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Shiny Happy Bloggers

I read this great post last week due to BlogHer that ties together a plethora of topics: Trey Pennington’s suicide, everyone has emotional pain at some point in their life, what we post and what we don’t post, and most importantly, this impulse we have to be a shiny, happy blogger.

I think we all implicitly understand that what we see on a blog isn’t the whole story.  We are seeing a sliver of someone’s life.  Sometimes, it is the most important sliver, the emotional cloud that is threatening to rain out all else or the amusing moment that defines the whole day.  Other times, we eschew the most important parts of our emotional landscape in order to present the picture we wish to present: look at me, I’m a shiny, happy blogger.

I have the perfect house, and we eat three balanced nutritional meals each day.  I have a dog who’s just a little rascal.  I have the perfect husband who stands still for all of my photographs.  Have you seen my fourteen children, all cherubic and unnaturally clean?  Have you seen how I change all the decorations in my house to match the time of year?  Have you seen how all my furniture matches and there is no clutter at all and my friends stop by my house each night for creative cocktails and tapas?  Do you see us laughing in all these pictures?  Well, do you?  DO YOU?

It’s obviously not just blogs.  Some people have a Facebook feed that reads like a storybook.  They’re just so grateful for their great friends and their great family and their great big Christmas tree and their great vacation and their great great greatness.  Nothing ever mars their feed.  The kids never act up, no fights with the husband, dog never dies.

There are times when we edit the story because it’s not our story to tell.  Airing your marriage gripes doesn’t just affect you — it affects your partner too.  Talking about your child’s foibles can hurt them down the road whereas talking about that cute thing they said probably won’t.   But other times, we edit either because it’s the image we want to present to the world or we edit because it’s the message we’ve gotten from society.

I recently posted something that bothered me and why it bothered me.  Scattered amongst the people saying, “that bothered me too” or “funny, that didn’t bother me at all when I saw the same thing” were the people who wrote, “I find it absolutely pointless of every single one of you to sit here and wallow in self pity. How juvenile.”

I’m not the only person who has gotten a crappy comment telling them that they need to stop whining.  The Lotus Pad’s post starts out with a similar situation — she wrote about a physical ailment, one that frankly sounds scary and upsetting, and someone told her that, “I sounded like a hypochondriac and why was I ‘complaining’ so much in public, going so far as saying ‘all I had were headaches anyway’.”  She writes about how being told to shut-up after writing about her situation upon leaving the hospital affected how she wrote about future issues as well.

No one wants to be the complainer.  We don’t want to be the complainer so much that we swallow expressing our feelings in order to save ourselves from being labeled the complainer.  I’ve seen people mourning the death of their child apologize to readers that they’re still writing about their loss.  Since when does moving through the mourning process warrant giving an apology?  I want to tell those people rip your clothes, tear out your hair, cry your eyes out, and do what you need to do to get through this even if it’s just writing an “I miss her” blog post every single day for a year.  For five years.  For twenty years.

Writing your way through your emotions is more important than pleasing a reader.  Because at the end of the day, you shouldn’t care what I think.  You shouldn’t be catering to me — you should be catering to you and what you need to say because YOUR blog is YOUR space.

I’m not entirely sure what the purpose is of the Internet Shut-up*.  I mean, it is so much easier to click away than to stay and leave a comment.  You have to wonder about the people who would rather use up five minutes of their time telling you that you’re a whiner than using five seconds of their time to stop reading and click away.

The Lotus Pad asks a question that has been asked around the blogosphere a lot in these last few weeks after Pennington’s death: “How could someone with 111,301 followers not find the words to ask for help?”  I think part of that contains an assumption that we’d want our help to come from the online world.  I think different people use their various social media accounts for various reasons, and perhaps for Pennington, that social media world was never going to be the world he turned to for help.  It also contains an assumption that he could ask for help, that it was within his control.  My understanding of depression is that there is a lack of control.  The same tasks a well person might do to get help is out of the capabilities of someone mentally ill.

And while we know intuitively that having no one to talk to and no one to listen is lonely, it is also possible to feel alienated surrounded by 111,301 followers.  Having your blog read or your Twitter feed followed doesn’t make you immune to the very same emotions felt by those who do not have their blog read or their Twitter feed followed.

That said, I think there is a third point buried in there, one that needs to be examined thoroughly: if humans are going around, giving people an Internet Shut-up, can they understand the role they play when people stop talking?  Can they  understand how enormous that is to take away the comfort one feels in expressing themselves?  That they’re asking people to rethink the worthiness of their feelings — telling them that some people’s feelings are more okay than other people’s feelings.

Have you received an Internet Shut-up?  How did it affect you sharing your thoughts in the future on another topic?  Did it spill over into how you comport yourself in the face-to-face world?

* I’m defining the Internet Shut-up as that comment that is solely written to point out that you have no right to feel whatever you are feeling.  The one that tells you to stop writing about whatever you are writing about; not because what you are saying is particularly offensive, but because the reader wants you to know that they are bored/think you should move on/you have nothing to complain about.


1 Becky { 10.05.11 at 8:28 am }

Baby E’s adoption nearly disrupted because his birthmom was considering changing her mind. You can bet I edited my words about all of that a lot – because we are protective of his birth family, and of what is HIS information to share when he chooses. However, I was expressing how I was feeling, my frustrations with birthmom and our agency and the way it was all being handled. I was shocked by a comment I received that told me to basically suck it up, I didn’t have the right to be upset about any of it. And, I think what made it worse, the commenter was a potential adoptive parent and hadn’t ever been in our shoes. The comment certainly made me reconsider what I was sharing at all. But, then I realized that it was just one comment from someone generally ignorant, and I decided to continue to be who I am. And to write what I need to write. Because, for me, blogging is a way of processing and if I try to edit that to account for all the possible negative comments, I’m pretty sure I’ll not be honest with myself at all. Does that make sense…?

2 knottedfingers { 10.05.11 at 8:32 am }

I’ve not received an internet shut up, yet. I say yet because I figure it’s probably inevitable with the fact that I blog about items I make to donate to bereaved parents.

You make a great point about it asking people to rethink the worthiness of their feelings. Also for years and years women weren’t able to talk about child loss and infertility and I hear so many people say ‘That’s horrible! They should be able to grieve’ and in most cases it is these people telling women they are ‘tired of hearing about it.’

I’m of the opinion of ‘If you feel it blog it.’ I know so many people who blog because they have no way to express this stuff in real life. No one to listen to them, of course they are going to come somewhere where they can talk about it.

Ok I’ve rambled long enough. You rock Mel for this post today

3 a { 10.05.11 at 8:50 am }

Note: I’m in a complainin’ mood today! People who encounter me should beware! Actually, I’ll probably just end up telling people that I’m in a complainin’ mood and I will swear a lot, but probably won’t complain much because, you know, nobody gives a shit.

I have never received the Internet Shut Up, but that exact thing is my husband’s biggest failing. He does it to me all the time and it makes me incredibly angry. I recognize that he and much of the rest of the world have it worse than I do (he can’t eat garlic. What kind of life is that?), but I still have the right to occasionally complain about my life. I see this behavior as coming from those who are pretty self-involved. (Obviously you need to shut up if you’re no longer amusing that person – after all, they’ve invested so much time in reading that thing that was so annoying.) Anyway, those are the sort of people who I think need to spend less time inspecting their feeeeeelings and more time inspecting their behavior/actions.

I think we all have the “Oh geez, will you please stop bitching about that? Either fix it or move on!” thoughts. But mostly, I try to keep it to myself because it’s the polite thing to do.

4 Gail { 10.05.11 at 9:17 am }

I have to admit that I have given someone else an internet shut-up. A college friend of mine recently was pregnant with her second child (she just had her baby a week ago) and, throughout her pregnancy, she would post random complaints on Facebook about how her clothes didn’t fit and she was hot and miserable this summer and other complaints related to her pregnancy. In fact, I never once saw her say that she was glad to be pregnant. So, one day, I posted the following: “There are lots of women (including myself) who would gladly cut off their left arms to be able to experience what you are going through. But, unfortunately, we aren’t able to do so because we are infertile. Just wanted you to keep things in perspective.”

Although she did acknowledge my comment and apologized, she didn’t stop with her complaining posts after that and I didn’t post another complaint about her complaints again. However, it felt good to make sure that my voice was heard and I hope that I planted the seed that she shouldn’t take her pregnancy for granted and should be thankful for it. And, I don’t feel one ounce of guilt for doing it.

5 Searching for Serenity { 10.05.11 at 10:01 am }

This post is very much intune with where I am right now. I’m tired of writing about my loss and I’m tired of recieving the “I’m sorry this happened to you” comments. It’s draining and doesn’t make me feel like I’m making any progress in my ‘recovery’. And while I’ve only recieved an Intertet Shut-up once (from a good friend IRL), I still hesitate when writing about how truely difficult this journey has been for me and the other struggles in my life aside from our infertility and loss. I want to verbally vomit it into my computer and get it all out but I don’t because I think not all details need to be shared and again back to simply being tired of the sadness. It’s a vicious cycle.

6 RenovationGirl { 10.05.11 at 10:56 am }

This is a great post, Mel! I think I’ve given myself the Internet Shut Up at times…editing what I really want to say or worse yet, not writing it at all. I don’t understand either why people can’t just click away. Play nice or don’t play at all.

7 Peg { 10.05.11 at 11:14 am }

Being new to blogging I haven’t had any negative comments myself, but I’ve read enough blogs to see how they affect many people.

I write my blog because I feel like it’s the one place I CAN vent about my difficult life. In my “real” life, I feel like my sympathy quota has expired. People just want me to get over it already. My blog can be pretty down, but that’s because it reflects my feelings that I can’t always share with those around me.

I do try to sprinkle in the positives in my posts. But mostly because it is a way for me to remember that there are great things going on in our family and my life. I do read a lot of the “happy” blogs with the perfect dinners, clutterless houses, and perfect, well-adjusted children. At times I’m jealous. Maybe I put in my little funny posts because I secretly want that kind of blog…that kind of life.

I also read many, more “honest” blogs who lay out for all to see the good, the bad the ugly. It’s those authors that I really connect with. I don’t feel so alone. Someone else feels sad, anxious, overwhelmed…

Thanks for another reminder that my blog is for ME. I write because it makes me feel better to get the thoughts out and occassionally get some positive or insightful feedback from those who actually read it.

8 Mali { 10.05.11 at 11:52 am }

On my No Kidding blog, I try to keep it real, to write about what hurts about my infertility and childlessness, but also to write about what is good about it. In some ways I feel an obligation to show both sides – because people going through the process of “coming to terms” won’t believe you if you only say everything is sweetness and light. I mean, life isn’t perfect, is it? Still, I do self-censor. I don’t blog to help work through things – not really, I’ve got through the really tough stuff on another forum. But I admire those who do. And very fortunately, so far I’ve not been given an Internet Shut-Up. Not really – though disagreement and debate is always welcomed.

9 geochick { 10.05.11 at 12:24 pm }

I recently received an internet shut-up from a supposedly good friend. I posted my mythbusting “once you adopt you’ll get pregnant” blog post on my FB. I was told I had too much negative energy and how dare I be upset with friends for wishing this supposedly “good” thing for me.

10 wottadoll { 10.05.11 at 12:40 pm }

Thank you so much for writing this! I recently had to beg a fellow blogger to stop reading my blog because she posted several Internet Shut Up comments, always with the same theme – that now that I’m pregnant I have no right to ever complain about anything ever again. After an admittedly brief struggle with fertility issues and an early loss, upon finally getting pregnant I noticed I lost several followers and all of my supportive comments completely dried up. This one woman took it upon herself every time I wrote a complaining post about how sick I felt to remind me how much worse her infertility struggle was than mine and how I should just shut up and be grateful. After this happened several times I finally wrote to her to tell her to stop reading my blog and any subsequent judgmental posts from her would be deleted. This experience has definitely made me feel judged and not listened to, and made me wonder what is the point of blogging since I started it to find a supportive community, and instead discovered that that community only existed when I couldn’t get pregnant or had a miscarriage – it completely evaporated when I at last got a healthy pregnancy going. Still, I refuse to play into these women’s fantasy that every second of pregnancy, or life in general, has to be all happiness and light. That’s boring as hell, for one thing, and not truthful. I also think it’s dangerous for women struggling with infertility to assume the minute they get pregnant that all their problems will be solved and they’ll never have a moment of depression/sadness/loss/disappointment/fear ever again. So I’m going to continue to tell it like it is, regardless of whether or not anyone ever comments again, or even reads – my only hits for weeks have been eastern European websites looking to re-use images I’ve used in my posts. Good times.

11 Rachel { 10.05.11 at 1:39 pm }

I haven’t received an Internet Shut-up, but I think it is because I haven’t been blogging that long, and also because I still (unconsciously) edit myself. I don’t want to complain as much as my first instinct pushes me to. But the shut-ups I’ve witnessed have made me want to get one, so that I can ask the “trolls” what their inspiration is. Why would someone who isn’t infertile read a blog like this and complain about our feelings regarding our life? So bizarre. The trolls, combined with annoying people on FB, have taught me to no longer use the following words: “At least you…” because anything that follows usually are ridiculous. At least you know you can get pregnant, at least you have a job, at least you didn’t blah blah blah. It says to whoever wrote the original words “I don’t hear you, here is my pain which is WAY WORSE”.

12 Chickenpig { 10.05.11 at 3:00 pm }

I agree with Wottadoll. I really can’t stand the idea that pregnant women/parents don’t have a right to their own bad days or times where they want to complain. Why is it assumed because you aren’t happy puking 7 times a day that you are taking your pregnancy ‘for granted’? …whatever that means. Or that when you are toilet training your twins and are literally drowning in poop and urine that it isn’t ok to say so? When have you passed the Pain Olympics test to the point where it is acceptable to post about your pregnancy? When you’ve tried for 2 years? 3? Have had a miscarriage? What is the point of trying so hard to get pregnant, if you can neither be happy, nor complain, about it. Where does it leave the majority of us who end up parenting after infertility?

I had the temerity to post that parenting on it’s worse day can be as bad as infertility, and I got a shut up for it. All I can say is that I went through hell and back to have my kids, and I have been in hell after having them, so I should know. And I’m allowed to blog about that pain, because it is real, and it’s mine. Nobody wins when we play the Pain Olympics. Nobody.

13 Kimberly { 10.05.11 at 4:29 pm }

I have received that Internet Shut Up. It hurt because I thought I could trust these people and they more or less told me to suck it up and move on. After that, I started censoring myself and my posting dropped off til it got to the point that I went from enjoying posting my thoughts in my blog to working up the energy and willpower to just post to say hey I’m still here, I’m still alive.

I finally had a day of awakening and realized why I stopped posting and why I always felt so shitty. I was holding it all in, not trusting putting it out there in fear of what others would think. So I walked away from that blog and I created a blog for me. I wanted to test my theory and went with it. I wrote for me, and only me and didn’t tell anyone that I was blogging again. I vented and whined and it made me feel better. Once I had gained back my confidence with posting, I told people that I started writing and that it was about me. I told them what they could do, they could read or they could leave. I refused to be put in a spot where I feel that I can’t write. I told them why I stopped writing and why I moved onto a new blog. Not everyone came with me, but those that cared did. So far, this has worked for me.

Because of this, it has made me more aware of what is going on around me. I try not to do that to others and when the feeling sometimes hits to post it, I fall back on what I was taught “if you can’t say anything nice to someone, don’t say anything at all”. I leave my feedback when I feel that I can contribute to a conversation, not to just be heard. And once I came to this understanding, I stopped looking for readers, I stopped wondering why people didn’t comment. I’ve changed and now I don’t look for validation from my words, but rather a safe place to place my words, for me and me alone. And if others can take something positive from my words, then that is a special treat for me.

14 HereWeGoAJen { 10.05.11 at 4:53 pm }

No, I don’t think I have. Not that kind anyway. No, wait, I have gotten one comment, but it was directed at me and at my commentors and was someone who didn’t read my whole post. So I didn’t count that one. But that person often makes her comments about herself (when they aren’t relevant and she really ought to get her own blog and stop using my comment section to vent about unrelated topics), so I’ve kind of tuned her out. I do think I am careful about what I say on my blog to avoid the internet shut up though.

15 jjiraffe { 10.05.11 at 5:23 pm }

Huh. I totally know of the “happy” blogs of which you speak. There are a few of them that I like a lot, because in between the perfect fourth of July picnic, complete with table linens from Anthropologie are comments about how lucky the writer is, how hard some things are but how lovely this one day was. I guess I enjoy most blogs about hard-won happiness.

I have never received an Internet Shut Up, which is a testament to the incredible ALI community, I think.

16 Lori Lavender Luz { 10.05.11 at 5:28 pm }

Like JJiraffe, I think that mostly, the tone of the ALI community makes the Intenet ShutUp a very rare bird, indeed.

I can’t recall having gotten one. But then again, my 14 children are all cherubic and unnaturally clean.

17 Mo { 10.05.11 at 6:21 pm }

When I first started to blog, I didn’t know about the existence of the ALI community. I didn’t know I’d end up with so many readers. I started it as a place to work through my feelings. It will forever be for that purpose first and foremost, and I don’t think getting a “shut up” would deter me from that. My blog literally saved my life. I don’t know what I would do without that outlet.

18 kh99 { 10.05.11 at 6:50 pm }

I haven’t received an Internet Shut-Up yet, but I definitely find myself self-censoring what I post. I liked your post so much that I blogged about it and my fear of the Internet Shut-Up today. Great post, Mel!

19 Tanya { 10.05.11 at 7:52 pm }

I loved the first part of your post about being shiny, happy, bloggers. I have to admit my blog is a bit shiny, happy as I try to work through various ways of making myself feel better about IF and I blog about it. But when I feel like shit, I say I feel like shit.
But the shiny, happy bloggers and people in general – well after long time wanting to be one of these people I have found that I can’t crack their shiny, happy shells and I never feel like I am good enough because I have shit that happens! Thank you so much for saying that you have noticed these people too and that there is something bizarrely unreal about them!

20 Baby Smiling In Back Seat { 10.05.11 at 10:54 pm }

When I blog under my real name, it is very shinyhappy.
My ALI blog is decidedly real.

I’ve gotten one Internet Shut Up but I halfway deserved it. Could have been said more diplomatically, though. Maybe then I wouldn’t have thought about it every few days for almost the past year.

21 Trish { 10.06.11 at 12:23 am }

Oh, I’ve gotten the Internet Shut Up a few times in my blogging years. And it ALWAYS stings. I am actually more likely to write out the bad stuff because I have to get it out. When things are good, I tend to be out enjoying them.. or at least don’t want to be “bragging” or rubbing it in anyone’s face. Writing has always been catharsis for me.
It’s funny to me how much the words hurt. I mean, I get 99% positive feedback, but that 1% negative can just slug me in the gut. Usually I can rationalize my way through it- people don’t have to like me, and sometimes I AM being a whiner- but man, people can be cruel.
From being called a rotten mom to a rotten Christian, people complaining about my negativity can SURE be negative themselves.

As for how it affected me- sure. I did stop and look at my own posts and try to view them from outside myself. And I did stop and try to make sure I WAS seeing the positives. But in the end, I write what I need to write and know that if people don’t like it, they can, indeed click way. I don’t think that I write in a vacuum and I do measure my words to try not to be offensive or hurtful, but in the end, feelings aren’t wrong. If I’m sad, scared, depressed or whatever, that’s just what it is, and probably what I’m going to write about.

I think it affects my IRL conversations less because it needs to less. The thing about writing a blog, or on a message board or anywhere public is that it IS public. Your audience is whoever wants to be your audience (whether they’re looking to connect to you, or just to have something to bitch about). In person, you know who you’re talking to. I wouldn’t complain about my swollen feet to an infertile, I don’t complain about my husband to a widow- I can choose my audience and my words with perspective, so hopefully I’ll step on fewer toes there.

22 Battynurse { 10.06.11 at 3:58 am }

Well said. I know that a comment I received changed how I blog to some extent. I have a really hard time posting pictures of myself on my blog.

23 mash { 10.06.11 at 9:15 am }

Interesting! I wrote a letter to a news website and it was published, about how we got royally screwed over by a bank who wound up my dad’s estate. I wanted to protect other innocent widows. Probably half of the more than 100 comments were negative, and I honestly believe there is a section of the population who does it to get attention and reaction. People accused me of calculating incorrectly etc, and revelled in the responses they got. So I laughed it off. And we got half the executor’s fees back.

I’m careful to some extent. I do honestly believe that the words I speak all day have an impact on my reality, what you focus on, you get more of. But then I did lay it all bare for my blog readers when my husband walked out. I sometimes wonder if that was a good thing? I mean now it’s there in black and white, the whole story of when our marriage fell apart at the seams, and isn’t making those posts private now a little bit of pretending it didn’t happen? Blogging is a strange world in so many ways… what do you write, what do you hide? Is a verbal vomit really that consoling? I’m not clear on it myself yet!

24 Sarah { 10.07.11 at 9:49 am }

I got a comment once from a single woman telling me that basically, “life isn’t fair and you should be f*#ing thankful you have husband, but instead you’re probably whining his ear off 24/7 so that he has to be on pins and needles. You obviously don’t appreciate him.”
I was having a bad day about pregnancy announcements on FB and this woman just went off on me and all IF bloggers for being ungrateful for our spouses. Wow. Luckily, my bloggy peeps rallied around me, but I realized she hadn’t actually been reading my blog or she’d know how important my husband was to me, that I for damn sure appreciated him every. single. day. I brushed it off, but I still felt like I had to defend myself, which I shouldn’t have to do on my own blog.

25 Bea { 10.15.11 at 9:46 pm }

Good point well made. Definitely rare around my parts, thank goodness. Happens in real life too, of course, but the Internet does cut away some of the normal feedback mechanisms which gives things a funny edge sometimes.


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