Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Critic Obsessed Blogger

Through my years blogging I've come witness to a confusing, though all too familiar phenomenon - bloggers who have a severe intolerance, and at times raving obsession, with anyone who disagrees with their opinion, on any given subject. The fleeting mention of even a hint of dissent from a commenter and the oversensitive blogger hits delete and ban faster than their ego hits the floor. Then inevitably come the bloggers sorrowful cries about being tormenting by 'bullies and trolls' (aka dissenters). Some are so obsessed with their critics, they will trawl the internet in search of any mention of themselves, no matter how petty or minute, if only to proclaim to their followers more tales of 'bullying' or 'stalking'. They can't stop looking for a reason to get riled, or emotionally come to terms with the prospect that within the blogosphere sometimes others may disagree with them or dislike them. Why someone would behave this way is beyond the scope of this blogpost and is best left to a psychologist or psychiatrist. But despite the psychological implications of this behaviour, there are some fundamental realities about blogging that these critic-obsessed bloggers could benefit from remembering.

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".

8 comments :

  1. I agree I questioned a certain blogger and it was immediately deleted.. I dont read the blog anymore because my opinion isn't valued :) Other blogs do well with engaging there reader in the comments x

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  2. Exactly, treat readers well and you shall receive an awesome reputation. I find that even blogs where I don't agree with some of the content, I enjoy frequenting because I know my opinion is appreciated (or at least tolerated) and it makes for a diverse and interesting convo. Thanks for commenting!

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  3. I followed someone TFB doesn't like on Twitter, during her weird name change thing on there, because at the time I was taking a break from FB and didn't know what was going down on her FB with Dr. Amy etc and followed the person who took her "name" so she he has now blocked me on her FB page and Twitter, despite the fact I have never had anything but civilised conversations with her and never trolled or hassled her. Talk about paranoid and not exactly friendly to her audience....

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  4. You're certainly not the only one Mother of Mad Cats and Babies (great name). I've seen it over and over, not just by TFB either. You'd think these bloggers were in high school, but they are grown women! Thanks for having your say.

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  5. Thanks. The name pretty much sums up my life, although my babies aren't babies any more really! :) I originally followed and read TFB because I had some issues with both my births, the first was traumatic and necessarily medical, the second was medical, but less traumatic, and I would have loved to have had a homebirth, or a less "hospitalised" birth, if we try for a 3rd baby, and some of her blog posts were quite interesting, and I liked her style, when she was funny, and sarcastic, and I am passionate about breastfeeding, so she appealed to me on a lot of levels, but her crazy paranoia and mishandling of facts and promotion of dangerous practices in childbirth and her brushing off people who have genuine concerns about women making unsafe birth choices has put me off. I can't have a homebirth for both medical reasons and because my husband has said he doesn't feel comfortable or that it would be safe, and given what we went through, and being a nurse and being aware of the risks, stats etc, I am fine with that, but her stuff didn't help me to make these decisions, in fact, if had allowed myself I could have made less rational decisions, and maybe put us at risk. That's where she goes wrong. That and the fact that she is clearly loosing the plot, mentally, have made me walk away from her page and blog!
    Hope this makes sense, my son has another ear infection, we had a hideous night, I am on my 3rd coffee and my ability to string a comprehensive sentence together may be impaired! :)

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  6. This is an interesting post considering you banned several people from your facebook page recently simply for pointing out an error you made. Hypocrite much?

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  7. My FB is a little different to my blog, it's a community for likeminded people, not a debate page. I've never blocked anyone from commenting here on the blog so feel free to speak your mind, civilly ofcourse.

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  8. Let's put it to the test then shall we.

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