Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say or I’m Not That Stupid . . .

We live in a world where certain people thrive on the assumption that  everyone else is STUPID. Or at least many people act on the assumption that everyone else lacks in intelligence or the ability to think, recognize lies, or make wise decisions.

The current election season in America is evidence of that, since every campaign ad, debate, or whatever is filled with obfuscation, lies and wordplay to trick all the feeble-minded voters out there. I admit sometimes to feeling stupid when surrounded by the craziness because it is difficult to wade through the layers of lies and mis-directions to uncover the truth about issues, candidates or anything. That’s why all I can do is vote my conscience and vote based on my own understanding of the issues.

But this isn’t about the elections. The inspiration for this post came from my decision to clear out some spam comments on the blog this morning. We all get them, and it is pretty easy to recognize some of them: no real name, no picture, multiple links, repetitive address, on a post from way back etc. I admit, when I first began blogging, I fell for a couple of spam comments because I was simply so excited to be getting a comment on my posts.  However, after I started receiving real comments from real human beings, and interacting with those human beings in other ways, I began to think about spam comments and wonder–who are these people, what do they hope to achieve, and do they think I’m stupid?

This morning I discovered this comment in spam,

“I haven’t checked in here for a while because I thought it was getting boring, but the last several posts are great quality so I guess I will add you back to my everyday bloglist. You deserve it my friend :)

Now, this is one of those unusual comments which could trick you into believing that it is actually from a real person who  has something to say. It was on my most recent post. There are no links to unknown pages. And, although it doesn’t specifically address anything in my post, there’s nothing so random in it to suggest that it isn’t about that post. There is also a name attached to the comment (although only a first name). The sentence makes sense, and it even includes an emoticon.

However, I’m not STUPID. Let’s look at the above comment more closely, shall we? The language suggests an intimacy between me and the comment writer. “You deserve it my friend,” as if we have already had some kind of relationship building even if only through the blogosphere.

Now, it’s possible. I’ve made several friends through this blog. Some I’ve only interacted with through technology, some I have met in person. Some I talk to on Facebook on a regular basis. Some have faded away, but reappear at surprising times.

Meeting fellow bloggers Kathy McCullough and Tori Nelson. Picture borrowed from Kathy’s post about the experience. Click on the image to read that post.

Still, I will include them in my list of friends or at least acquaintances who I would like to get to know better.  I can say that the friendships I’ve formed through the blog have some similarities:

  • We may not agree on everything but we all respect each other’s opinions, ideas, and journey.
  • We show that respect by making thoughtful comments, giving constructive criticism, and occasionally sending virtual love and support to each other.
  • Most of them seem to say what they mean and mean what they say.
  • All of them recognize that sometimes people need space away from the blogosphere.
  • Each one of them is intelligent, creative, and challenges me to become a better writer, artist, and human being.

I could list them all here, but I think they know who they are.

These are people that I believe I would be friends with in person if we were near enough. I don’t always read their posts. They don’t always read mine. But, we read, respond, and react with thoughtfulness as true friends should.

A true friend of me and my blog would not include the not-so-subtle insult of the first part of this spam comment: “I haven’t checked in here for a while because I thought it was getting boring. . . ” Nor would they try to grace me with the honor of ” I guess I will add you back to my everyday bloglist.”

Do me a favor, don’t bother.

I’m the first to admit that my posts aren’t always scintillating prose full of wit and wisdom. I welcome constructive criticism of my work. But, I would never tell a friend, a fellow blogger, or anyone else that I was bored by their writing (unless I was giving constructive criticism to a student, and I would never use the word “bored”). Nor would I become friends with someone who leaves comments like this.

Seriously, what do spammers hope to achieve and why do they think we are so stupid?

Discussion, Debate and Blogging Etiquette

One of the most amazing things about joining the blogging world is the opportunity to learn from other people. I don’t always read something I agree with, and I’m sure that many people don’t always agree with me. But, by reading other people’s ideas and perspectives on life, I clarify my own stance and often even understand issues from a different perspective.

I love the exchange of ideas.

When I first started blogging, I didn’t make many comments. I was afraid that commenting on other people’s posts was somehow intruding and that nobody really cared what I had to say. But, eventually I came to realize that a post without comments might as well be a post into a private journal. If that is the case, and if you are not going to interact with fellow bloggers, then why blog in the first place?

There is a danger, however, in commenting and responding to comments. It lies in the fact that we are communicating only through technology. Without face to face contact (and sometimes even with it) meanings can be misunderstood and interpreted incorrectly. Perhaps someone makes a sarcastic comment in good fun, but if you are only friends via this virtual tool, sometimes that sarcasm can be misunderstood.

Yet, as I get to know my fellow bloggers, I feel like I’ve established a relationship based on trust and a mutual respect for each other. We may not agree on everything, and life would be boring if we did, but we respect each other’s right to their beliefs and their right to write about those beliefs.  If I completely disagree with a person, I either do not respond, or try to respond with a question to promote discussion.

While I doubt my stance on things like religion, politics, women’s rights, war, education, etc. will ever do a complete 180, I am always open to a new way of looking at things. I don’t believe that any issues is completely black or white, but that every issue and situation needs to be judged from a variety of perspectives.

In other words, there is no ONE truth, but multi-faceted truths that lie somewhere between two sides.

I now find myself unintentionally embroiled in a debate of two truths. I’m not going to go into specifics, although most of my readers will know what I am talking about. Basically, the problem comes down to two people who don’t agree and one person who won’t let go. It also boils down to the issue of blogging etiquette.

What is blogging etiquette?

This complicated world of blogging introduces so many challenges in communication, that once in a while it is good to stop and think about how we interact with others. Here are some of the questions that have popped into my head at one time or another, followed by my (uninformed) opinion on the answer. Feel free to add more ideas below:

  • When is it good to respond to a post? I think commenting on posts is valuable at all times, but only if you have actually read the post and have something to say. I admit to sometimes skimming people’s posts when I am in a hurry, so for those ones I either hit the like button, comment briefly, or don’t comment at all.
  • What kind of comments are acceptable on posts? Comments that respond to the actual post are acceptable. Perhaps you don’t have much to say about the content, but want the writer to know that you’ve read, understand, or support what he/she is saying. Then it might be okay to write a very short supportive comment. Otherwise, I think comments should be substantial (ie contributing to the conversation) without being long. If you find yourself writing a long comment on a topic, perhaps you should write a post about it instead.
  • When should comments be blocked or deleted from posts? This one can be tricky, because if you want honest discussion it is important to include all sides, even the things you disagree with. However, if the comment attacks the writer or the readers of the blog in a disrespectful way, it doesn’t need to be kept. If the comment has absolutely nothing to do with the post, why keep it?
  • When is it okay to not respond to a comment? I try my best to respond to comments on my posts, but sometimes it is impossible. As most of my readers know, I have been dealing with a lot in the past month, including moving, no internet and other craziness. So, while I wanted to respond to comments, I had to prioritize, which meant I let a lot of responses slide. I made sure to explain that in posts. I tried to respond to any new readers, because I believe you can only build a relationship through commenting and visiting each other’s blogs. Ultimately, though, I don’t think you have to reply if the comment is something simple like “That’s great!” or “Thanks.”  You should, however, respond when someone has taken the time to submit a well thought out part of the discussion.
  • When is it best to simply remain on the sidelines and observe the conversation? You know the mantra “If you have nothing nice to say . . . “? Well, that might be a good guideline. If you have an opposing perspective that you can phrase respectfully, go ahead and join that conversation. But if your response is going to be simply to rant and rage, without any openness to discussion, perhaps you should keep your opinion to yourself.
  •  When should you make contact with someone outside of the blog, either through e-mail or through actual in person meetings? I have had contact with several bloggers outside of the blog, through Facebook, one phone call, e-mail, and once in person. Sometimes I’ve initiated the contact, sometimes the other person did. When I’ve initiated contact, it was because I felt like I had something to share with that person that was best shared privately, rather than in the public forum that is a blog. I try not to be too aggressive about contacting bloggers in other ways, but I always feel honored when someone reaches out to me.
  • Should you include links to your blog or other sources when commenting? It’s possible to find many debates and discussions on this topic, as including links can seem like simply trying to promote your own blog. I have, however, included links when I have a post that furthers the discussion or adds a different perspective. I also, occasionally, will add a link to some web page that provides information to the writer. However, I have it set up that all comments with links must be approved. Why? Because I don’t want to be linking to sites that make me uncomfortable. I often allow those posts, but if the links seem to lead to disrespectful stuff, bye-bye comment. Comments with excessive links often get sent straight to spam, which means they sometimes disappear quickly.
  •  When is it acceptable to use all caps? This relates to the challenges of communicating electronically rather than face-to-face. Capital letters have come to stand for YELLING! Nobody likes be yelled at. In addition, capital letters are harder to read. So, I suggest using them sparingly, to emphasize or show excitement. I don’t like reading posts that have lots of caps, and I would guess many readers agree.

This is obviously not a comprehensive list, and it is only my opinion. I’d love to hear more of your suggestions or ideas (even if they disagree with mine) in the comments below.

Update About Related Posts: This post has sparked a lot of interesting discussion, both below in the comments and in other people’s posts. Please go check out the following for more interesting perspectives:

If you’ve come across any I have missed that should be added to the list, let me know.


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