You need to have a thick skin. Deciding to have a public, online blog isn't something to be taken lightly. By creating a public blog you're venturing beyond conversation with known and agreeable friends, and opening yourself up to an endless spectrum of opinions on your chosen subject from potentially millions of strangers around the world. So unless you actually want to be publicly disliked, you need to have a certain degree of likeability regardless of whether someone disagrees with you or not; you need to be friendly, amicable, and civil. If you do not, you will very quickly develop a poor reputation that reaches deep into all corners of the blogosphere.
Naturally blogs attract commenters with opposing opinions; this is to be expected when you voice any opinion, some will agree, some won't. It is a normal part of blogging that we accept. In life, some people just won't like us or won't agree with us, but that doesn't make them terrible people. They're not psychotic trolls trying to make you kill yourself as one dramatic blogger tried to put it. If we took a step back to think about the situation, it could very well be that we are in the wrong and those questioning us are right. Or that we have behaved horribly and those that dislike us actually have very good reasons to do so. Or, it may not be the case. Either way the manner in which we engage with critics has a drastic impact on their subsequent opinion of us and our message.
For example, by verbally attacking those that disagree with us or those who don't seem to like us (as apposed to taking the time to civilly explain our stance) we reinforce to others that we aren't nice, we aren't likeable, and our opinion isn't valid. Unfortunately I've witnessed some bloggers doing this over and over; and by doing so, each time they reinforce their antagonistic, negative reputation. I've seen repeated attacks by bloggers on commenters who simply voiced differing (though often polite) opinions. Commenters end up feeling confused, hurt, and attacked. To add insult to injury readers comments are often deleted, and they are banned from further commenting.
Sadly it doesn't stop there, these readers, once blocked from commenting, are often hit with a barrage of name-calling and accusations by the spiteful blogger. Because the readers are blocked they have no ability to challenge the accusations, which are often exaggerated or sometimes completely fabricated. This really is the twist of the knife that hurts readers the most. For a blogger to continue to smear and lie about readers without giving readers a chance to respond, is truly an unfair and dishonest tactic.
If you post about a controversial topic, expect some heated comments. This should be a no brainer, but many bloggers feel they can say whatever they want without repercussions. Wrong. Topics like vaccination, birth, circumcision, formula feeding, breastfeeding, or parenting in general are delicate issues. There's a wide range of opinions on these topics, and a lot of passionate readers. These issues often strike a nerve, especially for parents, particularly if a post dares to insinuate blame, or point out that a parenting technique is wrong or harmful. Alternatively readers may feel the blogger is dishing out wrong or harmful information. Even if a blogger feels their content is insignificant, blogging is a enormous platform for publicity, and their content most certainly does have the ability to change minds (especially if you're a good writer). So if someone feels the bloggers content is wrong or harmful, you can bet they're going to speak up with good conscience. Removing readers comments responding to a controversial post because they are aggressive, contradict your opinion, prove you wrong, or make you look bad is totally disingenuous and unwarranted. If you poke the bear, expect to get swiped, and don't complain about it.
Lately there is not a day that goes by that I haven't seen certain bloggers delete comments over slight but polite disagreement, block dissenters from further commenting, then insult them with labels such as 'troll', 'psychotic', 'obsessed', 'stalker', 'sick', or 'stupid'. Is treating your readers this way a smart idea? No, ofcourse not, any mildly intelligent person would know that. Even if you don't want people with varying opinions as readers, you will develop an extremely poor online reputation behaving this way. As years of mistreated readers mount up, some bloggers in particular have ended up with an enormous collection of unhappy readers, to the point Facebook pages are created where disappointed readers can voice their experiences and opinions (such as this page created in response to the blogger of The Feminist Breeder).
The questions we are left with are why create a blog if only to treat readers maliciously? Why publish controversial or inflammatory posts and not expect people to respond with passion or anger? Why fabricate stories about readers being mean and obsessed when they did nothing more than politely disagree? Again I won't pretend I have the credentials to answer these questions, a psychologists or psychiatrists input would offer some valuable and interesting insights here.
Here's hoping we as bloggers can learn to respect and value our readers, and appreciate the diversity of opinion that they offer; because without differing opinions we learn nothing. Diversity of opinion spurs discussion, helps us clarify our own stance, introduces new ideas, and gets us thinking. As my grandmother once said "everyone has something we can learn from".