What I Didn’t Say at the #TypeACon Town Hall Meeting

I just got back from an awesome weekend at the Type A Parent Conference in Atlanta. Despite the name, it’s not a parenting conference and it’s not for Type A people (specifically, anyway). It’s a blog conference!

I was a speaker, too! (Here’s me and my co-presenter, Heather.)

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Most of you know that my main blogging activity goes on over at Pintester, and I attended as Sonja Foust, the Pintester, but that blog doesn’t really lend itself to recaps and musings, so I’m doing that here, because I have some musings, people.

Specifically, I want to talk about the Town Hall meeting, which was unique to this conference (at least in my experience). It was a chance for bloggers to get up and talk about an issue that was important to them that may not necessarily have been on the program.

Lots of bloggers talked about negativity, flaming, bullying, and criticism. I, personally, didn’t say anything because I fail at thinking on my feet. But if I had been able to come up with something to say in response to that discussion, here’s what it would have been:

My fellow bloggers, I wish I could take away the hurt you’ve experienced from negative comments– and I know you’re hurt because you’ve been crying at the microphone. I truly, truly empathize with you because I’ve been there A LOT.

My blog tends to draw out some haters. I know you’re probably not familiar with Pintester, but it’s… shall we say… bawdy. I curse, I admit failure, I make a lot of penis jokes, and I’m a moderate democrat who sometimes says what she thinks. All of this invites criticism, and not always the constructive kind. I get emails and comments weekly, if not daily, telling me I shouldn’t swear so much or make jokes about Mitt Romney or draw penises on things. Some of these emails are polite. Most are not. Some are personal attacks on my character, intelligence, or appearance.

I’m not saying that for sympathy. I don’t really want your sympathy– and before you get mad about that, let me explain. I’m only saying that stuff so you’ll realize that I truly do understand where you’re coming from, because now I’m going to give you some tough love.

You need to get over it.

Yep, I said it. You know why you need to get over it? Because if you’re doing the whole blogging thing right, it’s going to happen again, and it’s going to keep happening. A certain percentage of your visitors will not like what you have to say.

I already told you that I get weekly– if not daily– hate mail, and some of you are probably floored that I can even stand to get out of bed in the morning, because you know how it makes you feel when you get just one nasty comment. But what I haven’t told you about yet is all the amazing comments and emails I get daily– the ones from people who’ve told me they needed a laugh because they’re going through a hard time, and they’re so glad to have found my blog, or the ones from the ladies who totally get my weird, dry sense of humor and dish it back in kind, which I love. I haven’t told you yet that my readers are the best in the world, and if someone comments publicly with something awful, I just sit back and let my readers tell them what’s what. I don’t even say a word.

Do you know what that is? That’s an abundant set of emails and comments– and I don’t mean “abundant” in the sense of lots and lots of numbers of comments, although sometimes it is that. I mean “abundant” in the sense that for every horrible, nasty, mean, awful, hurtful comment I get, there’s an equally lovely, sweet, funny, kind, amazing comment from someone else– and I am lucky in that my lovely, funny comments far outweigh the nasty, mean ones. I mean “abundant” in the sense that the reactions on both sides of the issue are intense. Sure, I get people who intensely hate me, but I get so many that intensely love me, and let me tell you, if I have to take the haters with the lovers, it’s a done deal, because the lovers make it SO worth it.

If you’re getting some hate, I’m willing to take a guess that you’re getting some love, too. And probably more love than hate, if you’re going to take an honest inventory. So get over the haters, my darling fellow bloggers. They’re not the ones you’re talking to anyway, and if they don’t like your blog, they’re free to go find someone else’s blog to read. Revel in the fact that you have an abundant set of comments, and remember that for every hater, there’s at least one lover.

I’m one of the lovers, just so you know. Keep doing what you’re doing, and kick some bloggy ass!

  • Jennifer Evers

    I adore this on about 100 different levels. Yes, it’s hard to deal with the negative. And it stings like a bitch that people are mean and crappy. But you pick yourself up and move on. Well said, Sonja.

  • reallifesarah

    I don’t know if you realized that those bloggers speaking about bullying were referring to malicious bloggers publishing home addresses and phone numbers, getting them fired from jobs they need to survive, inviting violence on them and their children. I thought, “They really need to use the term ‘stalking and harassment’ instead of bullying.” Those bloggers are tough, if you know them, and they can handle criticism – hateful criticism even. But people out there are going TOO far and putting others in actual danger. I do appreciate your perspective, but there’s more to it than nasty comments.

    • And of course I would never say “get over it” to someone who’s dealing with harassment. Totally different topic!

      • Thanks Sarah and Sonja. Reading this post and the comments, I realized that perhaps I should have been more specific in my initial comment during the town hall. I wanted to invite us all to talk about what’s going on, but I didn’t want to bring up specifics because I’ve seen what’s happening out there–the personal intrusions into people’s lives, the looking up an address on whitepages.com and then checking out someone’s house on google earth or threatening kids of bloggers and calling them names- but it hasn’t happened to me (thank goodness. And I’m not inviting it.)

        I get the nasty comments, too. I had a column on Yahoo Shine where I was told that I’m a horrible parent and make choices that will hurt my children. I’m told “f— you” on my youtube channel often. I was told that I’m parenting wrong on there, too. 2 of the worst comments I’ve had were “tell that kid to shut the eff up” (a 2 year old walked next to me for about 2 seconds of a video) and a comment made to my son while I was interviewing him that he’s a loser or something like that. I can stomach all that. It makes me cringe, but, whatever. Everyone can have their own opinion and I know that the larger and more public a website where I write or vlog, the more I’m welcoming negativity. People WANT confrontation. And they love to do it behind a veil of the internet.

        So, maybe I shouldn’t have said “bullying.” Perhaps I should have called out harassment and intrusion because it would have been more direct. But my goal was to welcome the discussion. To let people know that they shouldn’t be scared to talk in that room, even if some of the harassers were there. My goal was to remind people that together, as a community, we can get past this.

  • Well put! I am sometimes afraid of what others think, but I am working on “getting over it” and just doing my thing. Great to meet you!

  • Like you said we need to learn to deal with the negativity (my solution is often to put positive energy into forming relationships with other bloggers) and yes sometimes it will sting, but we have to deal with that and move forward because the majority of readers aren’t there to put us down. That’s what keeps us going!

    We need to STOP using the term bullying when someone disagrees with us or criticizes our work. That’s not bullying, and in fact I think it serves to make us better at what we do.

    However, some bloggers are the recipients of the kind of behavior Julie & Sarah mentioned which crosses a line into harassment. Whether that’s reaching out to employers in an effort to get them fired or seeking personal information it never okay.

  • Tiffany

    I’ve made a decision. We’re going to be bffs. 🙂

    This is Tiffany from Stuff Parents Need, btw, and I always ALWAYS screw up any comments I make using this commenting platform. So here goes!

    • Oh good, because I had already decided to hunt you down and demand same. 🙂

  • I am one of those who mentioned “be nice” in my time at the mic, and I really mean it. I know that some are going to get the nasty stuff from other bloggers or from just regular readers – and I know it can be hard. My take is that I truly believe you will get back a lot of what you put out there. Again, not 100% true all the time, but for the majority it is.

    And Sonja – keep up with those penis jokes!!!!

  • SharonGreenthal

    I’m always surprised at bloggers who complain about
    1. trolls and
    2. lack of privacy.

    That’s the nature of blogging. I agree with you completely.

  • Patricia Jester

    Sonja

    A very well articulated point and extremely accurate advice. The unfortunate reality is people behave this way as a result of the anonymity the internet brings. It is a choice to blog and if the comments become too negative, people need to then decide if this is the right choice for them. Your blog is great, and you are the only one I read or follow- DO NOT change a thing, I think your stuff is awesome!

  • Ellie Weezle

    I’m a LOVER– love you, love your work….