Things seemed to have calmed down quite a bit in recent months, but there are still online squabbles that flare up, usually because of a controversial topic. I am always taken aback at how quickly a personal post about a mom's choices, feelings, and opinions can escalate into a nasty cyber feud complete with name-calling and even threats...call me naive.
Moms are sensitive creatures whether we like to admit it or not. We are easily offended and will rush to defend our ideas and values if we think someone else is trampling on them. We sometimes forget that a blog is another person's space and that they have the right to free speech. As blog readers we have every right to object to a post and debate the merits of the content, but we have a social responsibility to understand where the author is coming from and put ourselves in her shoes before we leave a comment.
When I read a post that I strongly disagree with, I close the page and clear my mind of any judgments. Then I re-open the page and re-read the post. Then I follow these self-taught rules for reading a blog:
- Don't read between the lines. It is often difficult to infer the writer's tone on a blog, which makes it easy to misinterpret what you are reading. If you are unsure, ask the writer point blank what she meant in a comment before you jump down her throat. I remember when Tiffany at Home Grown Families poured her heart out about her conflicting feeling towards attachment parenting and her need for space, she wrote:
"Lets not even discuss whats going to happen if the Good Lord decides to bless me with a husband. I don't think it's fair to ask someone to practice co-sleeping with his 12 year old step-daughters. (Of course, I'm being facetious but I do wonder about how they would handle it.)"So many readers missed the word "facetious" or didn't know the meaning of the word and pounced. Many left comments about how inappropriate it was to have a step-father sleep in the same bed as his step-daughters. It was a joke people...maybe a bad one, but still.
- Don't take it personally. Remember a blog is someone's private journal that happens to be available for public viewing (and critiquing). It takes a lot of guts to spill your guts online. When reading someone's blog, you are privy to their personal thoughts. Try to give the writer the benefit of the doubt. I know that some bloggers write inflammatory posts just to drive traffic to their site, but most of the time bloggers are just sharing their experiences, not trying to make you feel bad for not doing what they are doing, not having the things they have, or not living the life they live. Kia at Determined To Be Fit had to address this very thing recently because she was concerned people might be misinterpreting her fitness plans as bragging, she wrote:
"I don’t post my schedule to rub anything in anybody’s face or make anyone feel like “less than” if they don’t do as much as I do."If a writer's post makes you feel guilty, jealous, or any other unhealthy emotion...it's time to look inward instead of lashing out.
- Don't go there. I have read many posts that make me hopping mad, that have me seeing red, that have steam blowing from my ears. I know you have also. You've seen the strongly-worded disagreements in the comments and then writer responds, but not to the satisfaction of the readers. It turns into an argument in the comment section. Other readers join in and take sides. Then someone goes and insults the writer. This a no-no. For example, on a recent guest post on My Brown Baby Kia Morgan Smith decried the marketing of pink toenail polish to little boys, she wrote:
"I’m just not that open when it comes to having my son actually walk around with neon-pink toenails and getting used to the idea of being primped and pampered like his sisters. In my house, we’re going to leave getting all pretty to the girls and save the Barbershop talk for the boys."It's a loaded statement for sure, ripe for picking apart. People started leaving comments calling her a "bigot" and "narrow-minded." I won't tell you what I said (you can read through the 100+ comments if you must know), but suffice to say that I remained civil. I refused to sling dirt like some of the other readers because it did nothing to elevate the discourse or help us reach any understanding.
photo credit: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid. Creative Commons License.