I have a website where I write things in a public space. There are millions of us out there. Some of us write about parenting or budgeting or making meals completely out of frozen waffles. Some of us post photos of outfits or shoes or art or home improvement projects. Some of us draw bad cartoons or tell dumb jokes or write open letters. The internet is vast and weird and there’s a lot of stuff in it.
You may find a ton of people that like you; you may find a ton of people that hate you. You’ll likely find at least a little bit of both. A lot of this space has become over-the-top ridiculous, and a lot of it is normal and sane. It’s simultaneously a cesspool and a cool place to be.
I feel like qualifiers are necessary when I write a somewhat opinionated post, so hear me when I say, this is just my opinion. I might be wrong! I’ve been wrong before. I’ll be wrong again. These are just some thoughts on how to take internetty criticism and remain a sane voice in a space that is becoming increasingly similar to that drunk aunt at the wedding with the back of her dress tucked into her pantyhose.
Sad Blogger says something like, “A commenter said she didn’t like music that auto-plays when she visits my blog.”
Blogger Friend #1: “Ughhhh what a troll. Ignore her honey.”
Blogger Friend #2: “Troll. Keep calm and carry on!” or whatever’s the latest variation of that awful sign on Pinterest.
He or she probably needs Blogger Friend #3 to step in and say, “Music auto-playing is mad annoying. If I’m listening to Chopin’s Nocturne in E Flat Major and Taylor Swift starts blasting when I click on your site, I’m going to have a bad time. Maybe keep the player, but don’t have it auto-start? What do you think?”
If we turn into a community that only yeses and high fives each other all day long, we completely lose our credibility.
One who dissents is not necessarily a troll. I am, admittedly, ultra-sensitive, so when I get a negative comment, I have to fight the urge to roll around the floor a few times and cry a little bit. Instead, I try to keep my sanity about me and ask myself if this is a reasonable comment or if someone’s mad for the sake of being mad.
Here’s a loose definition. A troll, IMO, is someone who hates your site (or you) no matter what you do or say or for reasons that perhaps you cannot control. These are usually incredibly mean-spirited and void of any constructive criticism. Ignore them or delete them or respond to them or do whatever feels right for you.
Take constructive criticism with grace, or at least don’t tell anyone that you’re sobbing and eating your emotions.
Someone who disagrees with or dislikes what you’ve written (if you’re me, for example) or worn (if you’re a fashion blogger, for example) or decorated (if you’re a DIY blogger, for example) is just that, someone who disagrees with you or dislikes something you’ve done. That doesn’t make him or her a bad person. Just a different person.
If we’re putting ourselves in a very public space, we’ve got to be able to expect and even embrace differences of opinion and sane, polite discourse. That’s how (again, for me) I learn and grow and understand people better as a whole.
I appreciate when a reader contacts me about something that would make his or her user experience better. “Do you think you could make it easier for me to pin a photo from your site?” Sure, let me download a plug-in. “Can you put a search bar on your site?” You bet, now there’s one in the footer. I’m happy to do what I can, within reason. “I really disagree with your thoughts on Jay-Z, real women sizes, parenting, and heroin.” That’s fair. Let’s chat about it. “I love TIHIF! Can you make these happen once a week?” Done. “I hate TIHIF and it should burn in a fire.” So sorry, don’t come to my site on Fridays.
Now, if the criticism is just that you hate the way I write, then I’m probably going to suggest that my website is not for you. That is sad for me, but there are plenty of other writers who don’t use LOL-speak and Emojis as actual forms of communication. [Sidenote: Matt Inman writes a little bit about this. The Oatmeal is always and forever NSFW.]
There is always the quiet exit. I posted a ridic photo of me wearing overalls (we had discussed the new trend in previous weeks) and immediately lost a handful of followers. Maybe they don’t like overalls! Maybe they don’t like photos that aren’t of cute kids! Maybe they just don’t like me. That’s, you know, it’s okay. I don’t like one of the cashiers at Target, so I avoid her line so I don’t have to deal with her. Same thing.
Recognize and fix your egregious, ridiculous errors.
A little over a year ago, my family and I ran in the Sandy Hook 5K. It was a meaningful event for us (Jack had played at some of the events for the families of the victims; I had helped raise money for the community; the town isn’t too far from us), and we were excited to be a part. Remmy did the kids’ half mile fun run, and without thinking, I uploaded a photo of her to Instagram and captioned it with something along the lines of “Remmy killed it.”
I know! Not even thinking. That sort of phrase is common vernacular for me, but it was wildly insensitive considering the event we were attending. A couple of readers pointed it out, I realized what I wrote, immediately turned bright red, apologized, deleted it, and uploaded it with a new caption. Done. Least said, soonest mended (except for me bringing it up again right now).
It’s okay to make a (big) mistake, apologize, and fix it. Just make sure you fix it, or we’re all going to give you the side-eye for link-baiting and starting up a colossal internet fight for the sake of pageviews. Don’t do that. :/
The internet can be hard, for sure. We’re all here willingly, and the hard part of internetting is a tick in the con section – just like any job (or hobby!) has pros and cons. The other con is that I’m sedentary for too many hours in the day so I’m supposed to limit my pizza intake or whatever.
Here’s the part where I tell you that I’m totally okay with constructive criticism, not okay with name calling, and now I’m going to lie down on the floor and make carpet angels. \o/