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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Barren Advice: Twenty-Three

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This is the 22nd installment of Barren Advice. You can ask questions that are fertility or non-fertility related.

Barren Advice is posted each Tuesday-ish. If you have your own question for Barren Advice, click here to learn how to submit. Please weigh in with your own thoughts in the comment section and indicate which question you're addressing if there are multiple questions in the post.

Dear Mel:

When dealing with comment trolls, how do you get over the frustration and sense of guilt? If I delete a comment I feel guilty; if I leave it there it bothers me every time I see it. I know I SHOULD just delete it and forget about it, but I always take their words to heart when I know I shouldn't. I know I have a right to my opinion on my own blog, and I know that not everyone is going to agree with me. But seeing such negativity directed at me just weighs me down. I spend days wondering if maybe I was in the wrong. How can I stop carrying around so much baggage?

- Lead Feet

Here is the funny part; you're asking me what to do, but I just asked another blogger what to do for this very same situation. Which, I know, must inspire confidence in you as I attempt to answer this, but it is always nicer to fumble through trying to figure out an answer together and it's always easier to speak about it long after the experience than when you've just had someone bash your thoughts as if they're Gillooly and you're Nancy Kerrigan.

That analogy may be cringe-worthy, but I think it best describes what the other person is doing. They see you've made a fine point (or turned a fine double axel) and they know they're not going to compete with you by matching word to word so they instead try to halt your flow of thoughts by hurting you.

It's the equivalent of telling the pretty girl that she's ugly, only, in this case, with words being the only element of you to address, they've told you that your words, your ideas, your emotions are shit. They know they don't have the power to write well and therefore get others to read their blog, so instead they go into the comment sections of others who do attract an audience and bash them.

And, in your particular case, the commenter really had to stretch in order to find something to bash. That should be your first indication that this is not about you, not about your writing, not about your emotions, but about them.

I wrote about deleting hurtful comments a while back and I think this example clearly follows a good rule of whether you should write off a comment or whether you should take the words to heart. If the comment attacks you personally ("you're a crappy writer!"), I'd delete it. If the comment is a comparison between their brilliance and your stupidity ("I can't believe you would do that! No wonder all this shit is happening to you."), I'd delete it.

In your case, a single person chose to speak for a whole group, explaining how your experience is completely wrong because they believe it reflected poorly on their group as a whole rather than seeing your post for what it is--commentary on a single experience. To me, that sounds like their problem, their lack of careful reading.

The larger issue is not whether or not to delete but how one goes about not thinking about the crappy comments left. The same question applies to the crappy things one hears throughout the day. I think denying that it affected you slows down the process of getting past it. Personally, I would tell yourself that you're allowed to sit with it for a given amount of time. Remove the comment from your blog and place them somewhere else. Set the timer for five minutes and have a good cry. Stare at the words and feel them completely. Then erase the email or word document where you pasted the words and leave them behind.

Once that is done, turn towards a small file that you start keeping of comments that make you feel good. This is not to say that we should all ignore the negative commentary we receive and think that we're perfect (ignore the bad and only embrace the good), but you need a balance. Think of this as the equivalent to brushing your teeth. When you have crud on your teeth, you brush it off and when you have crud on your heart, you need to clean it too. You can have this file on paper--notes that your partner has left you, old birthday cards, thank you notes--or you can keep a few old emails and comments from your blog easily accessible for these occasions.

Just in case you don't have an emails saved right now, I'll give you a few words to get started:
Lead Feet:

I've read you for a long time. And by a long time, I mean that I remember old posts where you were just thinking about going to the RE and scanning other's BBT charts for hope. We're talking years and years and years.

Which is a huge statement. I mean, if you didn't write sound thoughts, would someone have stayed with you for that long? You're an amazing writer, an amazing person, a deeply thoughtful and inquisitive person who has been through a lot in a short period of time. And the fact that you are still standing shows your deep wells of strength. And that is more important and more true than anyone else's agenda.

Keep writing.

Read through these words and find your balance. You're not perfect or terrible--you're somewhere in between and very human. You have big emotions because you've been through a lot and you have every right to voice your experience. It is what helps the woman behind you who may be navigating the same path down the line.

And now, after giving yourself an equal amount of time to celebrate yourself, see if you feel differently about deleting that comment. Your house (or your blog) = your rules. If you don't allow people to leave garbage in your home, don't allow them to leave garbage on your blog. It's much easier to clean it up--the true work is wondering why someone would leave garbage in the first place. But 9 times out of 10, it is their own lack of manners, their own lack of common decency, their own short-comings in the face of your accomplishments (even if it is as basic as not being able to express themselves well vs. your eloquence).

No really, the beauty of a blog advice column is that you get to weigh in with your two cents too. Let the questioner know if you support the advice, add to the response, or dispute it completely.

Leave a comment in the reaction box below--only keep in mind that conflicting advice is embraced and rudeness is not. Want to ask your own question? Click here to see what you need to send in order to be included in a future Tuesday's installment of Barren Advice


Cassandra said...

Genuine disagreement is interesting and thought-provoking, worthy of pondering.

Sounds like this was just plain meanness. I agree with Mel -- delete without regret, and hope that they don't return. You have much more important things to think about.

Martha said...

I think if you can't say anything nice in the comment section, You have major issues. I am all about being supportive and just present.
I have learned the hard way, but feel blessed I am learning.

Kathy said...

Great question and advice! Though I haven't had many negative comments and/or one that have gotten to me on my blog... I have had plenty of interactions with family and friends, especially as it relates to SIF and loss that I have struggled with and had trouble letting go of.

I have heard the idea of keeping a happy/esteem building file before, but had forgotten about it. It is a tangible/ongoing way to remind yourself that you are loved! :)

Kristin said...

Wonderful advice Mel.

Aurelia said...

Excellent advice, especially the part about looking at your good comments, and not just dwelling on the bad ones. I tend to dwell on the bad ones, and I really should just be able to delete them from my brain just like I delete them from my blog.

(I don't delete very many btw, and I don't mind disagreement, I just the mean ones.)

Anyway, rereading the nice comments and emails is likely the best method for erasing the nice ones. Thing is, I lose them in the vast reaches of my gmail. So, now, I might just copy and paste them onto one nice word doc and be able to find them.

You've inspired me!

D. said...

Oh, Mel, you're simply the best. You managed not only to give great advice, but to also make the person who sought your advice feel great (she must have felt great to read that wonderful note). You're so wonderful!

battynurse said...

I'm not sure what the comment or the post was but I know how frustrating the comments could be. I recently got one that was from anonymous and while the commenter did have a valid point (I had said something on another blog that wasn't said well although I stand beside my opinion as being valid for myself) however the commenter was pretty brutal. Telling me she couldn't believe I was a nurse and that I deserved to be single. It hurt. It bothered me that I couldn't address the issue and try to explain what I really meant. Ultimately no I didn't publish the comment. It wasn't appropriate (it was also left on my nursing blog not my IF blog) and was mean. I think you're advice is great Mel.

Anonymous said...

Along the lines of reading positive comments to counteract the negative ones, my marriage counselor told us that studies have shown that it takes between 10 and 20 positive interactions (saying hi, saying i love you, etc.) to counteract the emotional effects of ONE negative one. So, no wonder negative comments have such a strong impact (much stronger, it seems, than positive comments). With that in mind, I think that a "positive file" is a great idea to win the battle of the mind, and probably would be a good idea for life in general, not just blogging.

Anonymous said...

When I created my blog I didn't allow anonymous comments from the very beginning, for just this reason. Because of that I've only had one troll have the guts to attack me, thankfully, but it hurt. She was a birth mother's rights/anti-adoption advocate and if she'd made her points politely I would have left the comment, but she made a personal attack and I had no qualms about deleting it. You make a good point here about a person's blog being "their little corner of the internet" and if you don't leave trash on the floor in your house you don't have to leave trash on your blog either. Great topic; I think almost all bloggers struggle with this question.

Bea said...

Yeah, great advice. I don't mind disagreements, or other points of view, but disrespect doesn't deserve my attention. Making this delineation actually helps me forget about the bad comments all by itself. But you other suggestion is a good one.


Phoebe said...

I think anyone should have the right to delete comments if they are inappropriate. I'd like to quote from Mel's 101 here, which I think is great advice in and of it's own:

"I love receiving comments; who doesn't like feedback? Many of my posts are salon-like in nature and invite answers or commentary. I'm all for disagreement, as long as it's polite. I will remove any comments that I deem off-topic, rude, or mean-spirited. If you return to my blog and see your comment gone (really, why are you coming back to check on your comment?), that should probably be your clue that I thought your comment was off-topic, rude, or mean-spirited. Rather than write another comment that is off-topic, rude, or mean-spirited that I will also remove, please simply click away from my blog."

I had this very thing happen to me once. I deleted an inappropriate comment. The author came back, saw that her comment was deleted, and then wrote yet another inappropriate comment. I ignored this person and her comments, but it became this huge drama that unfolded and was very hurtful to me in the long run. I almost stopped blogging entirely, but if it hadn't been for the other 99% positive comments, I would not have continued. It's amazing how damaging a negative comment can be. For that reason, I moderate all comments now and do not allow anonymous comments. I love comments too, but one really bad experience was enough for me to put the kabosh on that forever. If it means I don't get as many comments, I don't care. I would rather just have the sincere comments on my blog!