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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Poking the Bear

Updated at the bottom

We have this saying in our family, "don't poke the bear" and it ties into an old Saturday Night Live sketch but at its core is this idea of what you do for shalom bayit--a peaceful house. You hold your tongue, you find a way to put closure on a fight, you take that first step forward. And I think we do the same thing in writing for the sake of shalom kehilat--a peaceful blogosphere. We avoid posting about certain topics that we know are hot buttons or we don't acknowledge the hateful comment or we give people the benefit of the doubt that they meant their words kindly when we can't really deduce tone.

But I feel a compulsive need to poke the bear tonight.

Because even after doing all the things that usually bring me my sense of shalom kehilat, I am still thrown off by the wave of anger that is moving through the blogosphere like California fires. Do we have small flare ups from time to time--of course, one of the core reasons why people blog is that we are emotional and passionate. If humans were non-emotional, non-passionate beings we wouldn't feel the need to connect with others. Blogging is by its very nature an emotionally-connective activity and on top of that, most of us in the ALI blogosphere are writing about family building (or later, family raising or not raising as the case may be), an emotionally-charged topic. We are going to have arguments and hurt feelings from time to time.

But flare-ups aside, I keep closing Google Reader because every post I open seems to be either addressing an anonymous commenter or flame-throwing at a fellow blogger. And while I'm perfectly fine reading anger--I think I've highlighted enough angry blog posts in the Roundup to make clear that I don't shy away from anger--I don't really do drama.

I have anonymous commenting on my blog for two reasons--(1) because we are speaking sometimes about family building decisions and I understand why someone would not want a thought tied to their name for dozens of years to come. There are enough situations where a person needs to speak anonymously either to protect the feelings of their future children or partner or friend. And (2) there are limited options with Blogger and if I want to open up the possibility for anyone in the community to comment--those with blogs or the blogless--I need to allow anonymous comments.

And, of course, not all of the hateful commenting is entirely anonymous. Sometimes people stand behind their words, and that is better if they're listening as well as speaking. Of course, standing there with my name attached to the comment and still spewing hate isn't helpful and only serves to hurt feelings. And, not all of the anger is internal to the community. One blogger had a post up about an anonymous comment she received screaming about the selfishness of those engaging in family building (well, only those who need help with family building. Those who can do it themselves are selfless). And certainly, I don't believe that this post will reach those people or stop those types of comments from happening. I have seen those since the day I entered the blogosphere and I'm sure they'll keep rolling through long after I'm gone. The point is to not muck your way into them, but to learn how to let them roll off your back. It is, though, quite a different story when the anger comes from someone else within the community, who shares mutual readers and who has held your trust in the past. I do not expect those to roll off anyone's back and they certainly don't roll off mine.

For me, anger is about having communication flowing between two people and drama conveys a lack of hearing on one or both sides of the exchange. I think fighting can be healthy and deepen understanding if there is a point to the fight--if both parties are moving towards a new understanding. Simply shouting at another person? That is drama. Leaving an anonymous comment is always drama because all control is removed to address the person directly and continue the conversation. And truly, if the person really wanted resolution, they would address the person privately.

And just to state it here: I don't do drama, but it is not a statement of how much I care. I can care a great deal about the other person, want the best for them and wish there were words I could say that could calm them down. But when I can clearly see that those words don't exist, I take that step back. And I hope in stating that here that people will remember that my lack of involvement never reflects a lack of care. I'll say it again: I simply don't do drama or engage in conversations where the person is continuously not hearing me.

To me--and I know this is solely my opinion--a comment box is either there for conversation (and it can agree or disagree with the person) or to open up healthy debate. It isn't really a forum in which to have a fight or to call someone hateful terms. All of that can be done off-blog in an email in order to allow both people to save face. When you open up something publicly, you remove that courtesy to allow the other person to save face and you send a very clear message on how much you care about them. This, of course, assumes the blogger has left a way to contact them clearly on their blog. Those who choose not to give people a way to contact them privately will need to accept that people will have to address them publicly.

I do not want to get all kumbaya on your ass, wrapping my arm around your shoulder in a death grip and forcing you to sway to the acoustic guitar solo. And certainly, I don't think this post will change the minds of people who desire to create drama. I am perhaps only searching for like-minded individuals in poking the bear. I want to know who else is sitting in this circle with me, who is sick of the anger and feeling like they're in a tug of war with shalom kehilat. Who has clicked off a blog feeling slightly ill that another person has felt that their only option is to leave the blogosphere in order to stop being mocked or harassed.

This post is a plea for everyone to chill the fuck out. To click away if they're reading something (including this) that doesn't agree with them. I recently explained to someone who complained about my blog that everyone is welcome here, but not everyone will want to sit here. Meaning, this place is like a restaurant and everyone can walk inside and be fed if they wish to have nourishment. But sometimes, you're just not going to be in the mood for this kind of food and I completely understand if you bypass this place. Not everyone wants the brown rice with tofu and bean sprouts.

And by nourishment, I hope you feel supported by me. I hope you know that you can come here and someone will listen as long as you're speaking to the waitstaff respectfully. You can bitch about the chewiness of the brown rice, but that's quite different from taking a dump in the middle of my restaurant floor. I mean, it is understandable that people will have different experiences with the food at any establishment and will want to (and should) inform the staff whether they like something or not because the restaurant will only be able to do better with feedback. But it's pretty off-topic and doesn't ever help the restaurant if you just drop trouser near the hostess stand and evacuate your bowels (hungry still?). Do you see the difference?

And I mean that--I think most readers will back me up and say that while I'm not always timely in returning emails, I always return emails and even have a daily space for people to use to extend the reach of their own blog. And I like to think this is a safe place where you will not be mocked or made to feel like an idiot. But if you are not loving Jewdhists or vegetarians or those who would go to San Francisco with flowers in their hair, you may not love this place. And that is okay too. It's a big blogosphere; no one needs to read this space daily in order to use it when you need it or not use it at all and if this isn't your cup of tea, there is a blogroll of almost 1800 blogs where you can connect with a similar story. No one needs to feel alone or think that they don't have a place to stand in the ALI blogosphere; we are a diverse community.

In the end, though, we're all responsible for this collective figurative restaurant called the ALI blogosphere. Someone called me a leader this week and it's actually a term I really don't like and find mildly offensive and perhaps this reveals how kibbutznik I am at my core. In our home, Josh and I have the role of guider. It's understood that we're making some of the decisions because we have more information, but whenever possible, we allow the twins to be our equals. They get to choose meals or pick family activities and can (and do) call family meetings. We're the only ones allowed to drive the car by state law, but that doesn't mean we get to determine everywhere the car goes. Doing so would state an imbalance of power and I respect them too much to ever place myself above them or below them.

And therefore, I reject the notion that I'm a leader. I am one voice in a chorus of many and to borrow the motto of my college's student union: "it's your unique expression that adds to the whole." The whole song changes whenever someone steps out of the blogosphere, and while that thought is not meant to trap you here forever (like a horror film! She started a blog not knowing that SHE COULD NEVER STOP!), what I mean is that every person who leaves is missed. I don't think any of us can fathom how our words or our selves have positively affected other people. We simply aren't privy to that information and can't follow the arc of our words.

So, yes, I am important, and so are you, and so are you, and you over there as well. And therefore, we are all leader and hopefully, if you are willing, we can lead ourselves out of this month-long mess. I am asking three things: (1) click away when someone is saying something hurtful; do not engage unless you know the person is receptive to hearing ideas and is therefore inviting conversation (two of my favourite bloggers both respond to comments--especially the argumentative ones--off blog in order to treat it respectfully as a private conversation rather than create drama in the comment section). (2) do not engage if someone leaves a hateful comment on your blog. Delete it if it that is your policy or leave it up and ignore it. But do not allow yourself to be sucked into someone else's irrational thoughts. There is a big difference between a comment that begins, "I have to disagree..." and one that begins, "you are a selfish bitch." One invites a response and the other causes the person to throw up their hands in order to deflect the volley of hateful words.

Oh, and (3) I wrote this post despite the to-do list that is creating a cacophony of background noise right now because I thought it was important to say. Because it addresses the numerous emails I've received this week saying, "did you read X's blog?" or my own horror at opening up yet another blog and seeing it begin, "in response to the anonymous comment on my last post..." And because I want to know if I am alone in this--in noticing the hate flooding the blogosphere right now--or if I am sitting in the grass with a circle of friends. Because frankly, I feel like I've lost a bit of my safe space, my trusting space, reading some of the posts and comments from the past four weeks. And rather than sit here alone wondering when the fire will burn out, I am asking who else will stamp down the flames.

I am sure this post will bring out the anonymous comments. And you should re-read everything above before you use that anonymous function. If you're using it because you feel uncomfortable leaving a message of support and want to do so anonymously, that is perfectly understandable. If you're using it to spew hate, you should know that I may delete it. And if you're going to leave a comment saying, "but people invite commentary when they post their thoughts for the world to see and blah blah blah," well, you missed the point of this post and you should go back and carefully read how I distinguish between the hate that is upsetting me and my feelings on respectful disagreement. And if you want to say, "but Mel, I think the blogosphere has been more loving as of late," you can respectfully disagree with the way I've been seeing the blogosphere and I hope you tell me which blogs you're reading so I can head over there. Because, as I realized this week, I have a lot of time for love; but I don't have time for anger.

And yes, it's all false bravado to name this post "poking the bear." I have never been more anxious or unsure about hitting publish.


People have emailed and asked if this was in regards to the post titled "Crash" last week and while it certainly refers to that too, my understanding was that that incident was put to rest. I said what I needed last week and closed the door on that one. What I am referring to is the anger popping up in the blogosphere as a whole. I think the rash of anger started external to the community with a site writing about an infertility blog and it has certainly continued until today with a blog I read (and I am purposefully not linking) explaining why treating infertility isn't selfish and another explaining they had to take down an anonymous comment on a post about giving support. There has just been anger everywhere. And the point of this post, even though I refer to it as poking the bear, is not to stir up more anger and I apologize if that is what happens. But my message is solely please stop and deep breathe (and perhaps click away) if something has you upset rather than respond with more angry words.

I don't want to discuss the anger or explain the anger--I simply want to know who else is turned off by the anger, finds reading blogs currently a difficult endeavour, and wishes we could get back to using this community as a place of support. I want to know who else is going deep breathe through their anger and help restore calm.


sassy said...

Maybe it's because my blog has such a small readership, but I generally don't get drama on it. When I see drama on other blogs, I guess I try to skirt around it, taking the kumbaya approach. Sometimes it seems like the writer of the blog uses the drama, adding fuel to the fire... maybe it's good for stats?

That said, of course, writing about The Inferts, I guess sooner or later, it is bound to attract drama, as random googlers with preconceived (often false) ideas about IVF and whatnot tend to accidentally fall into our recounting of personal experiences. But isn't that the beauty of the blogosphere - that we can be the real live human face of infertility to people that otherwise would go their whole lives associating infertility with myths like 'People do IVF/surrogacy since it was easier/wouldn't mess up their bodies'?

I think we have to remember that some of the people leaving snarky/trolly comments are just ignorant of what we go through, as we were before going through it. We didn't choose infertility out of nobility, and aren't better than them because of it. And I do agree with you, getting vicious isn't going to help them see 'the human side' of our story.

(Sorry, you're probably like 'Get your own post, Ms Long-arse-Commenter.')

Just sayin'...

Seraphim said...

I don't allow anonymous commenters because I am waaay too thin skinned to cope with nasty comments on my blog. And equally, I wouldn't ever post anon comments on other blogs because words have the power to wound and maim and that's not why I blog, or read blogs. It's interesting that you were the first person I wrote to when I did notice cruel comments on someones blog in order to rally support for them. And for me, the fundamental issue is respect. I respect your beliefs and values. I'm pretty sure you respect mine. And so, I'll come sit with you in the grass, with my hosepipe at the ready!

Smiling said...

Thanks for finding time to post this... I think lots of us have been thinking about the community in a variety of ways. I am drawn to drama, and know it is very bad for me, and as I grow up I am learning to avoid it. I found your way of separating it out from anger and dialogue very useful.

My readership is pretty small and my reader is full of things to read and honestly I've only had time to read posts and rarely dive into the comments this past month --- and still I've encountered some drama. In one situation I was really upset and had to choose not read that blog or the commenter's blog for a couple weeks. My heart just doesn't need that.

So thanks again for putting some clarity out there and believing in all of us to be able to step up our game.

Heather said...

I do get frustrated with comments that are not supportive or constructive. I don't see too many that are not, but when I do, it's annoying. I mean, if you don't believe in IF treatments, why would you troll IF blogs? I know I'm pretty busy in life and don't have time to do anything that doesn't make me happy or help me.

WiseGuy said...

Mel, I have never received a hurtful comment....but I recently turned off Anonymous posting...if somebody wants to talk any shit ever, they better have the courage to reveal who they are...since they are only too aware, who they are leaving it too.

I have never met any of the bloggers I communicate with...and nobody entered my blogroll by a fluke. Hence, when I find that some of my faves are sparring at first in a different direction and then with each other and then friends of this with the friends of that...I just feel ill-equipped to deal with that! I have offered support....but that is that...

Mel, I was shaken deeply by your post on emotional fraud. I am not friends with the entire ALI blogosphere, nor am I completely acquainted with it totally but I did not imagine that some of the people are here just for the kick.

I like your suggestion...I want to be inside the circle...and I want to maintain the equanimity that there should be. Disagreements are not wrong....but this was turning dysfunctional!

Jenn said...


Thank you so much for "poking the bear" so to speak.

It has been disheartening to me to click over to some of the blogs I have followed and see all this anger, distrust, and drama.
I have clicked off a few as soon as I started reading. Actually have stopped reading a few as well - just can't deal with the drama.

I thank you for continuing to offer a place of support, love and resources through all this.

Hopefully in the wake of all this discord, will come a bigger understanding and sense of respect for one another.

Thanks again for taking a step forward!

Callie said...

I love the concept of shalom bayit and think it's one we'd all do well to embrace in all of our interactions.

Even I, who flits around the edges of the IF circle, have certainly noticed the increased angst in our community as of late. I don't react as strongly to the writings addressing anonymous commenters who slam our choices as selfish as I think an individual's blog is a way to explain the unique choices we're all making. Tone, of course, does matter as it dictates whether the the response serves to fan the flames unproductively or instead explore where one is coming from.

What makes me cringe - and truth be told make me happy for once that I'm not part of the IF blogosphere "in crowd," - are the personal attacks against our own community members. I'm with you, Lollipop. Time to let the bear lie.

Mrs. Gamgee said...

Thank you, Mel, for your bravery and your openness to address this issue. My blog roll is still generally small, so I haven't seen as much of this situation as you, but I agree that the dysfunction needs to be faced head on. I know I cling to it for my strength on the bad days, cry for the losses of others, and rejoice with those who are further on the road than I have traveled.

We all need this community. We need the healthy debates that open us up to another way of thinking and we need the respect for each other to understand when we will just have to disagree.

Tash said...

Clearly we don't read the same blogs, cuz I have no idea WTF you're talking about. So, um, sans anger over here in this corner? (waves flag)

BUT. I had an almost comment situation last Friday where I opted not (blog I've never ever read before), and another yesterday where I had to do some thinking. Sometimes I think it's good to think before you type and hit send and consider a) is this the type of comment this person wants and needs? (even if what's happening is pissing you off and you think you know better? Are you really going to make the blogger feel better with your understanding?) and b) sometimes you need to divorce the issue at hand from the person writing the blog. Sometimes the issue really grates your cheese, but when you study it for a few seconds, you realize it stands rather outside the blogger. And then you can craft a response that's critical, but not hurtful.

Sorry there's been so much drama. You all sound exhausted and a bit hurt. Hugs and drinks all around.

LJ said...

What continually impresses me about you is that you stare your fear in the face, take a breath, and then kick it in the ass. Now, you may run screaming afterward, but you're brave enough to put the fear out there. What's great about that is that it's no longer just yours. That fear belongs to the greater world that loves you and wants you to be safe. Except for crickets. Those guys can suck it.

Kristin said...

I am so saddened by the vitriol and antagonism that has sprung up recently. I am just horrified that people have been receiving death threats (yes, really) do to things said without malice intended. I have purposely avoided posting about the recent controversy because past experience has taught me that this simply tends to fan the flames.

{{{Hugs}}} and I Am here with and for you.

Coffeegrl said...

Dude. I have no idea what you all are talking about. I'm thinking maybe it's a *really* good thing that my internet has been spotty of late.

However, let me just say: drama isn't my thing. I can't freakin' be bothered to indulge someone's petty snarkiness. Also, I accept that there are some folks out there who are just in a really bad place emotionally/mentally and do not know of what they speak when they write/talk crap.

I'm all about ignoring anything I don't like and can't dialogue abut. I do enjoy the occasional back and forth, but in a respectful, "I really want to better understand where you're coming from and hope you'll give me the same courtesy" kind of way.

Oh, and I love hugs. Lots and lots of hugs. Guess that makes me all kumbaya. Peace.

niobe said...

Huh. With the exception of that incident that you mentioned last week (which I didn't know anything about until you discussed it), I guess I haven't seen much of what you're talking about. Which is not to say it's not out there.

Now, I did open one of my posts a while back to anonymous confessions, which, predictably, generated lots of drama. But, hey, I asked for it and therefore it didn't bother me. Though, reading this post, I wonder about the effect on others.

Other than that, my general policy is to delete and/or ignore nasty comments on my blog -- and I seem to get my fair share of them. But I'm pretty thick-skinned, so it's not that big a deal to me.

Heather said...

I've missed the anger - thank God. I guess I'm reading different blogs than you are. I am over the anger. I guess that is one blessing of only having like one person following my blog - no angry comments.

Meghan said...

Isn't IF enough drama on its own? I know of what you write, and I've had enough. Then again, I also understand the knee jerk reaction to defend oneself from an attack could be overwhelming. Essentially what you're asking people to do is think before they comment, and if they receive a comment that is hateful, to try to be the grownup and let it go--stamp down the flames. I appreciate how difficult that could be, depending on the comment, but I think you're right--we are the only ones who have the ability, in the end, to make this a safe and comforting place for each other again.

I'm pretty sure I know which blog you're referring to, and I think it would be truly terrible to lose that voice in our community. I hope that's not the eventual outcome. But this is a good reminder for everyone--and very well said. Thanks Mel!

Ellen K. said...

Good post, Mel. I haven't had any sh*t on my blog and didn't see the posts you might be referring to, but I sensed something was brewing in the past few weeks and radiating through the blogosphere.

On a light note, now I have the "Kumbaya" remix from "Troop Beverly Hills" in my head.

Anonymous said...

I was horrified to read a blogger rip on a person for leaving a really innocuous comment that I think was taken a different way than the commenter meant. Someone went so far to call this person the c-word. That is just not acceptable to do to anyone, and was very inappropriate given the offense. Yes, the atmosphere is very venomous right now.

Wordgirl said...

It's possible I've been completely oblivious -- but I tend to tread the same path in the blogosphere -- and so I've mostly missed this --

I do allow anonymous comments and in the rare times I've had negative comments, or what I thought were negative -- I usually tried to open a dialogue about what they were saying -- and whether or not I understood them -- once it was just truly a random drive-by hateful comment -- which shocked me -- and of all things it was way back when Giada DeLaurentis, that celebrity cook -- was pregnant -- and I railed against the unfairness of it all -- and some rabid Giada fan wrote the nastiest comment ever.

I once responded to another bloggers post (not IF related) and realized, to my horror later, that it wasn't my post she was writing about -- but I jumped to that conclusion -- I owned my comment and was respectful but still stung -- but here's the thing: I misread. Total threes company miscommunication assumption nightmare scenario. I then later went back to the same site and apologized publicly on her forum for my previous post -- and admitted my shame. It revealed more about my defensiveness in writing about the topic I was writing about (step-parenting) than it did about her topic.

I usually write about such insular, and maybe even solipsistic stuff that if people don't like it they just don't read the blog because there's nothing there for them -- does that make sense? I rarely go to broader global hot-button issues -- it is always filtered through my own neurosis :))

I think an open dialogue can only help -- but the other piece of the puzzle has to be the willingness for people to slow down and process their own relationship to the material and own it through their own experience and lens -- and I think that's a quality that's increasingly rare in our society.

Which Box said...

Hear, hear. I'm mostly outside the drama - but when a drama flares up I generally tend to enjoy reading it, just to see what's going on in the world. Some of the recent stuff though - it's ugly. And keeps flaring up in unexpected places. And reminds me very much of junior high. Not to be insulting, but there is an awful lot of lashing out publicly and semi-anonymously. When offline, privately, is so clearly the most respective way to handle. It's actually really bothering me, too, and I also wish people would just stop. It has exposed me to some new blogs, though, so I supposed I should appreciate that. But yes - let's get back to supportive peace. There's enough bad stuff out there without creating more.

Miriam said...

I think b/c I'm still relatively new to the IF blogosphere and am only reading a small handful of blogs, I haven't seen this type of anger and hate out there. That being said, I've kept a LiveJournal for years now, and I know that there are unfortunately, people who take real pleasure in leaving hateful, anonymous comments. I turned off anon commenting and made it Friends Only a couple of years ago from a few incidents that got out of hand.

I know it's risky, but I leave the option to do so on my IF blog for the very reasons you mention in your post; while I try keep my own identity anonymous, I do share it with family and friends who might not have a certain account or registration to be able to leave a comment if they wish.

Perhaps I'm lucky that I'm able to disagree that the blogosphere has been full of hate and anger as of late, at least, in my small corner of the internets. Or perhaps it might help to know that it's not *all* flamewars and dramalama out there right now :)

loribeth said...

Aside from the one incident mentioned here awhile back (which I probably wouldn't have noticed otherwise), I haven't seen too much drama latey -- although I know it is out there.

Every now & then I will read a post that pushes my buttons, but I try very hard to bite my cybertongue & not respond, at least, not in the heat of the moment. I am probably one of the least confrontational people you will meet; in fact, I could probably use some assertiveness training. All my life, it's been ingrained in me not to make "a scene" (I blogged about this once). I once found myself at the centre of a message board drama -- I read something on one board, unthinkingly vented about it on another board, & word eventually got back to the first board about what I had said. I was absolutely horrified by the mudslinging that ensued.

The Internet has made it very easy for people to write & instantly publish things (anonymous or otherwise) that they would probably never say to the person's face, and that does trouble me sometimes.

areyoukiddingme said...

First, I would not exactly call you a leader as much as I would call you a facilitator. Not that I doubt your ability to lead - I think you would rather encourage others to follow their own path rather than yours.

Second, I agree with you that there has been a lot of drama lately. I'm with Tash - there are things written that raise my hackles, but then I think that my comments would add nothing to the discussion, so I refrain from making them. From my perspective, people seem to put a lot more thought and careful consideration into their posts than they put into their comments. More simply, comments are reactive and therefore more volatile. As someone who has seen written communications misinterpreted, I have found it useful to take a step back and consider if your words are making your point or just aiming to anger someone.

Third, I have seen some of the posts of which you speak. It makes me sad that valid questions were translated into attacks. It makes me sad that people found that worthy of name-calling and death threats. It makes me sad that it even caused in-fighting among people who were on the same side. It also makes me cautious to comment (because I don't actually write much that could be considered controversial) for fear of being flamed. I've had that happen once, and I didn't like it.

I don't know what the solution is, other than Courtesy, Please!

infertilityrocks said...

Put me into the 'happily oblivious' group I guess. I'm also pretty new to the ALI community, so I guess that has helped. But honestly, I know some of what you speak of at it has been addressed/played out here...besides that, the blogs I'm into are completely drama free.

I can't stand drama. My time is too valuable for it. If I even get a whiff of drama, I just walk the other way. I think you're in a different position, Mel, since you are the 'bloghouse where everyone hangs'. Many more ideas, thoughts, personalities, and emotions in the mix.

My bloghouse is small, and anyone can come hang, but if someone sets the couch on, buh-bye.

projectkjetil said...

I've never had an anonymous comment that stung. I'm lucky to have a small and compassionate band of readers.


My blog sometimes takes such a vitriolic tone that in re-reading later, I feel as though I've gotten a nasty comment... from myself. In retrospect (no matter how justified my original anger was), I regret stirring myself up and subjecting my readers to such ugliness.


I've heard depression described as "anger directed inwards," and that rings true for me.

Thus, when I direct anger outwards (at my partner, fertiles, stooopid people), I'm able to defer the inevitable depressions that TTC failure can bring.

I think it's fair to assume that some of these angry people are just using anger as a defense mechanism, a way to deal with the searing pain of living an ALI reality for too long. In this angry climate (and it really is angry of late), I'll do my best to either respond with compassion or stay out of it entirely.

Thanks for having the courage to talk about these things, and the willingness to continue guiding and supporting others, even in the middle of big and ugly dramz.

meandbaby said...

Thank you.

Sunny said...

I have missed all this drama you are talking about as well, and I'm glad. I am FIRMLY anti-drama. Both IRL and on my blog. I respect others' right to their opinions (yes, even those who think I'm selfish for turkey basting) and I expect the same in return. I have all the drama I need trying to get pregnant, there's no room for more.

We have a lot to learn from each other, but if you can't be intelligent and civil about it, then you are wasting everyone's time and energy.

I don't like brown rice and tofu, but I'll sit down and sip a water without commenting on your meal because I love the company. Besides, there are cupcakes on my blog when I get back. ;)

Cassandra said...

I'm right there in the circle on the grass with you, Mel. But instead of clicking away, because I have personal relationships with some people involved in the drama, I've been following it closely, leaving reasonable comments, and emailing behind the scenes. It's all really horrible.

Not that I'm afraid of conflict. I once called someone out in the ALI blogosphere for a statement they made that I deemed to be thoughtless, ignorant, and hurtful. My stomach was in knots about it -- about the statement and about not in good conscience being able to let it stand, when all of the other commenters either didn't notice or ignored it. All I said was, "I've never seen a statement with which I disagree more." The blogger took it back and hadn't meant it that way at all. All I said was that I disagreed, and I was torn up about it. I know that some people involved in the current dramas are even more torn up, but I've wondered about some of the others.

My blog has been drama-free (knock on wood) but I've been trying to figure out a way to address some of these issues in a larger sense without fanning any flames or bringing the fire onto my own property. But if I'm truly not afraid of conflict, and if I stand behind my mission of encouraging careful thought on my blog, it has to be done.

Thanks for hitting publish, Mel.

serenity said...

I don't disagree with you that there's a lot of drama out there right now. And I absolutely agree with you; I too wish that more people had a "give support or click away" strategy like I do when I read blogs.

The biggest weakness of a forum like the internet, IMHO, is that it's easy to forget that the people who write are PEOPLE. You can get too caught up in the words, the fact that a blog doesn't always have a face. That's why people can say such hurtful things in a comment; things that you'd never say to a friend.

So I will say: I never get upset about reading the posts where a blogger defends and/or explains themselves from some anonymous comment.

Because I feel very strongly that someone's blog is their own space. And whatever they need to do to feel comfortable there is okay with me. If that means respectfully telling someone that their opinion is hurtful and that not welcome, then so be it.

Respectful, that is. There IS a difference between respectfully disagreeing with someone/ defending your position and ATTACKING someone in anger.

And I agree with you that there is far too much of it out there right now. Maybe we DO all need to take a step back and just let things roll off our backs for a bit.


orodemniades said...

Damn, I hate it when I miss all the drama. I'm more of a lurker than a 'have to be involved'-er.

Yeah, so, this was a pointless comment. I leave it anyway, ha!

nh said...

I'm with you sitting in the grass.

When I watch TV if I don't like the programme that I'm watching, I'll switch over or turn it off. I kind of follow the same policy with reading blogs - if I don't like what I'm reading - I don't read it.

IF brings with it enough drama. I certainly don't need anymore in my life. I have enough problems with people in my real life not understanding why I may react the way I do.

Dialogue is good, giving a different opinion is useful, insulting people - not so.

Queenie. . . said...

I totally agree with everything you wrote, and when I see it, I generally click away.
I am now totally intrigued by how you manage your household, and would LOVE to hear more about the mechanics of how it works. A future book, perhaps?

Dora said...

Terrific post. Thanks. Normally I'm not one to shy away from drama, but right now I've got too much going on in my life and within my body to handle more. I have real heartache (you know, that heavy feeling in your chest that isn't heartburn) over hurting anyone with the choices I've made recently.

I just turned on comment moderation, but I am still allowing anonymous comments. I have actually gotten more positive anonymous comments than negative ones. One of the most touching comments I ever received was an anonymous comment from from a lurker when I my announced my pg.

Boy, am I glad I have a therapy appt after work today! But, ACK, what to fit in during that 45 minutes!?!?! Good lord, will I have time to get to the crap about my mother!?!

Mel, I agree with your take on leadership within the community. I agree with Areyoukiddingme, I think facilitator is a better description of what you do. These are not forums, which often need a moderator. Blogging by it's nature doesn't lend itself to "leadership." Blogging is completely free speech. We can only control our own blogs. What we say, who we allow to comment, what comments (or posts of our own) we delete or allow to stand.

I've never been too fond of Kumbaya, but how about some show tunes? Can we all join hands for a chorus of Seasons of Love?

Measure in love.

ex-angrycanrn said...

I agree that there has been much strife in the ALI community lately. I regret that I was a large part of the recent bruhaha. I have apologized to those I hurt and if I missed anyone, I'm sorry.

I would love to sit on the grass with Mel and like minded individuals. I wish that life were that simple. But it isn't.

Everyone needs to do what is best for themselves. For their physical and mental health. I believe that wholeheartedly. There are times when I have the extra energy and compassion to share with someone who needs a shoulder. Just as there are times when I am barely keeping my head above water and can't be of any help to anyone else.

But I want to ask all of you who stand on the sidelines and refuse to take sides on anything, where would we be if we didn't have people willing to take sides? To serve in the military? If we didn't have Doctors, Nurses, Paramedics, Police Officers and Firefighters where would we be? These are people who put their very lives on the line for all of us without regard to the risk to themselves. With their bravery and sacrafice in mind should it really be that difficult to muster out a semi supportive comment to someone being ganged up on? What real risk is there? Oh. Yeah. Someone might decide they don't like you. I promise, I'll loan you a bandaid.

How amazingly frustrating is it that the anonymity of the internet allows the knuckle dragging, mouth breathing, monosynaptic, apathetic fucktard wastes of protoplasm such a perfect platform and THEN we let them WIN by fighting amongst ourselves and not supporting each other?

Please. End it here. Think before you comment. Consider before you post. Let the controversy die.

~Kathy (ex-angrycanrn)

Jess said...

I'm tired of the drama.

I'm tired of talking about it. I'm tired of hearing about it. I'm tired of seeing it. I'm tired of it effing up plans that have nothing to do with it. I'm tired of it making it harder for us all to just go about our merry ways and even to HELP people.

I, for one, don't want to hear another word of it. I don't know how it got so big, or how it extended so far. I don't know, I don't care, and I'm tired of it, too, Mel.

Larisa said...

I do agree. I generally don't get drama on my blog, but I also reserve the right to respond to a comment, anonymous or otherwise. I try to do so in a measured, productive way, but I don't know if that's how it comes across.

I do allow anonymous commenting for a variety of reasons.

I'll sit on the grass.

annacyclopedia said...

Mel, you truly live out these wonderful words: Be the change you wish to see in the world. Bring on the brown rice and tofu and sprouts, my friend, and I will stand shoulder to shoulder with you as we sway to the acoustic guitar solo. Thanks for guiding us all with so much wisdom and compassion.

I have been mystified by the anger and hate floating around lately, and I've managed to sidestep it mostly because, like Pam, I travel in the same circles the vast majority of the time. But I did get a taste of it and it really upset me, too. But I don't really have time for anger, either, and so I mostly just avoided it and clicked away when I ran into it. Disagreement is one thing, but anger and rage and insults and fighting is another. What has really upset me is the fact that a number of people are leaving the blogging community because of all of this, even though I never read their blogs regularly. It hurts to think that not everyone feels this is a safe place, and I guess when someone else feels unsafe here, it shakes me up too and makes me have a little bit less trust about this space where I pour out so much of what is important to me.

Because I've never been targeted with any hurtful or hateful comments, I don't know what more to do to stamp out the flames other than what I already do - try to be as loving as I can and avoid situations that are clearly dramatic and overly into conflict. But know that I support you completely and will be thinking this over a lot in the next few days, not just how I can make peace in the blogosphere, but how I can reconnect with my commitment to making peace in my community, in my family, and in the world.

M said...

i too am a rather oblivious member of the community although i am new and with a small pool of readers and blogs i read (one smaller than the other ;) haha).

i did once see an anon comment left on a blog saying the typical, oh you're so selfish you should just adopt...blah blah blah. but why respond to that? it's like i tell my first graders, what the bullies really want is a reaction. deny them that, they will go away again. plus, are you honestly going to value the opinion of someone who is so obviously an idiot?

as to the know friends and IF-ers tearing each other down, that is sad. especially since if someone's story or viewpoint upsets you that much, you have the option to just not read it! i definitely found that to be the case on the bb i used to frequent. certain posters i just wouldn't read because i knew it would get me all worked up.

i too would love to sit in your grass circle and sing (although i have a terible voice)... perhaps i could make daisy chains for us to wear??

Michelle said...

Mel, thank you. This needed to be said. While I have really been sitting in a completely different world. The other day through me for a loop when I started finding out what has really been going on. I was really sad to see that some people felt the need to leave due to the hurtful words of others. This is suppose to be the place we come for support and when that does not happen it is sad.

We and by we I am referring to the ALI community, experience so much out in IRL of people who do not get "it" and we have to put up a brave front most of the time. I have found it such a blessing to come here and have all of these wonderful people who know exactly how I feel.

What I want people to know is they have the power to hurt even if it is just through the blogosphere. I consider most of these people my friends even if I have not met them IRL. While I do understand not everyone will agree with me I really want people to be respectful. If you do not like what I have to say then do not read and go somewhere that someone feels the same. i am sure it is out there.

I allow annonymous comments for the same reason you do and I really have never had a problem. I also know that if I ever do I too have the power to delete and move about my day. After all it is one persons opinion.

So I guess I am just saying I completely agree and I am glad you posted this.

MrsSpock said...

I allow anonymous comments. But I reserve the right to delete purely hateful ones.

Because I've done quite a bit of work for OBOS (the crunchy set), yet am infertile/had a c-section/flunked breastfeeding, I have a foot in both worlds. After the birth of my son, where everything went wrong, I was shocked when I was singled out and vilified by some crunchy birth bloggers for a post I wrote about it. What ticked me off the most was that no one was willing to dialogue with me. They just left anonymous comments and wrote a series of posts about me, linking to my blog. And they never responded to my comments on their blogs.

Healthy discussion is fine- even outright disagreement. But never name-calling, cruelty, or disrespect.

I've stayed away from the virtual catfights going on the past couple weeks- and will continue to. They've completely tanked the latest UTERUS effort.

Jennifer said...

As for me I do not like drama. I get enough in life... LOL

You are awesome and I love reading your blog.

Ally said...

I completely agree with your post, Mel. I have a very small readership and don't attract the drama (thank goodness!), but the drama can't be ignored on other people's pages. It makes me sick at my stomach when I read the hateful stuff. Especially when it's anonymous. So I click away and stay away for a while. I feel like that kind of anger is insidious and that it taints whatever it touches. So I want to get away as quickly as I can when I see it. Yuck. Life is hard enough as it is: why do we try and make it harder for each other?

Rebecca said...

I want to know who else is sitting in this circle with me: Me. Complete with kumbaya-swaying-to-the-acoustic-guitar-feel-goodiness.

I have to admit, I am oblivious to the exact drama occurring, but it’s a moot point right now. I despise drama and avoid it at all costs. I agree that things are tense and we all as a community need to strive to restore the peace and supportive spirit that the ALI blogosphere was created in.

I prefer not to think of you as a leader either...but rather a comrade, someone walking alongside all of us. We all have differing knowledge and abilities, such a diverse group of women (and men). We all have the ability and opportunities to guide each other when needed...though most often what most of us need and want is the comraderie and knowledge that someone else's feet are falling on the same ground as our own.

(((HUGS))) to everyone...and let's move forward, shall we?

emilythehopeless said...

i got a really insensitive comment the other day and felt very weird about it and the timing of all the other junk going on in the blogosphere.. even my husband's haunt has been uber negative lately. perhaps it's something in the air? i was so caught off guard by the stupid comment i got, because in the 1 1/2 of my blog i have gotten so much incredible support and love.. i was like, wtf why?! some people live for the drama.. most of us think it's super lame. your post was right on. i hope the message gets across to those who need a wake up call. this is our little world of support.. and we need it to stay positive.
i can't say anything you didn't.

Fertilized said...

Oh Count me In. I had to turn off anon comments a few months ago because of the awfulness that was going on in commentland on my posts. That didn't stop the mean emails I receive a week.

So you can certainly count me in that circle for sure! I may be agree with everything all the time, but that doesn't mean that I can not support them. Or click away and let others support them. It's a community for a reason. ANd I love that about you. You include/respect everyone and people should do the same. Regardless of their beliefs. Respect does not have to mean agreements on everything.

The Steadfast Warrior said...

"This post is a plea for everyone to chill the fuck out." Hear Hear!!! (and ditto many times over)

In my Show & Tell post from the weekend, I felt the need to find that breathing space I think everyone needs. It was seriously stressfula nd sad to read what was going on. Especially since I'm a regular reader of some of the people caught in the cross-fire.

I find myself agreeing with so many of the comments today. I think we really just need to let the past be just that and move on. I joke about living a "drama-queen" life but this this crazy stuff I can do wihtout. I haven't had any hurtful comments on my blog (knock on wood) but I've seen this sort of nonsense on forums I've been on.

I'm game for a happy peaceful song-circle. I'm learning guitar (or at least I was) and I sing, so I'll gladly join in and lend a voice. Let's all grow up and remember one of the Golden Rules "Treat others the way you want to be treated"!

Thanks Mel. You really are a wonderfully caring person and I do believe this Community benefits so greatly from your perspective. I for one am grateful for your presence.

bbrsbaby said...

To be perfectly honest I think this has been going on for longer than 4 weeks, its slowly been creeping in for longer. I have not had issues on my blog, but have seen mean and hateful comments left elsewhere, which leads to an air of mistrust versus support. Its one of the many reasons that I am slowly pulling out of the ALI community and commenting less and less certain places, I don't know if I can emotionally 'take the heat'.

Sassy said...

I've had hurtful comments left by anonymous trolls I knew in real life, people I never met and by bloggers I knew well. That's why I've been passworded in some form for the last few years. I allow people to leave anonymous comments but I can tell you the best thing I've done to be drama free is unsubscribing to blogs and tweets by people I find to be uber dramatic or overly negative.

I have no problems with people getting angry with others (I'm certainly a bitch at times), but I think you've got to be open and honest in those situations which means putting your name next to your words and giving people the right of reply.

WiseGuy said...

Here's to a fresh start!


Joe said...

"You hold your tongue, you find a way to put closure on a fight, you take that first step forward. And I think we do the same thing in writing for the sake of shalom kehilat--a peaceful blogosphere."

- Very good advice

battynurse said...

What a fantastic and very well worded post. I will admit that it doesn't usually bother me when some one comments back on an anonymous commenter but can see where it's also wasted energy for the most part. I guess I tend to feel a need to defend myself. The one anonymous comment that I've received that was truly nasty I very much wanted to be able to e-mail the person and say "but you misunderstood what I said" and I couldn't do that. As far as the drama from lately, it's been frustrating and I too hope it ends soon.

runamokamok said...

I have been a very active blog lurker for years and sadly have slowly seen an increase in the snarky, rude, asinine, or downright mean comments.
I am especially afraid of having such comments pointed towards me since I suffer from open-mouth-insert-foot disease and lack any significant verbal filter.

Commenter's on my blog are required to enter a name and email, which obviously can be faked. I also have placed a warning on my about page basically stating stupid people with stupid comments will be penalized.

My only hope is that people will start to recognize the negativity for what it is worth and redirect that energy elsewhere, like throwing me a kick ass birthday party!

runamokamok said...

I forgot to add:
I also refuse to leave any negative comments. I may leave constructive criticism comments but I try my hardest to make sure my comments are clear and concise to avoid any misunderstanding. I firmly believe what goes around, comes around and if I only put positive out there, I will only get that back. And for those negative commenter's just know if that doesn't work, karma is a bitch.. if you want to be an ass, who am I to stop you? Just understand you will officially be known as that in my book, a little notation goes down in my mental roledex and you lose all credibility in my book. Blatant negativity is a a big no-no in my world. I have too many other problems in my life to worry about random bitchiness.

Phoebe said...

I personally think that anger is a natural response to grief that many of us feel in dealing with infertility. The problem is when that anger is acted out. My theory is that a lot of this anger is welling up in reaction to Mother's Day, which in and of itself will expose grief around infertility, whether you have kids or not. I noticed this last year, when I was the victim of some nasty blog-hate. I think we don't have very good ways of dealing with the anger from our grief in our society. Most people don't understand why we can't get over it. If you want to tell me about your story of grief, come on over to my blog.

Bluebird said...

I, too, am mostly oblivious of the drama to which you refer. Regardless, I will sit in the circle with you.

I come here for peace and to escape drama. Which, I know, seems silly considering the emotion-laden subject matter of the blogs I read. They're heavy, for sure. But still not usually "drama"-filled. I desperately hope it stays that way.

Thank you for this post and the friendly reminder. Oh, and like a previous commenter, I too am intrigued by how you run your household :) Love the concept of allowing your twins to be equals whenever possible. Would love to read more about that.

Karen said...

I, too, feel sad and disgusted by the trolls that use anonymous mean comments to releast their pent-up rage when they aren't cutting people off in traffic.

On my blog I don't allow anonymous comments because my feelings get hurt too easily. I've only had one mean comment on my blog as a result, and I decided to reply to her in an e-mail instead of on the blog, in order to avoid drama. I'm always sad when I see bloggers replying to trolls in a post because everyone needs to know, as soon as they start blogging...just DON'T feed the trolls.

Hugs to everyone. Kumbaya.

Just Nesting said...

There's a lot of comments about how readers leave the drama, often leaving the blog entirely and I don't know, I feel kind of sad about that. When someone bullies your friend IRL people stand up and say, "don't do that to my friend," but it often doesn't happen here in the blog world. Do you guys even like the folks you are reading? Do you really have nothing vested, you honestly don't care about the individual people whose lives you read about? What are people trying to get out of the blogs they read, especially when they so easily leave when things get tough for someone? I've had it happen to me where I've felt so hurt. All I wanted was for people to say they were behind me and everything would be okay. I hope this comment isn't distasteful. I do feel like there's something in the air lately.

Megan said...

I didn't get the drama from any of the blogs I read, but I felt it was out there because of the goings-on of a certain mailing list (those who were on it will know what it was). It made me really sad because I always loved how endlessly understanding and supportive this community seemed to be. I would've liked to address it myself, but your voice in this community is a lot louder than mine, Mel. Thanks for saying something.

Kami said...

I guess I am one of the lucky oblivious ones too.

I wonder if the recent May holiday has anything to do with it? It certainly makes me more touchy.

chicklet said...

Huh, at least I'm not the oblivious one (the comments seem to echo I'm not alone in not knowing it was going on). The only clues I've had to it have been here? And that's not to point fingers at all, cuz I get that you're talking about stuff you're seeing, and that's what we're all supposed to be here to do - talk about life - but I'm just surprised to read there's more going on? Like you, I don't do drama, so the few bad comments I've had, I've ignored. And when there's been pissy comments elsewhere, I try to just stay out of it. Yea, having opinions matters, and standing behind those opinions matters, but sometimes it's just not worth the drama. Drama's exhausting.

butterflyanla said...

I just want to say that I have found your blog and your occasional comment and email response to be beyond helpful. This place in cyberspace is a refuge and a priceless resource to me. Keep up the stellar work! you are an amazing heartfelt woman and teh world is better because you are in it.

Stacie said...

Thank you for addressing this, Mel. I, too, have seen and felt the negative tone that has begun to permeate through the community. There have been a number of comments and posts that have shocked me, and I hurt for the people affected.

So, I am with you. I will continue to keep my pledge to help rather than hurt, encourage rather than degrade, and support rather than fan the fire.

MsPrufrock said...

I think it's hard to find the time and inspiration to comment on posts I really enjoy, let alone annoying bloggers with negative comments. I don't see why it's so hard to click away.

I often roll my eyes at things I read, but even if I'm driven to comment, there is a way to do it, lordy. As much as I love to write my blog and read others' blogs, I don't ever understand the pack mentality that's involved when a furor arises.

JamieD said...

Like many others, I tend to stay in my same circle and haven't been exposed to much of the anger circulating the blogosphere lately. Which is good as I cry easily these days. Damn hormones.

I believe this is a very thoughtful, well spoken post. I especially like your contrast between anger and drama - so very true.

I don't think of you as a leader so much as your blog site being the campfire of the ALI community. We can come here, share our story, receive information, comfort and, most important, empathy. I know when I found this community, I was already hurting so much. Why add to that pain by spewing hate?

I will sit around your campfire and sway to the music anytime.

Hillary said...

I'm also oblivious, but I enjoyed this post and am striving to be part of a supportive community. I will remember this if drama ever flares up in my small corner of the blogsphere.

Tara said...

I'm pretty oblivious to all the drama except what happened a few weeks ago.

I am sitting with you in the circle, Mel. Life is dramatic enough with IF to have my favorite outlet being cluttered with it, too.

Thanks for your courage in this post.

Trish said...

How funny. I just got a mildly hateful anon comment on my blog today and was just sitting here thinking "eh.. fuck it. I'm tired of the drama" and just let it sit. (I only delete spam.)
Then I opened my reader and read this post.
I'm taking it as a sign that I did the right thing.

All this to say- I'm sittin' in your circle.

Wishing 4 One said...

You know I have not noticed this recent drama, maybe I have not stumbled onto any of these blogs? If I do happen to stumble onto a negative post or comment on one of the blogs I read, i usually don't continue reading. Just don't need it. I get enough drama living in Cairo, don't want it online as well, no thank you.

I know people deal differently with hearing about pregnancy. Negativity from one of us, an infertile, about someone getting pregnant it something I cannot deal with at all. Whenever I see that I close immediately. Again I understand some people can't deal with it or won't, thats cool, but I choose not to read their opinions at.all.

I think I am going to enable anonym commenting right now, lets see if the haters come out. Kidding.

luna said...

cheers to chilling the fuck out.

late to the circle here, but also rejecting the haters. I have no energy for that. why bother?

artblog06 said...

Nicely said! x

meandbaby said...

I know I commented on this post back in May with a simple 'thank you' but in light of it still happening to a long-time blogger who loves the support from her commenters (the ones she is not forced to delete), I thought it would be good timing to post again.

I'm glad she chose to delete the nasty comments and not promote the mean back and forths but sad she had to do it in the first place.

I think people who just bash-comment on blogs must lead sad, unfulfilled lives. I feel sorry for them. I know disagreement and discussion is healthy but hurtful words are never necessary.

Kathy said...

Happy Blogger Bingo! :) I am here today because the category is to find a post that contains an "update" before 7/1/09.

I recall reading this the first time around the time you wrote. I too was one of the somewhat oblivious bloggers (who didn't know what incidents you were referring to at the time). However that doesn't mean I haven't witnessed comments on my or other's blogs that didn't seem to have the best of intentions.

I appreciate the "poking the bear" expression and admire you for speaking up/out during a time when you felt it was needed. I really like the distinctions you made in this post between anger and drama (as it relates to how we fight), as well as the difference between being a “leader” and a “guider” (especially when it comes to parenting).

Thank you for another thought provoking and peace inspiring post.

Mrs. Gamgee said...

I'm bingo-ing this post too! I commented on this post back when you first wrote it, but it was great to re-read it.

Thank you so much for being an eloquent voice in our community.