Blogging: The Dim Light of the Unspoken Rule  

Posted by Heidi

If you were wondering, yes, I took down my post about the Little Guy and the drama we went through with his teacher and the principal. Aside from the fact that I felt as if I was being unfairly attacked (I was grateful for all of you who flew to my defense--you guys rock!) I wasn’t comfortable with the whole controversial aspect of it. In fact, as time has gone by, I have started to feel some pains of empathy for my anonymous commentor(s). (I think there were two but by then I was pulling stuff down so fast I didn’t really even read everything thoroughly so I’m not sure.)

The truth is, those who left anonymous comments on that post clearly weren’t familiar with the unspoken rules of blogging and did not, I believe, have any idea how hostile their comments came across to others. Therefore, in hopes that she/they/he? (surely not!) were to drop by again, I am posting some of the unspoken rules that were inadvertently broken. (Just know that I wanted to write these in a fun, snappy way but figured my anonymous commentor might take it as sarcasm.)
Do not post a comment as anonymous unless you want people to immediately assume you have nothing good to say. Bloggists know that flat words on a screen with no known voice or personality to go with it can be interpreted as negative even if they are meant to be neutral or even positive. Identifying yourself says that you have no reason to fear retribution, that you mean no harm and are full of good will which will allow the reader to put your comments in the context of everything else they know about you. (In other words, Dear Anonymous(s), if I had known who you are, I would have been prepared to take your words as they were meant instead of being hurt by them.) (Then again, perhaps not.)

Know the culture of the blog you are reading. Blogdania, bloglandia, the blog o’ sphere, call it what you will, is an inherently positive place where people go to support and encourage one another. In other words, you would never go to someone’s party to which you have been invited and say, “I hate what you’ve done with the place, you chose the wrong color for the walls and this carpet is old and needs to be replaced.” A blog post is a “set piece”, something someone wants to share with others, true, but that is not the same as wishing to invite criticism. Unless a blog is political or controversial in nature, or clearly says “What do you think?” somewhere in the post, they aren’t looking for comments correcting them on the choices they are making. Rather they are looking for validation. If you don’t have it to give, comment on something you can be positive about or just skip it. (This is particularly true of the Mommy Blog culture.)

A blog post is not 100% accurate. A bloggist understands that it is impossible to know the whole story from a blog post. If I were to detail every bit of information that had a bearing on this situation with my son, my post would have taken hours to read. That’s not what blogging is about. This particular blog post was focusing mostly on the aspect of how crazy the world is that a second grader would be perceived as someone who attacks someone with a weapon. Of course there is another side to the story but that doesn’t mean you, dear reader, are in the position to accurately deliver it.

People’s Children Are Off Limits. Certainly you would never walk up to a person and start commenting on how they are performing as a parent. This is especially true online where people are very protective of their kids. Many do not name their children (so naming them in a comment is also a no-no) and some do not blog about their children at all or refrain from posting pictures that show their faces. The fact that I did blog in such detail about my Little Guy shows that I was very upset and was therefore even less open to the detracting comments from an unidentified person.

Know when to stop. If other commentors are having a hard time with what you are saying, it would be wise to simply slink back into the shadows. There were some comments being posted in my defense which, though I agreed with them, might have been too hurtful for someone who had no idea what she was getting into. Like I said, blogdania is a very supportive environment and people get upset when someone they know is getting a dressing-down in public.

All that being said, it is my hope that if you are truly my friend, we can simply forget about it and put it behind us, no questions asked.

In other news: I had my follow up mammogram yesterday which was digital and so a bit different and faster. Just as I was breathing a sigh of relief, the technician informed me that I needed to have an ultrasound and that they were going to fit me in. (Urgent much?) When that was done and I was breathing a sigh of relief, I was informed that the head of the department was going to do another ultrasound (Wha!?!?) which she did and then informed me that the area of concern is a cluster of cysts and no longer a cause of concern. Phew!

Then I walked out into the waiting area to see that my Little Guy was bleeding from a fall he had taken when he and The Spouse were running around outside (they had to wait much longer than expected poor things!) and so we bundled him into the car whereupon my cell rang with the message that my daughter was locked out of the house and the Big Guy would not open the door for her b/c he was stuck in the bathroom without any toilet paper and us still twenty minutes away from home. (You do not want to hear how that story ended).

(Trying to figure out how to home school and boost our income and stay healthy AND blog, my friends . . .please forgive if it takes me a while to figure it all out . . .)

This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 28, 2009 at Wednesday, October 28, 2009 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

49 wise, witty and wonderful comments

I do too want to know how that story ends!

You had me feeling mighty tense for a minute there about the ultrasound and the second ultrasound. So I am THRILLED to hear the cluster of cysts is no longer a concern!

Did Anonymous divulge your son's name? Ooo. I didn't notice that. That is a big no-no. It's actually really nice to have someone spell out the bloggy culture, and I think you hit it right on.

October 28, 2009 at 11:33 AM

So glad it's just cysts! How's LG enjoying home school? (By the way, this is just niece Jessica blog commenting from a different account.)

October 28, 2009 at 11:52 AM

Don't you love life where you can deal w/ tense medical situations and bloody children and no TP all in one afternoon?
Holy overwhelming. Good luck in it all. (and amen to your Anon memo)

October 28, 2009 at 11:54 AM

Sorry for all the crap you had to go through with Anon. I've yet to receive the dreaded anonymous comment (knock on wood) and I find it just so ridiculous. Just keep your mouth shut and stop making Heidi feel worse when she's already going through enough!

Anyway, so happy to hear you DO NOT have cancer!! Yay! Too bad I don't live there or else I'd say it's time to go out and party! :)

October 28, 2009 at 12:02 PM

Okay,Jami, just for you (the rest of you close your eyes) when we got home, the MC was in the house and we wondered how. Turns out the BG wiped himself with what was available (i.e. his fingers) washed up in the sink (ergh! but better than not!)and opened the door for her. Gag! The MC cleaned up all the knobs, etc. with a baby wipe. Wasn't that thoughtful? Jessica Just My Neice--me too! And he's really liking it so far. He is doing online assessments to see where he is before we choose the curriculuum. Megz--honestly, many of our days are like that which is why I'm exhausted all the time and just can't deal with teachers and principals who can't be reasonable. Alsyon--let's party anyway! Woo hoo!

October 28, 2009 at 12:08 PM

Can you hear my big WHEW!!!!! I've not wanted to ask about follow-ups regarding your mammo because of all the other stress you've been dealing with. I'm SO glad the prognosis is cysts (although having nothing would be better). You've been through so much over the past while. I hope that things finally settle and calm a bit before the holidays. {{{HUGS}}}

October 28, 2009 at 12:20 PM

This might be an unpopular opinion, but I think that if a blogger allows anonymous comments that's a risk that we take. That doesn't mean that I think people should leave mean, or hurtful comments, but I do think that allowing people to leave anonymous comments is almost an open door.

I removed that option about a year ago so I didn't have to deal with that.

I've also seen people post things that I knew were going to be controversial or potentially upsetting, and when they received negative feedback, were shocked and got really angry and ranty. I think blogging is a give and take discussion forum, and not always a place where everything SHOULD be validated.

But I absolutely agree with you in that if I disagree with something, depending on the situation, I just don't comment.

I did want to say that I'm sorry it was such a mess. You can come and beat me up on my blog now. I'll leave the anonymous comments open just for you! :)

And yay for being healthy! I adore you!

October 28, 2009 at 12:20 PM

Cindy--thanks! I can feel the love! Kristina--that is a very good idea! I didn't even think about it or realize that I could eliminate anonymous comments. I'm a gonna go fix that pronto (which means some time today or maybe tomorrow or possibly next week, depending). I agree that if you blog about it, you have to be prepared to get any kind of reaction anyone could possibly have--it is the risk we take--but I felt this person was not as nice about diagreeing as she could have been. It would have made a big difference. I, however, did not get ranty (tho The Spouse did which is why I had to remove his comment. Love you, Spouse!) Just to clarify, it almost sounds there at the end of your comment like you are confessing to something which I am almost 100% sure is not the case. Just wanted to make sure no one else thought so . . .

October 28, 2009 at 12:28 PM

Good luck with everything!! Glad the multiple ultrasounds ended okay.

October 28, 2009 at 12:32 PM

It's kind of nice to see some of the unwritten rules, written. I always just tell myself this while reading/commenting "Kindness never goes out of style."

HOORAY FOR GREAT RESULTS! I am SO glad about the mammo results. I did a little dance by my computer (and no, we did not dance together. I'm keeping my emotional distance thanks to your funny comment.) Anyway, CONGRATS TO YOU, HEIDI!!! *loves*

October 28, 2009 at 12:33 PM

Barb--thanks, dear! Laura--if you want to have a funky relationship with your computer it is no business of mine. Just remind me to steer clear of you (but in a kind way, of course!) LY!

October 28, 2009 at 12:36 PM

So glad to hear that all the tests turned out to be nothing scary. I get a sick feeling just thinking about all that. . .

And thank you for addressing the unsaid rules of blogging. I think they need to go from unsaid, to said.

October 28, 2009 at 1:01 PM

My dear Heidi, you do seem to have a "when it rains, it pours" kind of life. You're extra wonderful for maintaining your sense of humor through it all. I had to have a pelvic ultrasound a couple of weeks ago (fybroids...) and I don't know if you're a baby-lover like I am, but I did not enjoy going in there and not getting to see a cute little fetus. Very glad/relieved that you're well, though. Continued best wishes with the homeschooling (and the toilet paper!).

October 28, 2009 at 1:09 PM

Oh, no! I wasn't confessing to anything. I think I did comment on that post, but in my name.

I was just saying that because I disagreed with you. :)

October 28, 2009 at 1:38 PM

Rachel--thanks! Maybe I got 'em wrong but that's how I feel anyway. Pam--it *has* been a bit rough lately. My philosophy is "laugh and live, cry and die". I would rather die laughing. :)
Kristina--am I that sensitive? No, you were just kidding around, I know. I DID say in this post that if your blog post is controversial, you should expect negative feedback. I would also add that if a blog post is snarky or mean or negative towards a particular group of people with whom many others can relate, you should expect negative feedback on that, as well. I think the bulk of Mommy Blogs, though, are on a more personal level and are not intended for negative discussion, though I would agree that it is fine as long as one is being sensitive in their approach (starting with identifying themselves).

October 28, 2009 at 2:13 PM

No, I don't think you're being too sensitive and I was just teasing you.

I totally get what you're saying, and I agree that many blogs are just normal little blogs. I don't really post anything controversial, but I have a very specific sense of humor and know that there are people who are probably offended by my love of nudity and crack smoking. :)

October 28, 2009 at 2:23 PM

Thanks for the end of the story (and I am super glad that they are just cysts- much easier to handle).

Thanks for the list. TOTALLY agree. I think if it isn't something you would say to someone's face don't say it. Also- AMEN on the kids one! Don't even get into my kids! That is totally crossing the line!

Love Ya!

October 28, 2009 at 2:25 PM

I just want to applaud - you said that all so well. And for your good news too!

October 28, 2009 at 3:30 PM

At least it wasn't your shower curtain...

October 28, 2009 at 4:37 PM

I think you did a great job of spelling out something that blog newbies may not understand.

Also, I'm so glad to hear your boobs are fine!

October 28, 2009 at 6:08 PM

Yeah for good results from your tests. I love hearing how so many women are going in.

Good luck on figuring out all the new lifestyle changes. We have a few around our place too and it's been a long month trying to figure everything out and make it work.

October 28, 2009 at 6:23 PM

Firstly, I'm sorry that anon visited you. While, like Kristina, I realize that a certain post is going to receive negative feedback and am shocked that the blogger is shocked when the inevitable anon comment comes, I didn't feel your post was like that. Sure, there are two sides to a story, but there is no need to be hurtful to a mother who is trying to do what's best for her child.

Thank you for outlining those rules. We probably all ought to do it more often, just to make them absolutely clear.

And hooray for your health! I'm happy it wasn't anything more serious, and now you can get back to figuring out your life...

Sigh. (good luck!)

October 28, 2009 at 6:35 PM

I've never read these rules before, so I'm glad you spelled them out for people. And I agree with them all! I never saw the postings which inspired this, but I don't allow anonymous comments because I am too sensitive, I admit it.

Also glad that your boobage is doing just fine. :)

October 28, 2009 at 6:42 PM

Heidi, I didn't read any of the negative comments but now I must say I am curious as to what they were but . . . that said .. . one this is for certain, you have a very loyal group of blog friends out there.

And congratulations on the good results from your mammogram. But that reminds me--I really need to do that.

October 28, 2009 at 7:38 PM

I have had a few negative comments. For the most part I have posted them. Someone a few weeks ago thought I was being whiny because I made a complaint about the way someone took a photo for me. I think it is strange I am expected to be perfect by some people...

Removing the option to leave anon comments is something I never thought about--but I think it is a good idea.

October 28, 2009 at 7:55 PM

Julie, yep, kids should be off limits, Kim--thanks, any news yet? Jami--oh, my, yes, so grateful! Now I'm worried that he didn't think of that himself. He probably knew I would freak out. Melanie, well, my husband thinks so, anyway . . .Debbie--yes, it's a great month to do it (but summer is surely better b/c it gets cold in your birthday suit!) Lara---yes, I was pretty puzzled by that but I'm sure it was someone who cared and just didn't realize it wasn't the right forum, Rebecca, boobage! Ha! (Also, that's why they're called the "unspoken" rules) Linda, yeah, well, they weren't really awful comments as much as they were pretty preachy, esp considering I had no idea who this person was or why she should think her opinion counted. Also, she came right out and said that I was wrong. I never take that well (shame on me). Becky--I agree, that's pretty gutsy and seems hardly worth taking the time to comment over. It's your blog, after all.

October 28, 2009 at 8:42 PM

LOVE the written unwritten rules!

we'll be keeping our fingers crossed for all of the stress and TP missing days to be fewer and farther between.

I myself had to run to the store at 11:45 (it closes at midnight) to pick up some new TP because ALL THREE bathrooms had NONE - how does that happen you ask? simple... we blame it on the boys!

October 28, 2009 at 9:07 PM

I watched Little Women yesterday. There was one scene where the youngest daughter had her hand whipped by her teacher and her mother decided it would just be preferable to home school.

Made me think of you.


October 28, 2009 at 9:25 PM

T--absolutely yes, it's always the boys! Janelle--that explains so much. I read that book like 12 times in my youth. When they made the new movie and I went to see it in the theater I realized how much it had informed so many of my choices in life. Well, if it's good enough for Amy, it's good enough for the LG (whose assessment today showed that he is at nearly a 6th grade level for oral vocabulary!)

October 28, 2009 at 9:38 PM

Exactly! Which is to say well said. I don't even allow anon commenters on my blog. Maybe I should, but I don't. It seems to be something that just plain mean likes to hide behind, you know?

October 29, 2009 at 7:44 AM

Wow Heidi, you are awesome! I love the rules (I hope anon reads them).

I'm so glad to hear that your mammogram turned out okay. It almost sounds like a mammogram should come with some type of delicious candy bar. Don't you think? At least for everything they put us through. =)

October 29, 2009 at 8:37 AM

That was a great set of rules. I'm not sure why people think that online=free reign.

I am so happy about those test results!

October 29, 2009 at 3:40 PM

This was beginning to sound a bit too much like MY life. So glad it was nothing more to worry about.

And what is it with anonymous commenters? I rarely get them (note: this is not an invitation to psychos to come visit me with their cruel anonymous rants) but I'm so sorry you got blasted on that post where you were clearly already hurting.

I'm glad you responded with a set of rules, and put the unspoken into writing.

October 29, 2009 at 4:04 PM

I'm so sorry to hear about the problems you've had with anonymous commenters. You have not had some good days recently. I hope hearing that everything was good from the doctor at least brought your spirits up a bit...even if when you left it was right back into chaos.
The unending days of motherhood. Gotta love'em.

October 29, 2009 at 4:04 PM

Great job on spelling out the unspoken rules. You are right about this "culture". We come here for expression and support, not cut-downs.

And yippee on the good news!!


October 29, 2009 at 8:20 PM

heather, yes, I agree--but in this case, I think it might have been someone who just didn't realize how easy it was to get a google ID or didn't think it mattered that much. Caroyln--YES! I think it would make things much more palatable. Eowyn--I guess you just have to hang out here to know that--I think this is someone who doesn't usually. Charrette--me too! Heidi--I am feeling much better and hoping that Nov. is a quieter month than Oct. has been (Oct is always a weird month for me for some reason). Kazzy--expression and support--I like the way you said it better.

October 29, 2009 at 8:41 PM

Heidi, I agree with you that anonymous people who are not familiar with the entirety of the situation should not pass judgment from reading a blog post. I'm so sorry this happened. I am a super sensitive person, so any negative comments would upset me for a long time. Luckily, I don't get many. (This isn't an invitation, peeps). I just wanted to say that I feel for you and hope you are doing better!

October 29, 2009 at 8:58 PM

Anonymous posts are weird and yes, often rude. I get a few from time to time on my blog that make me re-think even allowing them. Blog manners are a good thing. and yes, never out of style.

Love your blog, love your thoughts & your crazy life (by which I mean never a dull moment, in a good life-filled-to-the-brim-way, with or without toilet paper).

PS: Glad you're in the clear w/the mammogram stuff, too.

October 29, 2009 at 9:12 PM

My dearest cousin,
I was grateful to read the rules of blogdom in print. However, they seem to be quite commonsense which tells me that commonsense is not as common as we wish it were. Your life is truly a mix of good, bad and ugly and while I don't wish bad or ugly on anyone, it comforts me in some strange way when my own good, bad and ugly happens. I feel part of the club and gain strength from that.
Love your cuz

October 31, 2009 at 7:26 AM

Roxanne, what you are saying is very true and how wonderful it is to feel the love of my friends in blogdania--it's the best club ever! Also, even though I lately have felt like I have needed a bit of a break from the bad and the ugly, it's why we are here (on the planet, along with the good, thank goodness!) and has the added bonus for being the makings of interesting blog posts. I have been feeling worn out but being boring is way worse. :) I agree that these rules are commonsense but I think that is only true for people who write their own blog posts or have been around blogdania. I think that if you don't write your own, you don't have a concept of how you want your audience to respond and therefore would not really have the basis on which to base your choices. Melissa--thanks, sweetie! Terresa, you mean, I'm not the only one who thinks my life is crazy? Thank you, that's incredibly validating (as sometimes I am made to feel that I'm just a wimp).

October 31, 2009 at 10:43 AM

I have totally been in that seat before (as a teacher I had written about a parent) and I wasn't attacked on the blog but in real life.
I took it down too, which I felt entirely wimpy about.
I like your rules. I think they're so true.

October 31, 2009 at 3:45 PM

Heidi, Heidi, Heidi. You rocked this post gf! I wish I could express myself like this! And good luck with the sanitizing! LOL!

October 31, 2009 at 8:54 PM

I love your newly spoken unspoken blogging rules!! Though Kristina has made me think about the anonymous thing. Really the only reason I leave it as an option is that my mom can never remember her login!

November 1, 2009 at 12:26 AM

WOW, I love your list of "rules" for anonymous blog comments. I had one anonymous comment several weeks back that broke my heart. It was so cruel and it bothered me for days!!!!!!!!
I don't know why if people DON'T LIKE YOU or HOW YOU LIVE, maybe it is best to just keep it to yourself, or at least let me know who you are so I can talk to you "explain things to you"
or just email me, don't put it on my blog

anyway. Good points.
hope all is going well now

November 1, 2009 at 6:25 PM

Sorry you had yucky comments, and about your child. I agree - off limits!

November 3, 2009 at 9:27 AM

I didn't see that post... I've been really behind lately, and I guess I missed it. I don't know the full story - but I wholeheartedly agree that when someone is talking about their child, you really have to say something nice or nothing at all route. I'm so sorry an already stressful situation was made worse by fallout on your blog - the one place where you should be able to say whatever you want without fear of attack.

November 3, 2009 at 12:40 PM

most defiantly like your rules!

November 3, 2009 at 12:45 PM

Your rules are right on and I totally agree! And you wrote them so eloquently--I love you! I've gotten a few mean anon. comments, one was where they called me something like a whiny slut. It was lovely. One I wrote about the Utah bubble totally expecting some opposition, but the anon. didn't even read what I said, just took offense and wrote rude things. I have to say I wasn't too kindly in my response. I don't like unreasonable people. :) I love you, you rock!

November 3, 2009 at 1:33 PM

Amen, sister! Well said.

November 4, 2009 at 9:48 AM

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