Response: My Arena (redux)

As promised, a post addressing some of the common themes I saw running through the My Arena (redux) post. Written on a relaxed evening when the house is quiet, the kids are sleeping, and I feel confident that I can respond without reacting defensively. I’m hoping this will be a positive addition to my blogging routine that will ease my anxiety levels when there are lots of comments to respond to.

Stephanie Phillips Reply:
January 13th, 2014 at 9:33 am

I’m going to have to argue with you- you have deleted MY comment and I certainly wasn’t trolling you. I’ve engaged with you in past comment threads and I’ve been reading you since I clicked your link on the sidebar of OMGMom.

I’d commented on a post where you made a comment about T1 that made me uncomfortable as a parent and I (very nicely!) said that you should consider your words. You let it go live, let somebody reply to it, and then you deleted it because I wasn’t playing by your rules.

Moderating comments has become a lot more difficult over time. I think that’s a combination of a change in my readership and my particular skill-set in this area. I asked That Husband to help me moderate the comments for My Arena (redux) and I felt a bit vindicated when he left a few comments in moderation and had a quick discussion with me about which comments should be approved. At the risk of being melodramatic, I’ll admit that I approach comment moderation with an eye for grenades. The grenades in my comment section are word or phrases that can set off an unintended effect that may further negative stereotypes or assumptions about me. On the internet, you can’t take things back (brand new information, I know!*), but a writer can minimize further damage by taking control of their own space. Sometimes I delete an entire comment if I am worried about possible negative effects down the line.

Stephanie your comment found above, and those similar to it, helped me think about the other side of the coin and how it would feel to devote time and energy to a conversation where the moderator rebuffs you through no fault of your own. Do readers have any suggestions for me?

Steph says:
January 13, 2014 at 8:20 pm

[excerpt] Young House Love does this (responding to up to 500 comments/day). I only comment once in a while, but I will admit I have been a little disappointed when I have left what I thought was a very thoughtful comment and it received no response, but later saw you spent several comment threads interacting with detractors. I feel like I’m a supporter but I’ve received far less interaction in the past than those “jeering” . It does encourage disengagement.

I hadn’t heard of their approach until now, and I’m very impressed! I think it dilutes the meaning of each individual comment, but overall it demonstrates a significant commitment to readers. No wonder they have the following that they do. I think That Wife would have to be a lot more profitable for me to feel I can devote that much time to comments. Right now it’s more like a hobby that pays for my haircuts :).

Rebekah says:
January 13, 2014 at 7:43 am
Erf. Some people are the worst. Can you hire someone just to weed through the comments so that you don’t have to even see it? Sometimes it’s about removing the negativity completely, rather than hearing it and trying to cope.

Hiring someone to help me moderate comments would certainly solve a lot of my problems. I know I will sometimes read an unpleasant comment and then feel defensive, and that defensiveness lingers as I read the following comment. Hiring someone isn’t option (financially) right now, but maybe I will see some growth and that will work? I’d like to hire someone with a strong personality who will push back on my first instinct and force me to see where I have hackles up and where I have room to grow.

Lisa Reply:
January 13th, 2014 at 12:52 pm

I think the highest level point, about needing affirmation, and focus from others, is probably one well worth thinking about. For all bloggers it’s something we have to face up to and understand what it means or doesn’t mean to us.

This is a topic I feel I could dive into for days on end. Allow me to link, yet again, to a fabulous quote by Liene Stevens about needing approval from others. Over the past five years I have begun to see more clearly how my desire for validation and approval can hold me back if I don’t keep them in check. I’m working on that.


What do you guys think? Should I continue with this approach when I can’t keep up with the comment section, or just get to what I can on the actual post?



18 thoughts on “Response: My Arena (redux)

  1. I think it’s silly for someone to expect you to be like Young House Love. There is their write up of what every single day for them is like. They spend HOURS everyday going through their comments and it takes two of them. It’s also both their full-time jobs.

    I’ve followed your blog for years and it’s always been obvious to me that you tend to be super busy (to the point where you had to hire a nanny and you were criticized for it) and you often mention how you’re running a little behind (not a judgement, just something I’ve noticed).

    So for readers to think that you would somehow find this time moderate every comment and reply to all of them is unrealistic. I think you should do whatever keeps you happy and writing. If it’s writing a post a week and then taking a few hours a couple days later to go through the comments, that’s cool. If it’s deleting any sort of comment that seems like it could be a grenade and that’s just too daunting, that’s cool too.

    And, likewise, I won’t be offended if this comment never makes it on your site.

    Steph Reply:

    Just to clarify, I didn’t mean to say that Jenna should be like Young House Love and respond to every comment- my point was that they have the tendency to focus on positive interactions in the comments, and I was suggesting that might be a good strategy for maximizing time in the comment space (my point about their comment volume is just that it can be done).

    Their strategy is interesting, but obviously it would not work for every blogger. I’ve never commented on their blog, but I agree it would feel a little forced to get a response. There’s a definite balance to be struck.

    It’s Jenna’s blog and her space, my point was just if one is going to put energy into responding to comments, why not engage supporters at least as much as detractors? I think Jenna does engage positively very often, that was just in the context of one particular comment thread about how to handle controversial posts.

  2. I honestly feel that you get a lot more vitriol than you deserve, and seeing so many negative comments also puts me off commenting, even if my comment would not be negative. Where comments are respectful, even if they disagree with you, they are a great way to encourage discussion, and, yes, your response needs to be respectful too. I completely understand that it must be exhausting having a huge amount of negative comment, especially about topics that tend to be sensitive, such as childrearing, precisely because there is no one way to go about it. The good point of writing about these topics is that it generates debate, which makes interesting reading, the downside is that it can be difficult to accept the point of view of others when we are so sure we are doing it right. In the end, this is your space, what you choose to publish is up to you. It is disappointing not to have comments published, especially when they are intended as thoughtful additions to the conversation, but as readers, we have to understand that there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes.
    Like Jackie above, I would not be offended if this comment was not published, and I will, of course, continue to read.

  3. So, I’m someone who was blocked on IG but still follow your blog because I’m rooting for you, dammit. I will agree that you probably spend too much time on the negative comments, and when discussion breaks down in the comments amongst the commenters, you sometimes read their arguments as arguments with you (which is probably fair as it is your blog). Perhaps you could focus on the positive comments first, then address the negative ones that are grating on you, and if something seems important enough to devote a whole blog post to, you could address it that way.

    Good luck.

  4. I don’t think anyone should deal with comments the way YHL does. What a fantastic waste of time, saying “Thanks! XOXO” or copy/pasting the same answers to Qs over and over again. I can see why they may have needed to do that to build a following (though plenty of bloggers have done so without that), but they should probably cool it now. The blog is running out of steam and they need to focus on themselves.

    Ash Reply:

    This! YHL may reply to 90% of their comments, but most of the replies are one or two word answers and not a genuine reply. I feel like they could take a lot of that energy and put it into better things…

  5. I think comments should be turned off on all blogs. I also think YHL is crazy for how they deal with their comments. Their time could be better spent in other ways.

    Jessica G Reply:

    Andrea, you say that you think comments should be turned off on all blogs – is there a specific reason why you feel that way? My personal opinion regarding commenting on blogs is that it is a great opportunity for positive interaction between the reader and the poster – and I’ve often learned new things, tips, tricks, etc from other readers. I’m just confused since removing the comments seems to make everything very one-sided with no room for debate/feedback, etc?

    Lauryn Reply:

    I read a lot of Zen Habits and he doesn’t allow commenting on any of his posts. It does take some interaction away but if the blogger has social media accounts, readers can take their questions/concerns/feedback that way. It can even get people to share more on social media “Interesting take on childbirth, what do you think?” and bring their friends (non-readers) into a discussion they wouldn’t normally read.

    Many large blogs are doing away with comment sections too because they are more harmful than helpful. There are other ways to interact with the blogger. Things like emailing take more effort and are less easy to troll than a comment form.

    Steph Reply:

    I kind of agree with this. Upworthy has no comments, either. I think it is really satisfying to engage in comments (if you enjoy sharing your opinion, many of us do!) but especially on controversial topics it tends to cater to trolls and is not in itself a medium to convince anyone of anything. By nature it strips human interaction of its normal core of social norms, filtering, body language, inflection, etc . You do see a lot of cool communities forming on many personal blogs, but those conversations can be taken over to social media where they are more personal and interactive, too.

  6. I’ve been reading you for a looooooooong time (but never commented) and I find it sad that you spend so much time worrying about a blog. I had a well read blog when my kids were little, like yours. I spoke at conferences and traveled all over, but I never worried about my audience.

    I’m so much happier now without worrying about blog-related things and focusing more about my family.

    I wish you all the best because I do really like to check in, to see authentic writing.

  7. My respectful opinion on this is enough already. Let’s move on. Your posts are going to get negative comments. They always have. I’ve been reading since 2009 and have always seen them. The problem has become how YOU respond to them. (Internally or externally). So I think it’s time that you will have to continue to deal with or you will have to stop blogging on That Wife. Maybe the negative is worse now(?) and it’s too much for you, I understand. But talking about it over and over just seems like it’s not going anywhere (and it’s not very interesting to this reader). It seems you enjoy a good debate, so keep your posts from being personal and maybe the negative comments won’t get personal against you?

  8. I think it’s interesting that you posted this but then haven’t responded to a single comment in the last three days. You spend a lot of time overthinking and agonizing over your comment section, and then when people show up to tell you things they feel, you leave them hanging.

    Do you consider yourself a perfectionist? I always thought perfectionism only came in one strain: doing things to an excruciatingly-detailed degree. But when I met my husband, who was a self-proclaim perfectionist, I realized there was another. The way he puts it, in his mind he makes all of these grand plans, plans that he wants to execute to extreme perfection, BUT in doing that he becomes paralyzed by the list of things it would take to do something the way he wants it and then drops the project entirely. In this way his perfectionism inhibits his ability to actually complete the tasks he really wants to because if they can’t be done perfectly he just won’t do them at all.

    While I appreciate posts like these because you’re trying to own-up to missteps you feel you might have made in the past, or you want to address certain issues you know are swirling around the blogosphere, too many meta-posts (posting about posting on your blog) is a really fast way to lose the interest of your readers.

    Jenna Reply:

    I was hoping this could be a middle ground. Responding to every comment (sometimes, most comments) isn’t an option. People frequently complain that I am not engaging with them and I thought that this could show that I am reading the comments and engaging with them. But this doesn’t seem to be something anyone likes either. Which is nice because I can spend less time on posts like this (that I don’t really want to write anyway), and more time working on posts in my draft folder.

    Am I supposed to keep responding to comments on the response post to further show my devotion to responding to comments? I didn’t really feel like anyone had asked a specific question or responded to questions I posed above.

    Laura Reply:

    Do you *want* to respond to comments? Or do you just feel obligated/like you’re supposed to? Do you actually like to hear people’s feedback, or does it just make you feel bad and defensive? When you imagine your readers, does it make you feel like there’s a nice community out there, or do you just get mad/worried about people attacking you?

    For most of the blogs I read, the blogger either barely responds at all in comments/doesn’t have comments (Pioneer Woman, Nienie, Dooce), or responds fairly consistently (Young House Love, Smitten Kitchen, AskMoxie).

    When I list the blogs above, it feels like all of them have a real sense of confidence, a rich life, and a certainty of their place in the world. None of them, except maybe Dooce, seems anxious about how they relate to readers (even if they are anxious in real life, it doesn’t come through in their self-presentation). The bloggers who respond all the time to readers seem to really love their readers and get all excited about engaging in conversation with them–or at least fake it well.

    Your blog is interesting because it doesn’t feel quite so polished–I feel like I actually get a sense of you as a person and not just a blog persona–but that makes it a little hard to figure out, too. It seems like you’re still figuring out the genre of this blog. Your particular problem is that other people on the internet have tried to hijack your blog and define it for you, so that presents an extra challenge.

    Becky M Reply:

    I think the key is you need to be consistent with how you deal with comments (and this blog in general). As mentioned above, there are popular blogs that respond to 90% of comments and blogs that respond to no comments but both can have very large followings. However you decide to handle comments, readers will expect that going forward. Do you respond with long commentary to most comments? They will expect that on ALL posts. Do you rarely respond to comments? Then readers won’t expect you to actively engage them in the comments ever. You’re taking ThatWife in a new direction, so now is a great time to reevaluate and set a new precedent with how you engage readers in the comment section.

    Consistency is common with all popular blogs. Consistency in posting, in topics (mostly, but not always), and interaction with readers (giveaways, comments, etc). Bloggers can lose readers because of the content of their blog or because readers no long like the blogger, but you can lose equally as many readers by being inconsistent with how you blog and treat readers.

    Jenna Reply:

    I’m not going to write any more posts like this, but I’m glad I wrote this one because I think you’re exactly right. I need to take control of the ship and be consistent.

    Here is what I want: To write posts. To respond in genuine ways when I am able. To conquer the world.

    That’s the direction I’m going to go :).

  9. Thanks for bringing my comment into the conversation! I like this way of addressing general comment threads with a post. It’s an interesting approach.

    Just to clarify for those who didn’t read that comment thread in full, I didn’t mean to say that you should be like Young House Love and respond to every comment- I was saying that they have the tendency to focus on positive interactions in the comments, and I was suggesting that might be a good strategy for maximizing time in the comment space. (though I don’t blame you for quoting an excerpt of my comment, as it was appropriate to your discussion.)

    To clarify a little further, I think you have great conversations on here in the comments and do engage positively frequently, I was just reacting to something another commenter suggested, which is that sometimes it’s tempting when a post elicits a lot of blowback to try to reason with detractors while not really engaging supporters. That just resonated with my own experience of having left supportive comments sometimes that weren’t engaged.

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