Trolls. Flamers. Meanies. Vicious. Not Nice. Unkind. Rude. Inconsiderate. Nasty. Whining. Bitching. Moaning. Bastards.
Where there are humans, you will find humans who seem to have more than their share of these personality traits. Blogging is no exception.
Even the most non-controversial blogs, like this one, is the target of the blogging thug, mean spirited bloggers and commenters who just have to say nasty things when they can, for whatever reason they want to revel in.
Accusations run from just mean comments to outright lies about you and your blog.
I’m not talking about rip-roaring debates or enthusiastic arguments. I’m talking about old fashion meanness.
It often begins with mean comments on your posts. They can start off as just “not nice” and if they don’t get a response, or they do, the comments can become more aggressive. The mean blogger may actually write their mean attitude about you and your blog on their blog. Many of these mean people encourage others to feel the same way as they do, thus seeking validation for their mean spirits. And trust me, they find them. People are always willing to go along with negative energy. It often feels like negative energy attracts more negative energy faster and easier, than positive attracts positive.
Where there is negative energy in abundance, gangs form. If enough of a gang is formed, they will support each other to target your blog with more viciousness. Group meanness is even more fun because of the team spirit.
Fortunately, mean spirits don’t last very long. Unless they have a lot of energy and motivation behind them, they tend to fizzle out. Most mean spirited folks get their thrills by just making nasty comments and the occasional mean blog post.
Sometimes the mean spirits are self-generated. People read something, make a lot of assumptions, and slap back. Because someone has an opinion and writes it on their blog, some assume the opinion is a fact not an opinion. Once they cool down and gain a little perspective, they often realize their mistake and back off.
Not all, however. Immediately recognizing that there has been a misunderstanding, the recipient can get stressed wondering if the person realized later that they were off base, or if they ever will realize it. We worry about how to react, whether or not to respond, and what will happen if we do, or if we don’t. Recipients of negative comments and blogs worry about how far the mean folks will go to make their nasty feelings known. Mean spirited comments and bloggers take a lot of fun away from the fun spirit of blogging.
Have you been the target of mean spirited bloggers? What did you do about it? What can you do? How should you respond?
Deciding How to Respond to a Mean Spirited Blogger
Just about every religion on this planet has a running theme of forgiveness. Forgive them, they know not what they do. Well, I think these folks know what they are doing, consciously and unconsciously, and they like it. It gives them a thrill. But that’s not the point. The point of forgiveness is for “you to forgive”. There are no obligations on the evil doers.
You have two choices when faced with a mean spirited blogger: Respond or Not Respond. Both have risks.
However you react, do not move on your first impulse. They may have responded without thinking. You don’t have to. Take a moment and think this through. Take your time.
When slapped in the face with an unkind comment, emotions boil up. If you have been having a bad day, then this might be the “straw that broke the wagon”. It might just be the reason you need to strike back.
Don’t let the comment control you. You control you and your response. Take time to feel the emotions, then put them aside and think this through.
You have choices. You can respond publicly, privately, or not at all. You can hold the comment in moderation indefinitely, or delete it. You have choices. Consider each of them seriously.
There’s something else you need to consider before you make a decision. Many hateful bloggers want your reaction. If they get a strong enough reaction, you might blog about them. Some trolls use inflammatory comments to attract attention to themselves and their blog. I think of this as the “Howard Stern Effect”. The more outrageous people are, the more curious people are about them. If you feel their actions are just a device to get your attention and the attention of others, for good or bad reasons, put that into the formula before you decide which way you want to respond.
Responding to a Mean Spirited Blogger
He hit me. Well, he hit me first. Did not! Did, too. Well, you pushed me first. You kicked me. You looked at me. You got too close. You came into the room. Well, you were born!
Responding to a mean spirited blogger can escalate things. It can backfire. Are you willing to run the risk? For some, meanness has no end in sight. They can escalate their meanness to spewing lies across the Internet or even defacing your blog. While this is rare, it happens.
Many mean spirited bloggers are just bullies in disguise. Once confronted, they back down. Or they are having a bad day and taking it out on you. Or possibly, they are just clueless and have no idea that what they’ve just said is hurtful. Once confronted, they realize their mistake and apologize or go elsewhere.
How do you know when a mean spirited blogger is just a bully or really into the evil and chaos they create? After all, words on your screen don’t give you a lot of background information and clues.
Only you can decide to respond and how to respond. If you choose to respond, you can take the words literally and answer them. You can shoot flames back and hope to reduce them to ashes. You can research who they are and what they are saying to find out if this is a normal reaction or out of character, if you have the information, time and energy to investigate them. Or you can take the civilized approach and just respond with logic and patience.
Before responding, seriously consider the following:
- Get past the emotional response that comes up when first reading the comment or post. In other words, don’t respond emotionally.
- Carefully re-examine the words and what they are saying. Is there a measure of truth or criticism that is warranted?
- Does the comment add to the conversation? Does it invite more conversation, even if it is not in agreement with your opinion and the way they put it reads badly?
- Will your response add to the conversation?
- Re-read your post. Did you say something that might have inspired or inflamed such a response? Did you invite this response?
- Put the comment in moderation and think about it for a few hours or a day or two before responding or taking action.
- Write out a response in a word processor or text editor. Hit the save button with the same energy you would click “Submit”. How does it feel? Now, re-read your response and see if you still feel the same way. Consider saving the response and then waiting a day to re-read it before posting to your blog.
- Do you think they are being nasty because of you personally, what you say, or is this an attempt to sensationalize the issue to attract attention to themselves? Are they responding from jealousy or some misguided assumptions? Is the person trying to get you to do something you don’t really want to do? Are they trying to “call your bluff” or direct the content of your site? It’s your blog. You control it. Consider their motives in your response.
- Take your time. There are no rules and regulations that say every comment must be released to the public immediately, nor responded to immediately.
Once you have thought this through calmly, you can choose to respond via comments, privately, or publicly with a post on your blog. Or you can show up on their blog and make your feelings known there.
Or your response can be to delete their comment. It’s your blog. You choose what is on it. You have a responsibility for what appears on your blog and if you don’t want it, don’t need it, or it bothers you, you have the right to remove it. Especially if you feel it will offend others or encourage others to continue down this negative tangent.
Just because you respond the first time, doesn’t mean you have to respond the second, third, or fourth time. You can change your response at any time. This isn’t a game in which you must reach the finish line or die. It’s your blog, you decide when, and how much.
Not Responding to a Mean Spirited Blogger
You also have the “turn the cheek” response. Do nothing.
Unfortunately, not responding doesn’t mean that this hasn’t hurt or affected you in some way. I’ve spent more than a few nights agonizing over a nasty comment, trying to find justification, or hating to be reminded there are hateful people in the world who just thrive on being nasty. Slowly, you build up callouses and learn to slough this crap off, but it takes a few blisters to get to the callous stage.
I think of not responding as taking the higher ground. It also leaves the mean spirited person with not much to go on. They don’t know what you are thinking or feeling. They just make stuff up inside their heads. Without fuel on the fire, it doesn’t burn too well. A one-sided fire will eventually burn itself out.
Is the lack of a response a response? Not always. I’ve found comments and inflammatory posts months after they happened. I just never knew. If no one tells me, how would I know? Assuming my silence is an answer or response is ridiculous.
Sometimes a lack of response does mean something. It can mean just about anything. With silence, there is no right or wrong answer. And it doesn’t matter to you. The assumptions are in their heads not yours.
Do not be tricked into feeling like you have to respond. Many people think that because they have a blog with open comments, they have to respond to every comment. Not every comment needs a response. It’s up to you to decide when to respond and when not to, and this might be one of the “not” times.
If you choose to not respond, you still have to decide what to do with the comment. You can leave it there on your blog for everyone to read, or you can delete it and get on with life. Deleting a comment isn’t right or wrong, good or bad. It’s an action. It’s your blog. You have control over its content, including comments.
What to Do When You Feel Mean Spirited
When you are crawling through the Blogosphere, you might run across something that gets your ire up and you may become the mean spirited one. Hey, I’ve had MORE than my share of bad days where any excuse is a good one to smash someone in the face. It’s easy to read someone making a fool of themselves, spouting off useless crap, and give into the desire to let flying fingers release my pent up aggression on their blogging heads.
We all have those moments. Some of us hold back, think about what we are doing, evaluate the consequences, and, for whatever reason, back off. We stop ourselves.
But there are times when the fingers worked faster than the brain, we hit the Submit button, and are reading our harmful words in print on our screen, unable to bring them back. We might want to let the nasty comment lay there, or we might not. What if you realize you’ve made a mistake and jumped before you thought? Now what?
You can apologize, make a joke, and post a second comment or send an email saying you’re sorry. Or live with the consequences.
I recommend taking a breather before you let your fingers control your thinking. Evaluate if your comment is adding to the conversation, or just representative of your nasty mood long before you hit the Submit button.
If you have thought about what the consequences are, and you still want to leave a mean comment, consider the following:
- Is your comment legitimate? Don’t assume. Don’t make things up without verifying the truth. If you make things up, you are no better than the reporters of newspaper rags (“Britney gives birth to alien baby by Michael Jackson”). By directly attacking the blogger by questioning expertise or experience without verification, it’s just a childish rant. Easily dismissed. Get your facts right.
- Debate the topic, not the author directly.
- Resist name calling.
- Consider if the comment encourages discussion and adds to the information, or just wastes time.
- Remember, many bloggers play devil’s advocate and write in a way to fuel the flames. Look closely for their motivation, too. Are you responding because they want you to? Or because you want to?
- Remember the person on the receiving end of your comment has the same rights as you to keep, delete, or respond to your comment or post. Don’t make any assumptions about how they do or do not respond.
- Do not expect a response.
- If they respond, consider your options well about continuing in this vein. You can walk away, too. Any time.
The Whole World is Not Out to Get You
A few days ago, this blog got hit with 2 dozen mean spirited comments. At first, I thought it was just a spiteful person, then I noticed they weren’t hitting the same post and the contact information was distinctively spam-like. I then recognized these nasty comments as comment spam, calling me names, and yelling at me for vague but unrelated topics.
I swear, the comment spammers are getting very tricky, trying to guilt me into leaving their comments public on some freedom of speech twist.
Still, it was many hours of reading and deleting nasty comments until I figured out what was going on. During that time, I went through a wide range of emotions, including feeling angry, helpless, worthless, and insecure about what I was doing. When you are hit with repeated nasty comments, and the week was full of enough crap, it doesn’t take much to let this pile of rubbish fester.
When blogging publicly, offering opinion and wisdom to the world, negative responses will happen. Some are just criticisms, but others are really mean spirited and nasty. It’s not fun to think about the dark side of blogging, but you need a thick skin if you are to do this for very long.
I think about the popular bloggers, the modern day columnists and editorial writers, who rant and rave their opinions to the world, hoping to slap them in the face and wake them up. These bloggers seem to thrive on negative responses, and enjoy stirring up the pot. While many of these folks have thick skins and look at negative comments with joy, I also know that some of them are hurt by really nasty comments, and they suffer for it. But they keep on blogging, pushing through the self-doubt and assault to continue to raise their voices. Their passions and goals keep them on track.
There is no place to hide from nasty people in the blogging world. Don’t let them beat you down. Stay focused and clear headed. If you purposely inspire negative reactions, then run with it. Enjoy getting what you asked for. If you don’t and get smacked, think it through, respond with care, and keep on blogging.
A few minutes after I discovered the nasty comment spams, I stumbled upon an incoming link to this blog that made everything turn around. I was back on track again.
It’s so nice to have so many more people who care than don’t. Thank you.
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