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Part of the Whole

Part 1 of 2 because this post got too damn long…

Enough about my breasts; or, at least, let’s move them to a tangential subject as you tell me what you would have done with this blogging conundrum.

There have been times when I’ve had a particularly shitty experience with a business and I think to myself, “oooh, I could write a blog post about this and really crap on your store.”  And then my inner conscience says to me: “Smelly Melly (my conscience does a bit of name-calling from time to time), that’s not what blogs are for.”

And it stops me from writing those posts.

Just as doctors take a Hippocratic Oath to first do no harm, I believe writers should make a similar promise.  Words are powerful; words provoke people to action.  Therefore, I caution all people to think before you write — not just in the sense of venting your spleen, but also in the area of presenting information.

People understand when they are reading a blog post that it isn’t a medically-vetted source of information, but that doesn’t give us a right to be sloppy.  What we write or say really does matter.  And yes, for those of you sucking in your breath right now and about to hit the comment key, I do stand behind everything I said — all the time, but yes, even in the last three posts on my boobs.

Which is why I take offense when someone tells me in a comment that I have a larger responsibility than others.  We ALL have a responsibility to think before we speak and to make sure that our blogs reflect our ideas and beliefs (personal sites should reflect the owner’s ideas and beliefs).   To think about what we’re putting out there.  No one has a larger responsibility than another person.  We are all writers, and any writer on the Web — unless they have a private blog — has a reach.  Their words and mine — thanks to search engines, linking, and general blog reading — extend well beyond the person.  And that is a responsibility everyone needs to shoulder; I am not unique and everyone holds just as much responsibility as I do.

An overwhelming majority of the comments I received were supportive or, if disagreeing, did so respectfully.  One or two comments were crappy, but at least stuck with the content of the posts, so I left them up.  I can handle being told that I’ve abused my own space or that I’m over-sensitive and paranoid.

But I also received a comment on one of the breast posts that respectfully disagreed with me — but their argument contained an inflammatory statement that was not factually true.

I spent about an hour wondering what to do with this comment.  There are some bloggers who leave up every crappy comment they get.  I’m not one of them.  I’ve only removed two comments that I can remember in the last four years, but my feeling is that my blog is my home, and if someone walked into my living room and took a dump on the carpet, I would clean it up and remove it, rather than leaving it there.  I consider inflammatory comments (and they do have to be extremely inflammatory) to be the equivalent of a turd on my floor.  So I remove them and encourage the author to post their feelings they have about me or others on THEIR blog.  See, they can keep their crap in their own house.

But what to do with a comment that was written kindly-enough, but was factually wrong and inflammatory at that?  I knew that if certain people read it, they would be devastated, and I knew that it wasn’t true, so they would be devastated for no reason.  But this person had very politely written their disagreement with my post — following what I requested of readers.  Removing it felt wrong too.

In the end, I “unapproved” the comment so it went into a queue and wrote the blogger, asking her to provide a link to an accredited journal or major medical site proving her point.  If she could provide a link that showed the causation she claimed, I would not only eat my keyboard, but I would post her comment.

Because when it comes down to it, I feel a responsibility to monitor the comment section on my blog; even though that space belongs to you.  I once had someone post a comment on my blog about how thrilled they were about someone else’s loss in the blogosphere.  It was a clear-cut, immediate decision — I deleted it because it was hurtful and could cause emotional damage to the person as well as others (this was one of the two comments I’ve ever removed from my blog).  I try not to trod into the world of censorship, but there is a fine line when we’re talking about a space attached to my name.  You may say it, but it becomes just as much about me for leaving it up.

I guess I am not really a true believer in free speech.  I’m a believer in responsible speech.  Anyone can have any opinion, but that doesn’t mean that anyone can make up any fact to support said opinion — they’ve got to pull it from reality.  I don’t think we should be able to call free speech in order to write in someone else’s comment section crappy advice or pass along hurtful statements or manipulate others via twisting facts (I have fewer feelings about writing the same things on your own blog).  We have laws against libel and slander, but regurgitating wrong information/facts that you believe are right falls into a grey area.

And that’s the greyness I was faced with.

What would you have done with that comment?  Delete it?  Edit it without permission?  Unapprove it and ask for a link?  Leave it up without doing anything?

And as a side note, for what it’s worth, I struggled with whether to post this, and it wasn’t my intention to make this commenter feel badly.  I have utmost respect for her and I believe that she was told this idea as a fact and she repeated it without having the same experience I have in reading the actual studies (and not someone else’s summary).  I did everything I could in this post to conceal the person’s identity or even the fact in question, and I apologize if this person reads this post, recognizes herself, and feels chastised.  I truly wanted to hear how other people approach their comment box on their blog.


1 MommyinWaiting { 09.28.10 at 7:36 am }

Hmmm very interesting conundrum! Funny enough I have had some of these thoughts floating around in my head. On my blog I have bad-mouthed both my GP (not by name) and my first FS (also not by name, but if you know what clinic I go to not hard to tell. I have really ponderde whether this was fair to do… still haven’t decided and so far have left the posts there. As you say it is my space to express myself. However DH and I were recently interviewed for a programme on male factor infertility and now I wonder at having a wider audience read my blog and worse if the said FS were to read what I said it would be hurtful. Okay, I guess you just helped me make up my mind, I’ll be editing those posts.

As for your comment you received. I would have let it go up, but added a comment response to the comment stating that I believe this to be factually untrue and asking the poster to provide evidence elsewhere. That way you are letting them have their say, but also ensuring that you clear your house as much as possible.

Nice approach you settled on BTW I think it works well.

2 mash { 09.28.10 at 8:27 am }

What I love, is how us South Africans always get to comment first due to the time difference 😉 Hi MIW!

I’ve deleted 2 comments on my blog. They weren’t even that bad, just not nice. And it didn’t feel good to have them there, so they went. My vote is to go with your gut feel. If you don’t want the comment, delete it. This isn’t a newspaper, it’s your space, and you make up the rules.

3 cgd { 09.28.10 at 8:30 am }

Great post, thanks for sharing your ideas.
I have received some very hurtful comments on my blog. They feel like they are only there to hurt not really to offer suggestions or real feedback (like telling me that my feelings of jealousy mean that I do not deserve to be a mother). Those get deleted. I have wanted to keep them up, in the spirit of not editing things, but I think you are right about cleaning up your own house. It is just too hurtful not to do it.

4 Katie { 09.28.10 at 8:53 am }

Those are great questions. I’ve deleted a couple of hurtful comments in the past. I’ve faced issues like this before, and my response was to let the comments be. Ultimately, other posters and I responded to those comments, but I like what you said about responsible speech.

I guess for me it depends: if I’m inviting people to answer a question with an opinion, I expect them to answer honestly (but, at the same time, not pass what they are writing off as fact; if they want to support their opinion with fact, that’s fine). And I try my hardest to emphasize when something I write is an opinion. But if someone were to comment on something with a “fact” and not back up their source, I think I’d be perfectly comfortable asking that person to provide where they got their information.

I’m rambling now and probably making zero sense, so I’ll stop. This is truly a sticky situation. I think you handled it appropriately. 🙂

5 SooSee { 09.28.10 at 8:54 am }

I completely understand and agree w/ the super bad comments being like crap on your floor at your house – even though it might just be a pee puddle or stepped on Kix to someone else. But, if it’s just not w/ what you’re ok w/, even though the comments are for “us” the readers, what you did and asked for is legit in my book.

I’ve deleted the annoying spam and 2 comments that were directed at me regarding my SCH bleeding I had early in my pg – obviously not of positive vibes if they were deleted. Sadly enough all I could do was delete b/c the commentor used a fake link (you don’t even want to know where it led!) for their profile.

Sorry you feel bad about doing this.. like me, you don’t want to be, smelly melly. Hope it evens out.. xo

6 Justine { 09.28.10 at 8:55 am }

I got one the other day that wasn’t exactly hurtful, but definitely snide, and a little uninformed … it felt wrong to delete, but I was tempted! In your case, I think you did the right thing: getting the person to back up their information with some facts.

7 Cece { 09.28.10 at 8:59 am }

I deleted one comment on my blog. Right after I lost Nora, someone left a SCATHING comment on how I was blogging after her death and what a horrible mother I was for not basically crawling into a hole and dying along with her. Let’s just say – I was definitly putting on a bit of a front on my blog to begin with but I also needed to be strong. I had her twin sister to care for. And a one year old little boy who had no comprehension of what the heck was going on. I was pissed and saddened at the same time. I didn’t even think about it. Like you said – she shit in my living room.

I’ve also posted about my version of sleep training, and got a few negative comments there, and I left them up – because I do know that some won’t agree with what I do. But I do what works for my family. People can disagree with me so long as it isn’t hurtful.

8 Geochick { 09.28.10 at 9:27 am }

I think you handle yourself awesomely when people disagree with you. It’s why you have such a great blog! I’m much more confrontational and have difficulty seeing the other side so I control my blog as tightly as I can without going private. However, I did get a couple of a-hole commenters on one post and I did something rather snarky. Approved the comments, let my loyal readers take umbrage with the jerks and then deleted them a week later. I also called out one of the commenters on a post because they left 2 crappy comments and had made a fake profile. Coward. Haven’t had anything since then but I imagine a group of cackling anti-adoption idiots ripping my posts to shreds in some forum on the interwebs. I don’t like that feeling.

9 Geochick { 09.28.10 at 9:30 am }

Oh, and in your case because you obviously respect the commenter who got the facts wrong, maybe you could have responded to the comment? Then you run the risk of starting a debate in your comments section I suppose but it could be a way to address the incorrect “fact”.

10 a { 09.28.10 at 9:41 am }

I don’t generate any controversy. I sometimes express an opinion on topics, but I try to keep it light. All I’ve ever had to delete has been spam.

I think you chose the most thoughtful way to handle this particular comment. I would probably not have been so kind – I would have gone with allowing the comment to go up and then providing the contrary information with sources to back it up.

11 Jendeis { 09.28.10 at 10:40 am }

I think your choice to unapprove and ask for a link was a good compromise, and one that was respectful to both the commenter and yourself.

12 reba { 09.28.10 at 10:48 am }

i haven’t really thought about this since i don’t moderate my comments, and i’m not sure if i even could delete one if i wanted to. i guess if it was a rude enough comment, i would do some poking around to figure out how to delete it. for the most part, both my blogs go pretty un-commented on, for better or worse.

13 Kristin { 09.28.10 at 12:20 pm }

I think the way you handled that comment was PERFECT and I love the idea of responsible speech vs. free speech.

14 Deathstar { 09.28.10 at 12:30 pm }

I only had someone who disagreed with my version of things because she was a member of said group that I had a problem with. I let her comment sit because I think it revealed more about her than it did about me. Also, the longer it takes someone to justify their comment, the more I realize they’re not really interested in my experience.

15 Dora { 09.28.10 at 12:30 pm }

I think the way you handled it was perfectly fine. Although, I think MommyinWaiting’s idea is a good one, too. On the other other hand, I could see where someone could feel very hurt by the original comment and not bother to read on to your response. And you did give the commenter a fair chance to back up the comment.

I’ve only deleted one comment. I posted something vulnerable, and someone kind of slapped me down. My space. Don’t come by with your claws out.

16 Nelly { 09.28.10 at 12:40 pm }

You’re nice than I would’ve been….way to go smelly melly!!

I agree that I have responsibility for what I put on my blog but it’s just that. It’s mine. If someone does like it – don’t read it. There’s no reason for nastiness in comments. Yes, tell me your opinion but personal insults like some of the other commenters in this post have shared after miscarriages and IF? Not okay. Those things alone plus the real world dumb comments are hard enough to deal with. For me, my blog is my escape and outlet.

So to sum up my rambling? Screw em’. Don’t give it anymore free rent in your head.

17 Shelli { 09.28.10 at 12:52 pm }

You did the right thing. Me? I would have just deleted it. I am also from the camp of responsible speech, but I am also from the camp of laziness in that regard. Ignorance and stupidity (along with hurtful) in the same comment will get you a roll of my eyes and a quick tap of the “delete” button. No questions.

Can I tell you how much I love that you pined over this one comment? It shows how caring you are. I’m sure we would be best friends in real life.

18 Tara { 09.28.10 at 1:05 pm }

It seems to me that you’ve handled the situation very respectfully thus far…asking the poster to provide a link to factual evidence is fair. If factual evidence cannot be provided to support their comment at the very least that portion of the comment should be deleted.

19 PaleMother { 09.28.10 at 1:08 pm }

I think your response to this comment was just right (bravo). It’s your space … comments here piggy back on the strength (wide exposure) of what you’ve built here. If you believe information to be erroneous and potentially harmful to people who read here, unapproving it feels right. It was fair for you to offer the commenter a chance to back up the info. How can one complain about not being allowed to portray fiction as fact? That’s anarchy, baby. The Big Brother kind, not the creative revolution kind.

Unfortunately too much of what flies around on these hot button subjects is not subjected to the any limitations and standards of proof. That’s part of how they get to be so hot in the first place. Ignorance is viral.

PS I really like what Deathstar said about realizing some people are not interested in ~her~ experience … that seems to sum these types of issues up in a nut shell. Not enough interest in diverse experiences. In regard to breastfeeding and delivery and child rearing controversies, that’s always my first thought when someone is negative and judging: They don’t know what they don’t know, they don’t understand what they don’t understand.

20 Shana { 09.28.10 at 1:27 pm }

Hmm. I’m afraid I can’t speak from experience here, my blog is only read by about 5 people, all family and irl friends. On the factual correctness, I might have left it up and then responded to it, correcting the falsehoods with references – giving the benefit of the doubt that she was genuinely misinformed and hoping that she would return and be better educated. The inflammatory part does bother me though. I’m not sure what I would do with that. I may leave it up or delete it depending on the context, like what Cece (comment 7) described. I think what you decided is perfectly acceptable, and the fact that you thought about it so much and wrote about it shows great sensitivity and thoughtfulness.

21 Lori Lavender Luz { 09.28.10 at 1:45 pm }

I think you took the best option of all the ones I can think of. In fact, I was thinking in black/white: either publish or delete. I like your middle way of asking for documentation.

I just got a comment yesterday on an Examiner post that accuses me of being homeschooled (and insults anyone who was homeschooled or chooses homeschooling). Your points here make me glad I left it up. And wondering why I would even consider taking it down.

I love how you talk to yourself, Smelly Melly.

22 Kate (Bee In The Bonnet) { 09.28.10 at 1:48 pm }

The only comments I’ve ever deleted were spam comments, but then again, I’ve not yet had any super-nasty comments posted on my blog (I’ve had rude stuff thrown at me on another person’s blog, but that is their house, and I guess the guests there don’t mind wading through the judgmental crap piles she leaves everywhere…). I would gladly delete any truly nasty comments, but as for something that was polite but factually incorrect, I think I would post the comment, but reply directly beneath it with my own links to more accurate information.

But I think that’s kinda the problem with the internet world. If I wanted to find information to support a totally wacky position, I bet I could find “research” that did so somewhere online. I mean, we trust our news sources to be based in fact, but I just read something on Yahoo’s news feed recently (that appeared to be amply and accurately cited) that claimed some pretty outrageous things about formula. I read it with a giant grain of salt, but I left it thinking that even if a kernel of what the article claimed was true (as per the sources it referenced), then I felt like a giant idiot for giving my babies even a single drop of the “poisonous” formula…

So, it’s hard. I think you did the right thing, given that it’s your space, but I think it could also have been reasonable to create your own comment-reply with links to the info you find to support your point of view.

23 HereWeGoAJen { 09.28.10 at 2:51 pm }

I think you did exactly the right thing.

24 Ann Z { 09.28.10 at 3:00 pm }

I agree with you on the issue of responsibility, especially in relaying information for others to base decisions on – and in my mind, that includes comments. I’ve been lucky that most of the comments I’ve deleted have been spam.

I did have some thing very similar happen on one of my blogs recently, though. I had invited someone else to post her story, and a commenter wrote a relevant, respectful comment that included mentioning that her doctor basically thought the treatment being discussed was actively harmful. It was the first I or the guest author had heard that, and upset my guest author a whole lot, since she was feeling like someone was suggesting she was actively harming her daughter. In the end, the author and I did some research on the topic to make sure there hadn’t been any studies with those findings, and the guest author asked a doctor she knew to come and post a comment in reply – trying not to attack the commenter, but to question her doctor.

25 Kristen { 09.28.10 at 4:20 pm }

I personally don’t publish any comments that I find offensive, hurtful or otherwise inappropriate. I view my blog as my space to share my experiences, express my opinions and build a supportive network of friends. Any comment that doesn’t contribute to that atmosphere doesn’t get published. If someone feels strongly enough about something I’ve written, they have the right to write a scathing rebuttal or rude response on their own blog, but it’s not going to be ruining the space I’m creating for myself.

Bottom line, your blog, your rules. You don’t have an obligation to allow people to say anything they want in your comment section.

Even though my opinion in how you handle your blog doesn’t matter b/c its yours, not mine, I love the way you handled this. Following up with the commenter and asking her to support her statement w/facts is a reasonable way to prevent potentially hurtufl and misleading opinions to be passed off as truth on your site.

26 Betty M { 09.28.10 at 5:24 pm }

I’ve not had to delete any material from my blog comments but expect that I would delete abusive comments if I had them. As to what you did with your comment I think I would have either responded in the comment thread with my understanding of the facts or taken the discussion offline temporarily to see whether you and the commenter could find a form of words both were happy with. The problem I see with these hot button issues is that if blog owners deleted all comments which misrepresented the “facts” then there often wouldn’t be many comments left. Google and PubMed combined can easily give people the wrong impression of the preponderance of the science. There are also situations where there really can be two equally valid opposing views of the facts because it just hasn’t been decided one way or another. I think that it would be useful if people actually referenced studies they rely on for their statements but then this is probably a bit much in a nonscientific blog.

27 Kate { 09.28.10 at 8:15 pm }

Since there are so many people reading your blog, you did the responsible thing.

28 TasIVFer { 09.28.10 at 10:32 pm }

I believe in free speech too, but I also think we should treat others as we would like to be treated. When someone’s comment is just plain hurtful or factually wrong (and in this community something factually wrong can cause pain and suffering) why not delete it. This is your blog and although the comment section is ‘our’ space on it, I’m glad you aren’t making me read hurtul or wrong things. This is a community and there should be discussion and, yes, discenting opinions – but not things that are just wrong.

Free speech is a *responsiblity*. People don’t like to talk about responsibility these days, but it’s just as important as our rights.

29 Bea { 09.29.10 at 4:19 am }

Good decision. I would have been tempted to write a counter-comment asserting – with backup sources – that the first commenter was wrong about certain facts, but now I’ve heard your solution I tend to like it better. (Time constraints, for one… but also because people might read something needlessly damaging but not the rebuttal.) So good solution. And fair, too, because if it did turn out to be true, you could still publish the comment, given that it was worded politely, or (if necessary/appropriate) ask for other facts (giving a fuller picture) to be included.


30 Shannon { 09.29.10 at 12:10 pm }

I’d delete. It’s one thing to disagree (even politely). It’s another to be inflammatory about it. At the end of the day, the sites are our places that we own and look after and love. My problem is that I take things very personally (which I need to stop doing), and the comments dig deeper than they should.

31 Angie { 09.29.10 at 12:27 pm }

I would have left the comment and immediately followed it with the statement of why it is factually false, mainly, because the internet breeds lots of “truth,” especially about this very hot button topic, and if one person is bold enough to spread untruths in your comments, I’m sure there are twenty other people holding the same opinion and not interested in crapping in your living room. I guess I would want to clear the myth up, if you know what I mean, but it sounds like you handled the situation with aplomb and grace. xo

32 m. { 09.29.10 at 1:50 pm }

I think the only glitch in handling it the way you did was now I really, REALLY want to go back and find the comment that was referenced. That’s my nature, I guess. Plus, it’s hard for me to make a call on a comment I never saw. I would propose something similar to Angie.

But, just as everyone else has noted, it’s your space, your call. Period.

I can’t recall deleting non-spam comments, but I have extensively edited some of my own words upon further reading and further thought, esp those that seemed as if they had the potential of causing hurt to ones I love. Sometimes I can’t help being a jerk, but that doesn’t mean I have to sit in my own poo. I can clean it up too.

33 Kir { 09.29.10 at 3:53 pm }

as always, I think that you did the right thing, the thing I would have done…by going to the source of the comment and asking them to “prove it” …I don’t get a lot of comments on my blog and I rarely write about things that get people talking, but I’d like to think that if I did, I’d have the approach you did and keep my blog “comfortable” for me.

34 tash { 09.29.10 at 8:25 pm }

God Mel, I’m so sorry I missed this whole shitstorm. I guess I’m rather tolerant of shit on my carpet, what with 2 dogs and 2 cats and all, and I leave ’em up and reply. I have given warning if they keep it up, I’m using the delete. BUT. I will absolutely not tolerate someone coming into my home and shitting on my guest’s shoes, which is what I gather happened here. Those comments get the boot. Although I like Angie’s thought of making sure truthiness is out — I guess it depends on the comment.

I’ve loved this series of posts, and this is coming from a currently lactating individual. I’m especially tired of women making other women feel like crap when it comes to things surrounding childbirth/infants like epidurals, c-sections, feeding, sleeping arrangements, etc. Makes me sad.

35 Rebecca { 09.30.10 at 3:33 am }

I feel a little “left out” of the sh*tstorm of negative comments; I just don’t 1: have that many readers, and 2: guess I don’t blog about anything controversial or inflammatory.
However, I believe what you did with the comment was perfect. It’s one of those “you don’t know til you’re in the situation what you will do” kind of deals. I think I’ve only deleted one comment in the five years I’ve been blogging, and that was because it was blatantly attacking of me. I think what make you comfortable in your space is the right thing to do.

36 aisha { 09.30.10 at 8:51 pm }

I lost my bestfriend of 13 years, my roomate, the “lady in waiting” to me at my wedding (my culture doesn’t do bridesmaids) over the comment box of my blog. True story. She got very upset that I didn’t appreciate her inflammatory comments and said that blogs are free space, if you have it public, expect public comments of any sort. I retorted that though public, it was under my control to hit delete to what I did not like, and I was doing so. Its sad that a friendship of so long ended over a blog and the comment box- but I don’t regret it because truly, on a blog what you say is held to you, and what you don’t remove is also to some extent held to you too.

37 Battynurse { 10.17.10 at 3:28 pm }

Ok so I’m reading backwards and around about so I’m not caught up on all the back ground of this post. For myself the comments I tend to delete and not publish at all are the ones that directly attack me in some way. Thankfully I’ve only had a couple of them. The funny thing is that with one even though I didn’t publish it, I kept it in my inbox for several months and read over it several times. Partly because I could see where what I had said on another blog had come across sounding like a different type of person than I truly am. I felt badly that I had offended this person because the way she understood my comment wasn’t how it was meant.
Outside of direct attacks though I tend to post most everything whether I agree or not.
I’ve also seen though another blogger I sort of follow who is part of the weight loss community. He has very strong opinions and will totally blast anyone on his blog. While I can understand his perspective I also feel that sometimes his methods are a bit harsh. However I also see many other things that I like in his blog and he is a big inspiration to me in some ways. I just skip over the stuff I don’t like.

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