The other day, I was on a debt blog run by a husband and wife team and came across one of their posts. He had written about finding a career your passionate about and then pursuing that work in your life – it was a decent enough article.
The interesting part came when I started reading the comments. There were a number of readers who had posted some rather pointed observations about some of husband’s and wife’s decisions and they were not happy about it. Granted, some of the reader comments were a little sharp with their feedback but the wife and husband were pretty harsh in their replies. Initially, I was pretty perturbed that bloggers would treat their readers so disrespectfully when they were honestly trying to help.
After some thought, I realized that the husband and wife team were fairly new bloggers and were feeling pretty vulnerable about what they were sharing. It seemed they felt attacked and were on the defensive – regardless of how polite a commenter’s disagreement.
This whole thing just got me thinking about what we, as personal finance bloggers, put out there every week:
Personal Finance Blogging: The Good
We share big pieces of our lives and put out numbers for the entire world to see that most people won’t even discuss with their nearest and dearest. Every personal finance blogger is different with what they share but, regardless, it’s generally a lot. It’s more than just being honest and accountable. We make ourselves vulnerable and hope that our readers can relate and feel empowered by our experiences. It’s a huge risk.
When I’ve posted something and a reader has called me on my shit, it’s very humbling. I don’t always like it. But I always listen. If I’m going to post everything on the internet, I should probably be ready for the internet to post back.
If you’re really sensitive or unsure about your opinions, running a personal finance blog might not be the right thing for you. The internet can smell fear from a mile away and it will bite you sometimes. Kind of like a rabid skunk. I don’t think you need to be the Terminator and never feel anything but you should at least try and deal with it appropriately.*
Personal Finance Blogging: Dealing with the Bad & Ugly
Readers that bother to read the article and then actually post their thoughts on my blog are awesome. It’s like all cool and reader engagement-ey. I still get excited when someone disagrees with something I’ve said, I feel like I’m doing something right if people are putting that much effort into commenting.
This falls into line with something I wrote last week about ‘Becoming a Financial Adult’. In it, I talk about how the people in my life are choosing to spend their time with me and that’s a gift. This extends to readers on my blog. If my readers are choosing to share their opinions and understanding with me, I need to respect their contribution by thinking through everything they’re saying and giving them a fair response.
The term ‘respect’ does not mean anything else than what it means. It does not mean agreement or even appreciation for everything that’s said – it just means respect. If someone disagrees or is being unfair to me with a comment, I’ll take the time to explain my perspective. If that fosters a good discussion then good times! I’m a happy camper. If not, oh well. Turning it around and talking about how everyone is trying to judge me is not going to win me any Victim Awards. If it does, that’s even sadder.
If I make a mistake, I own it. I don’t generally feel that admitting to a mistake or ‘agreeing to disagree’ makes me less of a person. As a personal finance blogger, I need to manage my shit when I start getting defensive or annoyed about something. Crying wolf persecution every time someone asks me a question is going to get really old, really fast. In fact, I’m going to start looking really crazy:
So what do we do as personal finance bloggers when we’re feeling under fire from our readers?
I think this one of the big reasons why it’s so important to build a network within the community. Sometimes you just need to vent with someone who knows exactly what you’re talking about. I know of a personal finance blogger friend that recently went through a difficult time with a site that harshly criticized her on a personal and professional level. She reached out to some of her friends and was honest about how it affected her on her blog. My PF blogger friend was the Dalai Llama of class and restraint.
Here’s an obvious one but it bears mentioning: Step away from the keyboard and take a breath. What looks really heinous on the first read can look quite different when you’ve taken some time and come back to it later. Just go out and do whatever helps you get unstuck emotionally. Once you’re feeling more Zen, come back and review everything to see if your first reaction was accurate.
Just shut it down. If a reader is misbehaving and it’s really bothering you, just cut off the discussion. It’s your blog and you’re the Master of Your Universe. I know some people feel strongly about not editing or cutting comments but if it’s driving you to distraction, fuck it. You don’t really have to prove anything to anybody. As someone once said to me, “[you] have the bully pulpit here”.
This is more a proactive suggestion but think really carefully about what you want to share on your blog. Be honest with yourself and know your weak spots. If you know someone saying something about that issue is going to unhinge you – just don’t do it. It’s not worth your grief. Readers are only entitled to what you wish to share with them. No more. No less.
Think ahead and have a plan in place for how you’re going to respond to haters. If you plan for how you’re going to handle certain kinds of comments, you’ll be able to roll with punches and come out looking like a champ. People might still give you an emotional black eye but at least you have Operation Destroy the Infidels Cool à la Cucumber to fall back on.
It’s a complicated issue and I can imagine that more than one of you is chomping at bit to say your piece. It’s touchy and everyone has different standards for what’s okay for them. In the spirit of fair play, I notified my unnamed debt blogger friends that I would be writing this post. I did not write this post to make them feel bad but I think they helped me make a point about what can happen out there. For better or worse, people will say their piece and we have to be ready for it. Thoughts?
*Disclaimer: I’m not talking about crazy troll commenters that just say random, crappy things to antagonize everyone. Those commenters are a completely different breed and need to take a long walk off a short cliff.