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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Ask the Matriarch - Bitten by the Blog

Sooner or later, many of us who blog have to face the troubling issue of negative comments. That kind of thing can be hard for anyone to take, but especially if the blogger has been dealing with vulnerable issues of faith, vocation, or church. This week's question comes from a blogger trying to figure out how to handle her first negative comment.

I've been in ordained ministry for nine years, but I've only been blogging for a few months--so I am looking for input and experience from more experienced bloggers.

How do you handle negative comments?

I got my first one on the blog this week. Someone who self-identified as a Roman Catholic priest called me "immature" and a "flake" because I found amusement as a woman pastor leading worship in a Catholic setting. He did not leave a return address. I debated whether or not to approve the comment for display, and whether or not to post a response. I did both.

My blog is not a professional thing. I am accustomed to such comments on my sermon blog, or YouTube videos from my ministry, and I handle those with professional zeal. This felt different--more intrusive. But then again, I did put it out there on the blog in the first place.

What do you do? Do you allow negative comments on your blog, or not? Why or why not? Do you respond or just let it go?

Sue offers:
 I think every blogger I know has eventually shared your experience of "trolls" visiting their blog for the purpose of causing some kind of upset; either for the blogger or his/her readers. I eventually put comment moderation on mine, so that I can see the comments prior to their going public. Honestly, I have to answer No, I generally reject anything that will cause a huge debate on my blog or cause me personal upset.

The way I see it - my blog - my call.

On the other hand, when I've had the occasional "in your face" comment (and it hasn't happened often TBTG), I have written to the individual personally via email to sort out the question or issue just between the two of us. In every case, it has resulted in both of us learning something and feeling heard and respected. In your case, it is unfortunate that your troll did not leave any means for you to contact him privately.

I know several bloggers who simply state the rules of their blog either above the comment section or on the sidebar.These rules might include no nasty or hurtful comments. For me, comment moderation has worked, but it may not work for everyone. I find that it is also a great way to filter the occasional spam that gets past all my firewalls. All I have to do is hit "Reject" and that's that!

Blessings on your ministry and your blogging!

Jennifer writes:
The world of blogging is a mixed blessing. We make friends and find kindred spirits and discover people with the lovely ability to disagree in very agreeable ways.

Conversely, there are folks who are abrupt, intrusive, ill-mannered and do not play all that well with others. The blogosphere resembles the real world.

It’s never any fun to find people reacting rudely to one’s personal thoughts and opinions on one’s own blog.
If someone leaves a truly offensive comment on my blog to which I feel there is no good response, I’ll delete. If I have patience and inner fortitude, I’ll attempt to respond in a way that tries to clarify (if I sense a misunderstanding or miscommunication) or model graciousness.

And Abi just puts it to you straight:
Delete the comment.

So, we've heard from the matriarchs. What about the rest of you? Do you have experience with this? I'll be honest - I don't. But my blog (which is a craft blog) steers completely clear of issues of faith and vocation. I've still seen negativity break out on craft blogs (which always stuns me); I've just somehow managed to avoid it so far on mine. I'm not entirely sure how I would handle it if it happens. What about the rest of you? How do you handle negative comments? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section for this post!

- earthchick


  1. I'm a tentmaking pastor who publishes newspapers for a living, and as electronic media have evolved, I have seen impulse control and civility deteriorate. I am a big believer in the value of public discussion, and I try very hard to allow people to speak passionately in their own "voices," but enforcing sensible limits encourages more people to participate in the dialogue.

    The question I ask myself is whether the comment will add anything valuable to discussion of the topic. If the answer is no, I delete with little remorse. On the other hand, if there's value amongst the hurtful content, I often return it and say something like, "I hear what you're saying; please say it in a more civilized tone and we'll consider publishing it." That's not an unreasonable requirement. Most people, once their initial reaction has passed, will do that. Those who won't — well, they wouldn't have contributed positively anyway.

    As for the maybe-priest, he may be feeling pretty severely put-upon right now, but the negativity, in this case, is still his. You don't have to take it up.

  2. I have no problems deleting troll comments. I have even deleted rude comments on my Facebook page. Some people seem to have a lot of time on their hands to be able to search and vent on every post they do not see as fitting their narrow worldview. That's IRL as well in blogging land.


  3. Since I'm the RC priest in question, I don't appreciate the blogger's twisting of the facts of our brief comment box dialogue.

    I called the blogger (already forgot the name) "immature" and a "flake" because on a holy and solemn occasion-- Good Friday-- she was too busy playing her little head games for amusement instead of focusing on what everybody else in the church was there for-- worship of the awesome God as the ecumenical community commemorated Our Lord's Passion and Death.

    I made a further point, as I recall, about my withdrawing from certain ecumenical events because of immature Protestant female clergy.

    For the record, I have worked with intelligent, thoughtful women clergy, so it wasn't a universal slam against the type. But the blogger represents a type I have encountered multiple times muddying up the ecumenical scene: ecumenism as a venue to showcase "issues" rather than a prayer movement discerning the way, however painful, toward Christian unity.

    There were some real issues there that could have been addressed intelligently, but since her blogging persona seems to be one of an unreflective space cadet, I quickly fled the scene. Perhaps in real life she is deeper person than her blog. Could be. In real life, nobody would consider me a troll either!


  4. Good for you. I think I would draw a line at a poster who calls me names (flake, space cadet), but I think you have practiced good hospitality.

    I generally take comments with a grain of salt, and some comments say much more about the commenter than about the blogger. For example...

    I have encountered a few (and I mean VERY few) RCs in my blogging and otherwise life who struggle with seeing women leading liturgy. I have seen many male RC priests act immaturely on the altar, preaching poorly prepared and silly homilies, checking and announcing sports scores from their cell phone, announcing each week how this week's liturgy was shorter than last week's, a whole 25 minutes, etc.

    I am sure FrMichael would object to this behaviour as well. I have not read the original post, but my experience is that female clergy are unfairly targeted for being "immature", and some of our feminine traits get labeled as "flaky", while male immaturity is labeled as "down to earth" and "funny".

    I am all for taking our liturgical leadership more seriously, but it is not a gender specific problem.


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