I Got My Feelings Hurt on the Internet
I've been a blogger for twelve years, on various platforms, and had the extreme privilege of being paid to do it for the last four years now. I've addressed current events and life issues and spread silly memes and best of all, interacted with my audience.
Last week, my editors at Woman's Day shouted out one of my blog posts on their Facebook page, and it got a lot of comment. The piece was titled "5 Big Unexpected Bonuses from My Divorce" and it outlined some of the things I've really learned to enjoy about my new single life, such as kid-free weekends and redecorating to my own tastes, etc. The feedback from my readers was mostly positive, but I had a few who jumped on to let me know how selfish I was. Why did I even get married in the first place? Grow up!
I sat there reading those comments and I felt like they were right in the room, screaming at me. I felt sick to my stomach. I wanted to immediately get on the blog and let them all know that I was devastated by my divorce, that my husband and I had been a couple for 25 years when he found my replacement, that he used to come home reeking of her perfume and still try to kiss me anyway. I wanted them to know that when he told me he was leaving, I told him congratulations.
Congratulations, you've turned me into a part-time parent. If you wanted to hurt me more than anyone ever has in my life, you've succeeded. I wanted them to know that my first kid-free weekend was spent crying myself to sleep in my daughter's bed, clutching my son's stuffed kitty and wondering what I was missing that they were doing.
Then I got angry. How dare they? They don't even know me.
I know, we've all been there. And showing restraint in this kind of situation is not easy. Believe me, I know. I'm still smarting from that one. But there are ways to turn the situation around, possibly to your advantage.
Here are a few things to remember when you get your feelings hurt by your readers:
1. How much of your journey do they really know? The unflattering or hurtful comments are frequently from readers who are new to your blog. They may not know that three years ago, something happened that brought you to where you are now, or that you face a life challenge that isn’t apparent in this post. This might be your opportunity to give them a quick catch-up in a comment, and do it politely. A simple “Mary, I appreciate your comment, but my son’s behavioral problems stem from his struggles with autism. I detailed a little more of our journey here.” And leave a link to a post that explains it for them. Always thank them first for commenting – even if it’s hurtful, it means they read you! We’re grateful to our readers, and we should always let them know that.
2. Do they have some valid points? Be honest with yourself. One of my commenters told me to stop whining, and you know what? In one paragraph, I did go a little too far complaining about my ex. Not that I was eviscerating him or anything – just complaining about his taste in artwork – but it was too much because, really, it was boring and unnecessary. I could trim that by a few sentences and it would read better. Use those comments as a learning opportunity and become a better blogger.
3. How can you use their comment to further the conversation? You might answer them with “You bring up a good point, but… or “I realize what you’re getting at, but in my case….” Maybe you could even try “I know a lot of people who share your viewpoint, and I wonder if we can all learn something from each other.” The more you engage your readers, the more you have to talk about. It may even generate a follow-up post, and you know how we all need blog fodder!
4. Learn to recognize a troll. Let’s face it: some people write ugly things on the internet just to get a rise out of you. Don’t even bother. If you must feed a troll (and really, you shouldn’t), keep it succinct and limit it to one follow-up comment. Something along the lines of “No, that’s not what I was getting at,” or a simple “I disagree” will even do. Above all, don’t be afraid to use the delete button if you have to. This is your blog, after all. If you don’t want their ugliness hanging out on your page, then you have a perfect right to take out the garbage.
5. Tell someone to go to hell… diplomatically. I’ve had an occasion or two across the years where a comment has just plain pissed me off, and with good reason. I had no doubt that the commenter meant it with their whole heart, based on their personal convictions. That’s when you have to paste on the nice internet face and write a bland comment to cover your virtual middle finger. Try something like “Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I hope you find peace with them.” Keep it polite, and again, thank them for commenting, but you don’t have to agree with them or support their agenda.
6. Take pride in the fact that you obviously struck a nerve. Years ago, I wrote in a blog post that I felt that infidelity was an act of extreme cowardice, committed by people who don’t have the balls to have an honest conversation. One commenter called me a “Keyboard Warrior Bitch” in response, and I have to tell you, I laughed out loud. I loved it! I wish I could put it on a tee shirt! And I also have to confess that I was utterly delighted to have gotten under his skin. I don’t know for sure that this guy was cheating on his wife or girlfriend, but I’d say it’s a safe bet. I hope it stuck in his craw and ate at him for days.
Dealing with hurtful comments is never easy, but the key thing to remember is that this is the internet – they don’t know you, not really. Try not to take it personally.
Then pour yourself a big glass of wine and remember the most important thing: they read it. They read it all.