

    #1- I am many times hesitant to share what I really do as a Mom on my blog for fear of the “gentle” mothers attacking me.
    #2- What the commenters did to RO mom made me so beyond furious I actually thought about quitting blogging.
    #3- People beg me for advice on mothering, but then give me all the reasons why it won’t work.
    #4- Only your smart/tough side comes thru on this blog. Because I am privileged to have a very new, but hopefully growing friendship with you, I have seen your softer side. I like it.
    #5- Your posts always make me think about what I think about stuff. Yeah.
    #6-I still think you swallow a brave pill every morning. LOL!!

    • Cindy February 21, 2013, 7:14 pm

      Coffee. High test.

      I do have a softer side, and you’re welcome to it, but I live in the same fear (OK, it’s more like a teeth-gritting, blood-pressure-raising annoyance than fear) that you do of the “gentle” aka passive-aggressive mothers. Oh, I get what they’re doing. I won’t put up with it. And then they call me thin-skinned. LOL

  • Sis February 21, 2013, 9:54 pm

    I really liked your cartoon at the top, it made me laugh. Great points!

  • Amanda (the sister)
    Twitter: RamandaHarvey
    February 22, 2013, 3:09 am

    I love the idea of applying “locus standi” to the blogosphere. When reading someone, I often think “what right did [Wyatt] have to comment like that,” but I’ve never really been able to put my finger on why s/he shouldn’t. You rock, as usual.
    Also, love XKCD.
    Also, I think Mr. Tubbins died and his children got rid of the bathtubs :)

    • Cindy February 22, 2013, 5:45 am

      It’s been so long since I passed by there, I have no idea, but man those bathtubs annoyed me.

      • Michelle April 27, 2013, 8:24 am

        The tubs in Smethport are still there if those are the ones you are talking about. :)

        • Cindy April 27, 2013, 11:06 am

          Could there be any doubt?

  • Kendal February 22, 2013, 7:16 am

    Great post!! I always know which posts will leave me ducking from the arrows. But I’ll keep writing them, I’m stubborn. :)

  • Stacy @Stacy Makes Cents
    Twitter: stacymakescents
    February 22, 2013, 11:26 am

    :-)

  • Susan @Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
    Twitter: HSHeartandMind
    February 22, 2013, 11:42 am

    Yes, thank you for writing this, Cindy. As a blogger, I also need to be better about applying locus standi from the other side—if someone leaves me a nasty comment, I need to learn to ignore it when they don’t really have standing in my life. There have been times that I’ve almost given blogging up because it doesn’t seem worth the personal attacks.

  • Michelle C.
    Twitter: holisticschool
    February 22, 2013, 12:07 pm

    I love what you’ve said here. Love it! I’ve not had this challenge on my homeschool blog but I did run a blog once-upon-a-time on which almost everyone disagreed. I was OK with that. I knew that when I started.

    But you have given me something to think about. I’ve been having a “fear” about posting certain things on my own blog and have been working to overcome it. I’ve made one or two posts on the topic but I worry about people being mean or negative..or unsubscribing! Silly me.

  • Natalie February 22, 2013, 12:19 pm

    Lovely boot kick here. I was winding up to punch Wyatt in the nose myself, but you’ve done it beautifully. You are my hero. And the “gentle mothers” comment Dawn made…ROFLOL! I’m beside myself with delight.

  • Rachel @ BubblyNatureCreations.com
    Twitter: BubblyNature
    February 22, 2013, 12:25 pm

    So sorry you get so many comments like that. I for one appreciate your opinions and honestly on this blog. Thanks for writing!

  • Pamela Baird February 22, 2013, 12:31 pm

    Well said!!! I haven’t been following your blog very long and I rarely have time to read the comments on any bloggers post or facebook status posts or even leave one myself, but today I had to comment. I appreciate bloggers like you and enjoy reading blogs that fall in line with my beliefs. Thank you!

  • Marcia Wilwerding February 22, 2013, 2:13 pm

    Wow, this one really hits home.

    I had a really nasty attack on a “conservative” women’s email group several years ago from which I am still reeling. Unfortunately, it really makes me nervous about writing on some subjects. As much as I like to think I’m beyond caring, I still feel that knot in my throat when I get a “moderate comment” email or even a response through my website contact form.

    But, isn’t that what bullies do? Bullies in every walk of life try to silence us whether it be in politics, religion, parenting, marriage counseling, you name it. If there’s a biblical side to it, there will be an attacker sent by the Evil One to try to stop us getting the word out.

    Thank you for sharing your encouraging words. I should bookmark this post to read every time I get sideswiped. God bless.

  • Terry @ A Mom's Many Lessons February 22, 2013, 2:35 pm

    I’ve never read your blog, but was referred here by a blogger friend/mentor. Thanks Natalie! I am strengthened, encouraged, and humbled by this post. Thanks so much for sharing with us. And boosting our morale.
    I, too, hesitate to write on certain subjects lest I get ‘persecuted’ with negative comments or threats. But the Spirit has been leading me to be more Truth-telling and your words confirm my direction. Share Truth in Love. Thanks!

  • Martha Carpenter February 23, 2013, 7:18 am

    Thank you for your honesty and forthright style. Sometimes I am appalled at Wyatt’s insensitivity, rudeness and plain cruelty…and I don’t even have a blog. Thankfully, for every crude/rude person out there, there are dozens who aren’t and hopefully, they respond with encouragement once in a while:)

    Once I was complaining to Papa a bit about my “reputation” and I heard distinctly: “I put My son on a cross naked…don’t talk to Me about reputation.” Remembering that little conversation helps me when I have a decision to make about something I write or something I’m called to do.

    This is the first time I’ve visited your blog, but I will be back. Blessings to you and yours!

    • Cindy February 23, 2013, 10:00 am

      That quote. Wow. Yes.

  • Amy M. February 23, 2013, 9:52 am

    Cindy-

    I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your willingness to speak plainly about hard issues, this one included. I am not a blogger and only have time to read a few select blogs, but I look forward to reading yours because you have guts, something not seen much in our culture anymore.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Dawn @ The Momma Knows
    Twitter: MommaKnows
    February 26, 2013, 6:42 pm

    Yes yes YES! Sometimes I really wonder what Cracker Jack box issues all the licenses for rude opinions and general nosiness that some commenters like to use to get their points across on other people’s blogs. The internet provides the Wyatt’s just enough anonymity to be obnoxious at least, and terribly hurtful at worst. I was shredded in an online forum once, by people I’d never heard from nor heard OF…I found out thanks to a ping back from a link in their forum. It was hurtful and made me pretty angry for a while that anyone had bad opinions of me! Very hurtful. Then I remembered Whose I am. It still stung but much less and their opinions don’t matter to me any more.

    • Cindy February 26, 2013, 8:37 pm

      Aw, dude, you should hear what the UNschoolers think of me when one of their forums latches onto one of my old posts! And I never even came to any solid conclusions. Was just thinking out loud. ;-)

  • Jolanthe
    Twitter: jolantheerb
    February 26, 2013, 7:00 pm

    I don’t know that I can verbalize fully my appreciation of this post. You rock. That pretty much sums it all up and says all I need to say. Well said, girl. Well said.

  • Jamie @ The Unlikely Homeschool February 26, 2013, 9:39 pm

    Kuddos for saying what has long needed to be said! You are one brave woman who has been gifted with the sword of truthful words. Thanks for wielding them for the rest of us.

  • Colleen Kessler
    Twitter: ColleenKessler
    February 26, 2013, 10:44 pm

    sigh… I *really* want to be you when I grow up. ;-) You’re just awesome. Plainly and simply awesome.

  • Kelli
    Twitter: ladyofthebarn
    February 27, 2013, 10:20 am

    Can I pay you to write my comment policy for my blog? I just love this…

    • Cindy February 27, 2013, 10:39 am

      I take pay for most any writing job. .14 a word. ;-)

  • KB February 27, 2013, 1:54 pm

    Great post. I am Wyatt, I do not blog, but I like reading yours. I don’t always agree, but I do love your spunk!

  • Maureen February 27, 2013, 2:52 pm

    Perfectly said!

  • Joanne Mitchell February 27, 2013, 5:39 pm

    I have never commented on the blog of someone not personally known to me, so yours is the first. To you I say… WELL SAID, BRAVO, AMEN. I was terrified to start a blog because I had seen so many Christian blog writers attacked for having a more… fundamental… view of Scripture and I did not want to be on the receiving end of *that*. That’s why I have my husband review my post before I publish them so that I can blame him if anything bad happens! haha! I jest, but he would absolutely take the heat. Anyway, great post and excellent cartoon at the top!

    • Cindy February 28, 2013, 11:15 am

      The cartoon is from xkcd.com. Great cartoon, if the occasional digs at everything Christians stand for don’t discourage you from enjoying the rest.

  • kathryn March 18, 2013, 9:16 am

    I tried blogging… I quit for that very reason. I just came across your page:) I may yet start again. Someday, I just may get the courage up to try…. again.