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August 12, 2008


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You know, it would almost be different if dissenting commenters turned the thread into an intelligent discussion about the topic at hand. But they never do.

Frema I love this post. It should be required reading. Really.

Well said.

Bravo. Good for you. This was a great post.

My blog is for myself and friends and family. I started it when we moved two years ago to keep everyone in touch. Funny thing is is that I don't think half of those people read my blog and I've picked up a following of other people who it's been great to get to know.

I too use my blog as a way of expressing myself and putting my feelings, thoughts, and emotions down. If you don't like it; don't read it. It's a creative outlet for me.

I do have comment moderation enabled on my blog because I was getting too many spammers leaving links all over the place and using their comments as advertisements for their sites. I publish all other comments except for those and well...there was one person who found my blog googling something else. She was nasty, and left comment after nasty comment on about twelve past blog entries. Belligerent, uncalled for and totally out of line. I did not respond to this person and neither did I give them the satisfaction of seeing their comments appear. It hurt me to see my words and thoughts belittled so. You are right, reading someone's blog is like peeking into their life and coming in and sitting down in their home.

I actually like peeking into your life and enjoy reading your words. I hope you don't mind that I stop by and share your world once in a while. (found you from your mom-in-law's blog.)

Keep up the great work.

Nicely put, Frema! I agree that it should be required reading. (By the way, we're getting a new car and I'm getting YOURMOM as my license plate.)

The fact is, once something is posted publicly, it will be reviewed and critiqued, especially on forums such as blogs, which make it easy for wussies and free thinkers to anonymously express their opinions. It reminds me of the paparazzi ... if you don't want to be in the spotlight, don't be a star. If you don't want people posting their ridiculous ideas (like this one) anywhere near your heart-felt life sharing, don't have a comments section. Or start an e-newsletter/diary for your friends and family.

"but I like to think of visiting another blog as visiting another person's home. If I wouldn't say it in someone's home--better yet, to their face!--I won't say it on their blog."
So well put! I wouldn't dream of leaving someone a nasty or self-righteous comment. Like my mother taught me very early on, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.

I'll drink to that (virgin for you, missy!) I think that certain topics can invite debate, but in a good way. Like political discussions about presidential candidates and topics of that nature. And I think if debate/discussion is encouraged, then sure, why not? Of course, it needs to be done in a respectful way. But, if the author is discussing a choice he/she made and is not asking for advice, then in most cases none should be given. I also think reading blogs is like walking into a room with a mixed group of people. Some people you are going to know really well and the boundaries are going to be different with them than with someone whom you've just met. Proceed accordingly.

All that being said, I don't completely disagree with "Your Mom's" comment. If one writes a blog purely to document his/her life, why then does it have to be made public? And THAT being said, I STILL think there should be boundaries. Just because someone is a "celebrity" doesn't mean they deserve to be verbally abused by the public.

Fabulously said. I do so wish everyone would adhere to respect and decency when commenting.

Very, very well said. I could not agree more if I tried.

Nicely put. I admire you for writing this and for so truthfully documenting stuff I'd never be brave enough to, like the whole breastfeeding thing, the wait to find out if you were pregnant, and even your financial stuff. You put it out there and from reading your comments regularly, it seems apparent that we the readers GET that it's not for us, it's for you.

That was an exceptional use of your soap box, if I may say so! Bravo! I have a very small group of commenters and all but one are supportive, well, one plus my Dad. He will bust my balls in a second, right there in my comments! Not send me an email or hell, pick up the phone, he choses to do it "in public." It hurts my feelings, it discourages conversation amongst commenters, I hate it. If my own Dad can loose sight of daughter/idiot box I guess anyone can. That being said-STFU naysayers. There is a human emotion attacted to these words.
Just to make it known, I am 100% for you and your family.

Well said! I think what it boils down to is that some people simply have no home training.

Very well put! I started a blog some time ago, but I started censoring myself because of the comments made on my entries, so I decided my backbone wasn't strong enough to handle that. There are too many people that act like commenting on a blog is free reign to hide behind a screen name and criticize the writer's every move.

And if this entry had a soundtrack, it would be Pearl Jam's "Not for You" from their Corduroy album...as soon as I saw the title, that song popped right into my head. :)

That was the best post I've read in a long time. Go Frema!

Frema, great post. I appreciated hearing your thoughts.

I get too caught up on trying to not upset people on my blog. It kept me sharing my religion with the internet for almost THREE YEARS. My religion, which is the top priority in my life, was kept out of my personal blog because I was afraid!

Something isn't right about that.

Anyway, just wanted to add my two cents.

I think it is true: "More flys are gotten with honey than an acetic acid solution with a standard pH of 4.30." People should always try to help or shut up.

Hi, I'm a newbie but just wanted to say that I really enjoyed this post and what it says. I have just started to dabble in blogging and this post expresses what I feel it is to me, a way to express and sort out my feelings and thoughts. I found you through the Parents blog, and really enjoyed reading both. Thanks for sharing your life!

First of all, I love reading your blog. It's wonderful to hear about someone's real-life experiences and realize other people are going through the same things I am. I consider public blogs a gift to those of us who want to feel a connection to other people out there.

On the other hand, I guess I don't understand why people choose to tell the world about their personal lives if it's only for their own personal benefit. Why not just write in your own personal journal at home if it's just about you? Why even have a comments section?

I have never posted a nasty comment. Infact, I've posted encouraging, positive comments. But your title, "This is not for you," seems like you don't want your readers here, empathizing with you. Geez, I guess I never realized until now that you consider your readers unworthy of your blog.

Parker: Since I benefit from the community aspect, that part is for me, too. I'm not discounting it. I'm just saying that my goal isn't to write things that please everyone or be the objective Everywoman for all things, which is what several of the commenters on Julie's post seemed to want her to be. My tone wasn't directed at anyone here, and I'm sorry if you thought it was.

Also, the title of this entry was taken from a Pearl Jam song. It's a little older, so maybe not everyone caught the reference, but it was meant to be a play on words.

Well said.

Likewise, why do people who clearly don't like the author continue to read his/her blog? If I find myself disagreeing with a blogger so much that I'm always biting my tongue and fighting the urge to post my disagreement, I stop reading it. Why can't everyone do that? I never understood it.

Wonderful post!! I've never understood why people think it's ok to be judgmental and sometimes downright mean because they don't agree with your opinion or thoughts about something. I am not perfect, no one is. We all have faults and we all think differently. Why should my views and opinions be any better than your's and vice versa. We live in a country where we are lucky to be able to voice our opinions. We shouldn't have to censor ourselves because someone else can't keep their mouth shut.

And, if you feel the need to be a jackass and attack someone at least have the balls to not hide under the cover of anonymity. That pisses me off more than anything.

I don't mind reasonable disagreement in my posts' comments because if I didn't want the whole world to see it, I wouldn't have posted it. I can't expect everyone to agree with me when I put it out there for all the world to see.

I've found that my readers and I have taken away more from my few controversial posts (i.e. ppl of the opposite viewpoint gang up and leave a bunch of cranky comments) because it forces us to think about all sides of the issue, and often it shows how ridiculous the other side can be! Most folks didn't believe the kind of animosity we faced until they read the cranky comments. So I used my clever rebuttals to point out why I disagreed and to highlight the stupider points made. :)

That said, I think it's up to each blogger to define what they want and need from their writing, and of course each has the right to moderate/delete any comment they don't want others to see. But I choose to define my blogging as allowing anything that's not truly offensive and I let the naysayers through. Hopefully dissent leads to understanding. If I post on something so sensitive I don't want to hear about it from others, I'll disable the comments (haven't had to do that yet). I don't think we get as far as we could when everyone censors themselves completely.

Amy: I have no problems with disagreements on blogs, or even my own blog. I'm not talking about simple disagreements, but comments that are intentionally judgemental or critical about topics that are not up for debate, like the heart of Julie's post. Her personal choice of whether or not to breastfeed should not have been the point of scrutiny on her own blog, where she should be able to feel safe talking about such personal things without her readers telling her how "awful" her choice is.

In my humble opinion. :)

Dear Frema,

Sorry, I didn't mean to be so sensitive and defensive. Now I understand this post's title, and I think I better-understand your point.

Thanks for your writing, I think you're a wonderful blogger.

I get ya--I suppose part of it is defining what is "intentionally judgmental," since each of us are sensitive to or champion different causes. OTOH, since I only comment using a live link to myself, I try to be respectful because I don't want to be treated disrespectfully either! I suppose there's a big difference between "standing up for what you believe" respectfully and in a way where other people can respond to you, vs. anonymous vitriol.

I'm a chicken anyway and generally would not comment on really sensitive topics like breastfeeding and abortion! :)

the nature of online discourse is, of course, a complex point of dialogue. certainly threads of discussion will, as you pointed out, lead to commentors scrambling to take a side, and verbosely. still--isn't the nature of publicly-accessible writing (blogs, or whatever you want to call them) to invite commentary/sharing/collaboration? i don't have a blog, or web log, or whatever it is the people are calling them now, but i imagine that "comments closed" options are pretty standard. use it if you want to, and have the character to deal with the implications of public writing if you don't. the best writing on the web i've seen is distinctly comment-closed but with the option to send the writer an email. not only does this seem slightly more in line with authentic conversation, but it takes away the urge for some, i'm sure, to quickly post the kinds of comments that people tend to take with great offense. your simile about visiting someone's home doesn't sit well. do you invite the entire world into your home, all at once and then get upset when someone leaves their shoes on, getting mud on the new carpet? doesn't that seem like asking too much? i certainly don't mean to be rude, or to invite more drama for the sake of jumping to defend a blogger's honor, or whatever, but then again, it's just my opinion, and i probably would have kept it to myself if the subject had been differently-handled.

Jen: Just because people have the ability to say anything they want online doesn't mean they have the right to abandon common decency. Also, a commenter who tells a blogger to suck something up isn't honoring the spirit of "authentic conversation." If anything, they're detrimental to the conversation because they make it harder to keep the thread on track.

I have never said anything against respectful disagreements and healthy debates, just people who are intentionally rude and hurtful. And actually, I think blogs with a standard closed-comments policy are less interested in exchanging dialogue because they closed a tangible window to communication. I prefer leaving that window open and weeding out the bad apples because for ninety-nine percent of the time, commenters are wonderful.

If you don't like the home comparison, how about a public lecture? If an academic makes a presentation for his peers, does the public nature of his talk allow audience members to throw tomatos at the podium or shout obscenities once he's finished? I think most of us would say no, even though he willingly opened himself up to criticism.

We don't have to agree, but I stand by what I said.

Well thought out and well said. Common civility and manners seem to have gone by the wayside in the era of blogs and internet anonymity. Some seem to think that because they are "invisible" it gives them the right to lose all sense of respect. What they fail to see is that they in fact lose credibility and their comment causes anger more than conscious thought. If someone truly cares about the cause (whether it be breastfeeding or any number of other things) they will be as understanding as possible while gently offering support. I'm not saying we should all walk on eggshells around each other but I'll tell you what, if I have a choice between someone offering a difference of opinion in a passionate yet caring manner or someone ranting at me, who do you think I'd choose?

Frema, well done!

I am commenting late but I have been thinking about this a lot. I like Julie's blog and have read it for years, I felt horrible reading some of the comments about her breastfeeding entry. I felt sad when I read the title of it because I could guess what happened and it's so, so hard to go through something like that.

But I do think Julie sets a tone on her blog. I am thinking of an entry she did not long ago about Jennifer Lopez and Julia Roberts having twins and how she assumed they had fertility troubles and she wondered why they didn't just cop to it, already. I had never thought of it and then I wondered too and now I wonder about Rebecca Romijn and others. While I like Julie's blog a lot and am very happy for her and would never comment in a mean way on her blog (or really, comment at all, because she gets a LOT of comments), I think she has set a tone for her blog and I doubt she is surprised when she gets a comment that says something like "suck it up" (which doesn't seem like a really crazily mean thing to say, to me). They are called 'comments' and not, say 'love'.

If the blogs weren't really for the reader, they would be on your hard drive, in my opinion. It's a difficult balance, one that it seems a lot of bloggers have trouble with, but I don't think the responsibility of the kind of comments one receives is solely the reader's.

Thank you Frema. I read yours and Julie's blog and I have to admit that I didn't even open the comments section to her breastfeeding post. You just know people were going to start.
I am 33 weeks pregnant and appreciate the honesty I read in some of these blogs. It really does help. I'm going to have my own breastfeeding horrors, but I will stay over here in my dark little corner where I can't get picked on.
I believe it comes down to something like this: everyone has the freedom to wear whatever they want in public... Could they be opening themselves up for some sort of judgement? Yes. Is it still rude as hell to mock them to their face? Yes.

Sorry for posting a reply so late--I completely forgot that I commented in the first place, which maybe is part of my original disinterest with public discourse. Of course, congratulations on your nephew, and I do commend you for such consistent candor on your blog.

Your reply is well-said. There's a much bigger conversation here, but I do think that, well, public domain DOES give one the go-ahead to eschew common decency. I truly do! And I rarely care to comment on web writing. As I tell my students every semester--there is an audience, and a place, for every argument you have, and every angle from which to approach it. Your job is to find the one that suits your rhetorical purpose. If your purpose is to be cheered and supported by the...internetical cosmos, or whatever, then fine. Weed out the bad apples, as you say--or ignore them, as better it is said. Don't comment on their inane comments, or at least don't egg on the posters who blindly jump to your defense.

Thanks for providing another literary comparison, but the medium is different, Frema. I'm sure that many people would not dream of saying the things that they are all too willing to type behind the comfort of an anonymous screen, though I must add for the sake of fairness that any good lecture in academia suffers bad behavior too. People shout, roll their terrible eyes, gnash their terrible teeth, etc. (just like Congress!). So I just don't see a fitting simile here, because internet discourse is its OWN MEDIUM with its OWN SET OF RULES (see how I shouted? I didn't throw a tomato, but the emphasis is there). I like comments too, sometimes, but email instead seems to discourage the very robust "U R STupid IF U don't BRESTFED ur BAYBEE" sort of comments.

And do you know what? As a graduate student at a top ten university, and as a professor at a small liberal arts university, and as NOW a teacher at a private high school in Indiana, I have never sat in on a lecture that hasn't been heated, to say the least. This is our right, and this is our grace--to oppose in any verbal fashion that does not infringe upon the well-being of others. I hate to say it in such plain terms, but if you want the benefits of open discourse, learn to deal with the flip-side as well. I'm not saying all of this to offend, again, or to incite people to jump to your defense. I'm around the same age as you, and certainly share your interest in debating free debate. Thanks for putting it out there. :).

Thanks for the shout-out. All during my (unplanned) (month-long) (!!!) hiatus from blogging, whenever I have found myself confronted with a revelation, or an issue I was conflicted about, or any of my profound thoughts and discoveries, I have been reminded how my blog helps me to get to a better place mentally. I am not a writer and have never been a diarist or journaler, but I do miss that release. Congrats on the book (and apparently I have house info to catch up on, but I'm going in reverse on Google Reader).

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  • "The Lord is my helper,
    I will not be afraid.
    What can anyone do to me?"
    - Hebrews 13:6

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    "Breathe, pray, be kind, stop grabbing."
    - Anne Lamott

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    "When we tell our stories,
    we change the world."
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