Updated: check this link out. Rachel says it so much better than I do.
First, I should say that I'm not saying this in response to any one incident- anyone who knows me in real life can testify that I've held these views for a long time.
Blogland etiquette has been a subject of interest recently. It seems that, all too frequently, I see bloggers responding to "critical" comment,s or- frankly- anything other than a simpering, "way to go", by playing the victim, and all of their friends jump in to support them, or to take down the "troll."
I'm not talking about rudeness, or meanness. I've seen some horrific comments left on people's blogs, and "trolls" are not some fantasy creature. Reading someone's blog even though they irk the crap out of you, so that you can leave them offensive and nasty comments is never OK. I don't think the fact that a blogger has put his or herself out there is reason enough to abuse them, or treat them with anything other than respect.
But, at the same time, sometimes bloggers, like all people, do things that are wrong. And readers have a right to their own opinion on those things. Bloggers have a lot to gain from attracting as many internet "friends" as possible, and letting them into their lives. When readers come back to a blog again and again, it's because they feel like the blogger's friend, or they wish they were the blogger's friend, and the blogger has succeeded as a personal/exercise/food blogger by cultivating that artificial friendship.
If you want someone's compliments on your race reports, you have to accept their constructive criticism, their frustration and their disappointment, unless it is expressed in a rude or hateful way. If your decisions affect the people who have invested emotionally and financially in you, expect them to hold opinions on those decisions and to react to them. The old adage "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" is helpful, but it has its limitations.
The problem is that if anyone who says anything negative is turned into a "troll", the blog is going to become less and less realistic, and more and more of a fairy tale. Commenters start lying, rather than risking the wrath of the blog world.
My favourite example of this is the food blogger who recently complained about the lack of hummus and falafel at a local Greek restaurant. I don't think any commenter had the guts to point out that hummus and falafel, while delicious, are not Greek! Now, this blogger is not an example of someone who overreacts to criticism- in fact, I've seen her handle it with real class - the example is just there to illustrate the nervousness commenters seem to feel about saying anything remotely controversial.
Maybe this is easier for me to say- I've never been a famous blogger and I never will be. I'll probably never get an offensive comment (*unless too many people read here and assume I'm bagging one of their own*), and I've never had anything other than friendly, well-meaning advice, from my few friends and readers. I have no doubt that I'd be hurt if I did get told off. I'd be hurt if a real life friend told me I was behaving badly, too!
But guys, dear readers of mine, I'll tell you now that you can feel free to tell me to pull my head in when I need it, offer me advice, disagree with any rant or rave I publish, or correct any misguided advice I give. If you're a walker and it upsets you when I complain about clogged race starts? Go ahead and tell me. Maybe I'll learn something. If you're a swimmer with an explanation for the lane hog behaviour I hate- I'd love to know how to understand things better. If you think I'm training too hard/too easy, too long/too short or too slow/too fast. In fact, if you want to tell me to stop bitching about my weight until I'm willing to stop laying off the beer and the curly fries would help me drop the kilos- go for it. But don't call me a fat, moany, knowitall b*tch. Say it nicely, say it with respect, and I hereby undertake to respect you right back.
Who's with me?