I'm Tired of All the Ugliness in Social Media. A Letter to Those Determined to Ruin the Internet for the Rest of Us

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

One of the reasons I started blogging was because the community totally blew me away. When I was only reading blogs and hadn't started my own, I was impressed, awed and inspired by this group of people I didn't even know existed but was so happy to discover.

They were forging friendships, relationships and support networks that spanned the country and even the globe. This group had formed a community that was willing to support, encourage and help one another. They were totally vested in each others lives. And that was something I wanted to be part of.

But times are changing and not really for the better. The community and the sense that "we're all in this together," is being replaced with divisiveness, attitude, holier-than-thou, anger, finger pointing and a general ugliness that is really detracting from what we've worked so hard to build. Some days, blogging is not even fun anymore.

I read several blogs whose authors are so candid and revealing. They get much more personal than I do here. It's refreshing to read other people say the things I often think but feel I can't put here. Some of the bloggers have recently recounted the emails, comments and Tweets they receive that are so incredibly negative and insensitive. Which, really? Don't do a whole lot of good. Sometimes an actual conversation or dialogue takes place, but more often than not there's nothing but defensiveness. I'm all for discussion and debate. Hell, sometimes I wish I could write the type of post that really gets people talking. But the spite and hatefulness are just not necessary, and it's bringing us all down.

We put our hearts and souls online. And to be slammed by the very people who are part of our community, people we should be able to trust, is such an insult. The spaces we create are for our thoughts, hopes, dreams, hesitations, insecurities, fears, triumphs, joys and sorrows. Our spaces are whatever we need them to be, when we need them to be it.

For someone to step into another person's space and be disrespectful is almost unconscionable. So many blogs read as though we're sitting in a kitchen, having a conversation. If someone came into my kitchen with no other purpose than to spew negativity and vitriol? They would be permanently uninvited. Mind you, I'm not talking about disagreeing with me. I'm speaking of the hostility and judgement that I've seen lately. It's mind boggling. And sad. And disheartening.

It seems that for some, the other side of the keyboard creates this magic force field of righteousness. There are ways to have a conversation without name calling. There are ways to create a dialogue without getting on a soapbox. There are ways to express an opinion or disagree without resorting to, "I'm right, you're wrong."

When I first started blogging, a lot of the advice to newbies on what makes a "good" blog was: keep your blog real. Be authentic. Be honest. No one wants to feel we're getting smoke blown up our asses day after day because life just isn't like that. We want the good and the bad. So many bloggers took that advice and do just that, and then they get hammered.

From where I sit, I hear, "I want honesty, candor and realty, but not too much honesty. I want someone to share the nitty gritty, but take note: If I don't agree, I'll absolutely let them know in no uncertain terms just how wrong they are."

There are people who really seem to think their shit doesn't stink and they have every right to judge. Well guess what? Light a match because I can smell it from here.

I fear that many people I read are going to clam up. They'll get so tired of all the negativity they'll start to edit themselves. That's not honesty, that's self censorship. Who wants to read that? I know I don't. Even worse, what if these people putting their hearts and souls into their work get so tired of the abuse they shut their sites down altogether.

What a travesty that would be. For all of us.

I don't know where this change is coming from. When I first appeared online there was this sense that we're all here to support one another as women, men, parents, entrepreneurs and writers. One minute we're all in a circle, holding candles and singing the Coca Cola song and the next we're tearing each other down. Disagreement doesn't have to equal disrespect.

For what it's worth, I do still see a lot positivity. But the negativity cloud keeps getting bigger and bigger and the few rotten apples in the basket are making it harder and harder to keep perspective and focus on the good. It feels that there used to be a lot more 'unity' in our community. I close my reader sometimes and feel like I need a shower.

Remember Dirty Dancing? "This is my dance space, that's your dance space." In this modern age of 'unfollow,' 'unfriend,' 'unsubscribe,' and all the other 'uns'; if you don't like what someone is doing in their dance space, you have a lot of options. If what I'm doing on my space isn't interfering with yours, then we're all good.

So here's a question for the soap box standers: why are you giving up your power? In my mind, the more time someone spends complaining, pointing out another person's flaws (as you perceive them) and operating in a space of negativity; that's counterproductive. You're giving someone else an awful lot of control over you and your emotions. I'm trying not to speak for anyone else, but I've spent much of my adult years trying to keep my power. Take care of your own business before you tell someone how to take care of theirs.

This post has been in my mind for awhile. It's been floating so long I figured it's best to get it out and hope that I can move on. I'm not linking to anyone or any of the instances I've observed because there are many. I'm not trying to point fingers. This is just a 'state of the blog world as I see it.'

I'm hoping next year is different. I'd like to see a return to courtesy and respect. I think there will always be controversy and asshatery (especially from those who need to hide behind the Anonymous curtain). But I hope whatever feelings people are bottling up can be let out without there being so much ugly and bitterness.

We ask other media outlets to take us seriously. We can't expect them to if we don't take ourselves seriously and behave accordingly. We have a whole new year in front of us. Can we start with a clean slate? Can we all remember there are real people on the other side of the screen?

When we put our minds and hearts together we are a powerful force. I hope we can continue to use that power for good. I'm really looking forward to 2010. I want to be proud of our community again, not ashamed to tell people I'm in it. Please don't let me down.


  1. Great post Mel! There are tons of WONDERFUL examples of this community being amazing - but a few really ugly ones, too. I agree, let's hope 2010 shows more of the good and less of the masty

  2. Thanks for posting this, Mel. I'm totally in agreement with you, and hope the new year brings a new perspective to those who are spending this holiday casting stones as though they have no sins.

  3. Great topic! I haven't been blogging enough to notice any changes, but I understand what you're saying. I've seen a lot in just the few short months I've been actively reading blogs. I try and steer clear of the bloggers that seem jaded or negative and only read the positive and genuine bloggers that support one another. That's my style and I hope to keep on that track for as long as I blog!

    Excellent post.


  4. This is a great post and some of us have been having this same conversation on facebook. For some who are miserable, the internet is a great friend because it allows them to be negative without having to look you in the eye. All said, I do believe the good comments outweigh the bad and that's what we need to remember.

  5. Remember when Tony the Tiger used to say : GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRREAT!

    That's what I say to you :)
    I still try to avoid and ignore the ugly and only put out positivity and support. I do wha tI can to maintain the integrity and love


  6. I seriously believe that when advancements come into the picture, things get nasty. The PR marketing to blogger phenomenon has created lots of tension and jealousy. That said, I don't believe PR folks should discontinue working with bloggers, but they need to better research who they're working with. The bloggers getting tangled up in the negativity web need to grow up and get their priorities together. It's so disgusting. As a mother who helps support my family through social media, I am beyond offended by what's going on.

  7. just wanted to say that i love your blog!

  8. I totally agree and its one of the reasons why I won't have a myspace/fb/twitter or blog account. And the fact that I don't want my in-laws stalking me too...ha, ha...but in all seriousness I would like to join but just won't for the fear of all the negative baggage that would surround it. I guess as Wayne Dyer says "do the tao now"....but I can't seem to see myself in everyone .

  9. Great post! Very well put. Don't ever feel that you have to censor yourself here. We all love you!

  10. Thank you for sharing. I started my blog as a way to share my perspective and connect as my 'circle' was so dramatic. It is very discouraging to me to see it is all around-even online in social circles

  11. Thanks everyone.

    @MDB I think PR relationships has a little to do with it, but not everything. I'll admit I've been jealous before but never to the point of the outright nastiness and hostility.

    @Anonymous I like that, "see myself in everyone." I'll have to remember it.

    @Sarah The censoring comes more from within as too many of my family members have the URL now. Hopefully I'll get to a place where I feel I can say what I want without wondering how they will react.

  12. Well said!!!

    BTW saw you are speaking at Blissdom, wohoo!

  13. I've not noticed any negativity, I don't think... and I hope I don't. I'm surely not going to someone elses house (site) and spew. I comment like I want others to comment when they come over. I think it's only fair!

    No matter what our content is, we've all taken the time and effort to develop our voices. And for that we're at least owed respect!

  14. Interesting post and I agree with you about the politics of blogosphere. Over the course of the 2 1/2 years that I've been blogging I've learned a lot about the politics of blogosphere. Surprisingly enough, it's been in the last 4 months that I've been through one of the biggest learning curves yet. My take away has been that blogosphere is made up of real people with real problems - hence whatever people do in real life they will bring to blogosphere. Blogosphere can not be immune from the garbage folks carry around in their real life. The only difference is that people can hide behind "anonymous" and other crap like that.

    That being said, I've also learned another important lesson in the last few months: I don't need to be everyone's BFF in blogosphere. Like you said, respect and "do unto others..." should be the creed of all interactions. However, it doesn't mean everyone must be included each other's social networking space (ie. twitter friends, facebook friends, blog follows etc.) Up until a few months ago, I had this sense of guilt that if you and I were connected in some way (blog event, blog trip etc) then I should reach out to you in all the social networking settings as well. I know some people get a bit offend when they get excluded and that might be some of the source of tension. Not every blogger I meet or e-meet will end up being my close blogging buddy. We can still interact in a positive way without always feeling as though we need to be BFFs in the blogworld. Some bloggers don't understand that and feel rejected if they don't get the invitation to be apart of every piece of your life in blogosphere. Okay my response was SO incredibly long and probably didn't make a bit of sense. LOL It sounded better in my head.


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