I recently published a comment on a blog I read occasionally (I'm pretty confident that blog's owner doesn't visit my blog regularly & doesn't comment here, although I do wish she would read this). This is a blog that I usually find well-written, with a spirit of kindness and generosity. Unlike some blogs where the blogger is writing about her troubles, I don't find reading this one to be like watching for a train wreck. It's usually insightful, almost always causes me to think and to empathize, and has brought me close to tears a few times.
Anyway, there was a post several days ago that really bothered me. Although I knew its intent was to be funny and light-hearted, I found it not only unhumorous but also mean-spirited; I found it mocking and insulting. And I told her so. It was one of those times when I should have run it through the old bitchometer before I hit 'publish', but no -- I was pretty honked and I wanted to make my point. I thought that I explained my position: that if she realized how hurtful her comments could be to certain people, perhaps she would not have been poking fun as this was so uncharacteristic of everything she typically writes. In retrospect, I could have been more successful in making my point if I had extracted my emotions from it. Still, I don't think I went overboard in pointing out my disagreement, although I did say I was very disappointed in her so I guess that my judgmental side was showing a bit too much.
As anyone with more than two minutes of experience in Blogworld could probably guess, my little remarks spawned an enormous amount of comments (about 50), most of them telling me -- in words far more caustic than what I penned in anger -- how wrong I was. And not just that I was wrong, but that I was insensitive, too sensitive, stupid, self-centered, a censor, in need of a 'sense-of-humor transplant', unwelcome in this little corner of the blogosphere, and mean. Wow! I suppose I should have seen it coming, but I didn't. If I was truly insensitive, I would not have been close to tears when I checked back on this blog a few days later and read the vitriolic comments. (I did find the idea of a sense-of-humor transplant a wee bit funny though.)
The blogger posted an apology almost immediately, both within the comments and in a separate post, stating that she never intended - nor would she ever -- to make fun of someone. She wrote that she was mortified that her comments offended anyone, and I believe her. As typical of her writing, she made some thought-provoking comments about the responsibility of a blogger and how easily one can be misinterpreted.
But -- and this is what I find interesting -- all of the negative comments followed her apology. Rather than comment about the idea of community, the potential for misinterpretation inherent in the blog medium, or how much self-censoring one should do when posting, all but one of the comments were attacks on me for being candid in my response, some of them accusing me of wanting to limit free speech. One commentor pointed out that since all of the comments were opposed to me, I must be wrong. I wondered who would to dissent given the tone of the comments.
Is it really the rule of the blogworld that you don't comment unless you agree? Is it that we don't want to foster discussion and thought in our communities, but rather just want an enclave of like-minded folks? One person commented that if I didn't like it, I could 'change the channel'. It seems to me that that metaphor is not fitting in this case. While one can and should 'change the channel' on a television program if one doesn't like it, tv viewing is a passive activity. If one opens comments, one is soliciting feedback and thus making blogging an active endeavor. Do we really want only those that look just like us, think just like us, or talk like us, to participate? I don't think so.
I'd like your opinions -- whether you agree with me or not. I have intentionally not linked to the post or subsequent comments because I don't want to continue a flame war, but would like a general conversation regarding the responsibility of the blogger and commenters and the nature of building a blogging community. If you just happen to know to which blog I am referring, please honor my intent and keep it to yourself -- no links to it, please.