How do you deal with nasty comments?

24 Jun

I like to think that anyone who blogs is knowledgeable in different areas. Some are killer story-tellers. Some have a knack for knowing what their readers enjoy. Others are masterful photographers.

Me? I know how to deal with assholes.

(Note: This post is about dealing with the really mean comments. There is absolutely a polite way to disagree, and these comments tend to add depth and healthy debate to a topic. I’m totally not talking about these folks.)

I’m a journalist by day, and I’ve been writing for publication since I was a sophomore in high school. I’ve dealt with my share of people who didn’t like what I had to say. The very first one: My high school principal told teachers not to talk to me or anyone else on the high school paper because he didn’t like a story I cowrote about the administration’s (lameass) reaction to students showing up to school with blue hair. (That story won a national award, which still feels like a happy “Screw you” to said administration.) The most recent: A reader left me a voice mail and told me to move to Chicago because I said Indiana industry would suffer if the state constitutionally bans gay marriage.  She was very polite in her bigotry.

In the 11 years that came between the principal and the polite bigot, I figured out a thing or two, and I think even successful bloggers can take note.

When someone leaves a nasty comment on your blog, you have two choices: Delete it or leave it. What you should not do is this: Wage a war against the gal who leaves the comment. Do not write an entire blog post about the meanie. There are way more draw backs than benefits from such a response.

Now, there is a benefit to posting about the meanie: You get to vent online, and your regular readers will likely tell you how wrong that meanie was. There is vindication in being told you’re not, in fact, ugly/stupid/a bad singer/whatever the meanie said to make you retaliate.

The draw backs: You sound whiny. You alienate readers — both the one who left the comment, who read your words closely enough to comment, and regular readers who might disagree with you but are decent enough to not be an ass online.

But the major reason you shouldn’t follow your gut instinct and call out the turd monkey(s) for those mean, nasty ways? It’s hugely unprofessional. Blogs are  a form of journalism: They share information and stories. They interview people. They review products. This is straight up what news, features, opinions and entertainment sections do.

I have found a very satisfying way to deal with the morons: Let them have the last word. Most people who leave mean comments are trying to get a rise out of you. If you pay them absolutely no lip service, you kinda win. Because it’s really, really hard to have a one-sided argument, and the meanie will be the one who ends up looking petty and unprofessional. You, meanwhile, have kept your cool and gone about your merry way.

This is not to say I wouldn’t respond to these comments — it’s about picking your battles. If someone points out something I’ve done wrong, and she’s right, I’ll correct the mistake and even thank the person for pointing out the error. I don’t see much benefit in responding to someone who disagrees with an opinion, in part because I don’t believe in apologizing for an opinion.

If someone poses a question to me, I wouldn’t hesitate to contact her. That’s not necessarily something that belongs on a blog, but I do find it polite and professional to break that off into e-mail.

This doesn’t always end up as badly as you think it will. At my last job, I worked on a series about the 10 commandments. I listed the commandments, and a man called and left a voice mail telling me I had them wrong, that I was an idiot, don’t I have an editor? Those aren’t the correct 10 commandments! I called him back and explained to him that we were both right; depending on what version of the Bible you use, the 10 commandments are different. Yes, they cover all the same thou-shalt-nots, but they are broken up differently and under different numbers. I expected him to yell at me. He just said, “Oh! I didn’t know that. Thanks for letting me know.” (Here are the commandments in King James. Here they are in the NIV. Notice they’re all covered — just grouped differently.)

I’ve been lucky.  I can think of only one nasty comment I’ve received on Snap, Crackle, Pop, and it was in response to a post I did about religion (so really, I was asking for it*). The comment was insanely long, and I responded with a few lines answering his questions. (The e-mail he left behind was clearly a fake one so if I wanted to answer his questions or further explain myself, this was my only option.) In retrospect, I wish I had said nothing. I have no respect for folks who hide behind fake names, though I understand the appeal: brutal honesty with no repercussions.

And for the folks who take it a step farther, who find it necessary to seek out your e-mail and send you a scathing letter? My advice is this: Print out the e-mail. Crumple it, rip it, step on it, burn it, drop it in the toilet, give it to your dog to use as a chew toy.

And move on.

* There are certain topics if you so much as allude to, you’re pretty much guaranteed to receive another, often angry, side. They include, but are not limited to: religion, abortion, God, sports, politics, parenting, the gays, a favorite/least favorite television show.**

** I’m not kidding. I’ve had someone on Facebook call on his other Facebook friends to make fun of me because I pointed out a television show I didn’t like.

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3 Responses to “How do you deal with nasty comments?”

  1. Valli June 24, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

    Wise words of advice. Thanks, Jaclyn.

    I have, in the past, had issues with friends who tried to turn the comments section of my blog into an argument, to try to engage side issues, and basically ignore the tone or theme of the blog entry and respond in a way that basically violates the laws of discourse. Luckily, since these were friends, I encouraged them to e-mail me if they were going to hijack. Unfortunately, that sometimes leads to 7-page-long e-mails from said friends.

    Sometimes it’s better when your commentors (commenters?) are strangers.

  2. Suburban Sweetheart June 26, 2011 at 8:00 pm #

    So well said! I wish I could find it in myself to let assholes have the last word. I always feel like I need to get in a final jab!

  3. Ally June 27, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

    Wise, wise advice. Well said.

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