The vast majority of people reading this probably didn’t notice, but I had to turn off the comment section of my blog. While it’s extremely disappointing, it was something that I felt like I had to do for a little bit for my mental health.
I have been blogging for coming up on ten years. I am not new to the world of hate or mean comments. I blogged for a year without much of an audience, but since around the second year, I have been receiving mean comments. One time an “anonymous” student at Georgetown wrote the rudest blog post about me on her gossip site that a good portion of the school read and there is a website that has an unhealthy obsession with hating everything about me. Sucks, but oh well.
[I do want to clarify here that there is a difference between a critical comment and a mean comment. A critical comment can be mean and not all mean comments are critical in nature. While it may sting initially, I don’t mind critical emails or comments. They’re helpful.]
My point here is that I’ve kind of seen it all. In a lot of ways, I’d say it was a good thing to have to be forced to deal with it because over time you get so used to it and grow a pretty thick skin. It allowed me to grow confident and get over a fear of rejection or need for approval, which is something I think a lot of women struggle with. I felt like I had sped through the process and condensed a bunch of years worth of experience in a way shorter amount of time.
Apologies for the phrasing here, but I read this quote once that made me laugh so hard and I’ve thought about it very frequently. Basically, it says that you’re only born with a certain amount of “effs to give.” You don’t realize you have a finite amount so when you’re younger you “spend” them like crazy, then as the pile starts dwindling, you have to be more selective about how you spend them. (Here’s an image with the full shebang.) My bank reserve of “effs” is pretty low by now.
My policy on how to address comments has changed over time, depending on what they are and how I’m feeling about them. For a very long time, I left everything up. Then, I switched gears and deleted anything that I considered to fall under the category of “mean.” Very rarely, on particularly bad days personally, I’d respond. But otherwise, I moderated everything (that is manually approved comments before they published) and I decided what I thought was appropriate or not for publishing.
Unfortunately, it’s not like the mean comments stopped, I just didn’t publish them. It’s usually pretty rare, except for ONE PERSON. The same person. Who has left incessant mean comments for years. YEARS. It actually kind of blows my mind at how dedicated this person is to leaving hateful comments… the persistence could lead to incredible success in whatever she puts her mind to, that is, only if she channeled it in a positive way. I’ve always found the comments to be annoying, but manageable. She’s the only reason why I moderate comments at all, but it hadn’t really affected my day-to-day life. It was a simple step to go in and approve or delete comments.
She uses a fake email address and a different name, but always sends it from the same computer so it’s the same IP address. But even without the same IP address, the tone is always the same and I could pick one of her comments out of a giant batch with complete accuracy. Once I realized it was only one person, it actually alleviated a lot of stress. “You can’t please ’em all,” “you can’t be everything for everyone,” and all that. Because it’s one person (and a person hiding behind a computer) and not, like, an actual angry mob with pitchforks, it’s a lot easier to handle.
And then last week happened. I think there’s a fine line between bullying and harassment. I think bullying is a real issue, especially on the internet, but what are you realistically going to be able to do about it. I ignore it and just move along with my life nowadays. (Again, see above about my “effs to give” bank.) Unfortunately, it went from just a daily nuisance to actual harassment. It didn’t happen overnight; if you read her comments, they’ve gotten incrementally more aggressive over time, but it did tip the scales in terms of me being able to deal with it and simply not being able to.
I snapped and just… could not take it anymore. I had begun to feel the pressure of it building probably since spring and even went so far as to stop making Youtube videos because I was having such bad anxiety every time I got a comment. The anticipation of dreading what the contents of the comment would be as I opened the notification started to drive me insane. I didn’t even feel relief if it was a positive comment, I just felt drained and, ultimately, defeated.
When the comments started to get really bad last week, I had to take a serious step back from the blog. I LOVE blogging, but I started to question whether this kind of harassment was even worth it. I toyed with the idea of just stopping altogether. Like shutter the blog and never open another social media app for the remainder of my life. While it kind of felt liberating to daydream about it, getting closer to that specific conclusion didn’t make me any happier. It was just… giving up. I didn’t actually want to give up. Again, I just felt defeated.
I talked to many, many people about this. I’ve consulted with my lawyers and managers. I’ve confided with loved ones in how I was feeling. I commiserated with friends who have experienced similar things. I examined the problem from every angle.
Because the harassment was truly affecting me and because I didn’t want to give up entirely, the best (temporary) solution was to just shut the comments down completely. Compared to the number of people who read each post, the number of people who comment doesn’t come close to making up 1%.
(Side note: If you’re reading this and you read other blogs, consider leaving comments from time to time on posts where you can meaningfully contribute something. It lets the blog author know that the post resonated in more than just a blip on Google Analytics; it helps to add context to why someone loved a post or what people want to see more of.)
I ended up receiving quite a number of concerned emails from you guys and I really appreciated to hear from you, especially when I was in the middle of considering giving up!!
It saddens me a little bit that this is even an issue anyone has to deal with. I know this is not an isolated situation or something, for that matter, that has a simple solution for complete eradication. While I’m opening up the comments again, someone else will be moderating them for a while because I am just not ready to face the harassment again. I’ll pop over to the published comments on the blog to read the approved comments.
Bah, okay, this was a way longer post than I intended it to be. I just really have been struggling with it and finally hit my breaking point. Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive over the years 💙