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Unrequited Blog Love

The responding to comments discussion was so interesting this week — what various people expect, how often people return to a comment thread, how returning comments affects creating content or reading other blogs.  One thing I didn’t say, which bounces off of a question Jjiraffe posed on Prompt-ly about unrequited blog love: Are there any blogs you have unrequited love for? Does it matter that we don’t get “love” ie: comments from these crushes? Or should we just be thankful they are there and enjoy the good writing?

I technically have a lot of unrequited blog loves, but I don’t think of them in those terms.

Here’s my thought: I watch movies all the time, and those actors never turn around and watch my YouTube videos.  I read books every single day, and some of those authors know that I’m reading their book because they sent me the copy, but they don’t read my books in return.  There are three dozen occurrences each week where I essentially do or support someone else and get nothing* back from them.  I don’t look at blogs any differently.

I read what I want to read with little thought as to whether the person reads me back.  That way, I don’t miss things I wanted to read.

There are two types of blogs I read: (1) ones that are written by friends or people I can tell could become a friend.  There is some reason we connect, and we usually end up commenting on each other’s blogs, emailing off-blog, etc.  If that doesn’t happen, they move into the second category of bloggers I read: (2) there are the dozens that I read because I get something out of reading them, and the person never reciprocates and reads me back.

I think it’s a dangerous practice to go into reading blogs with expectations because you’re almost certain to become disappointed.  Nor do I think it’s particularly fair — I can’t imagine telling Joseph Gordon Levitt that you’re going to stop watching his movies because he doesn’t check out your YouTube videos**, so I’m not sure why we read blogs with that attitude.  I watch Joseph Gordon Levitt movies because I enjoy them, and I don’t expect anything back in return except an enjoyable experience.  If he starts making crap films, I’ll stop watching his films, in the same way that if a blogger I love starts writing crap posts, I’ll drift away because it’s not enjoyable or thought-provoking anymore.  There is a difference between two people mutually agreeing to something, and one person placing the other in a position where they expect them to reciprocate.

Which isn’t to say that I have stilted friendships where we sit down and draw up a friendship contract, but there’s a big difference between buying a present for Josh and having the realistic expectation that he will probably also buy a present for me in the future, and buying a present for a random stranger, handing it to them, watching them smile (what you may not know is that they’re smiling because they don’t have a lot of money right now, and suddenly you have handed them this wonderful gift), and then saying to them, “now you have to buy me a gift or I’ll never buy another gift for you again.”  That makes their gift a lot heavier than it needs to be.  Especially if they feel guilted into using their money to buy you something back.  Or they suck it up and walk away with the understanding that they aren’t getting anything else in the future and it’s their own damn fault…

What I’m trying to say is that reading another person’s blog is a wonderful gift.

Yes, sometimes it’s a dumping ground for thoughts, but just as often, it is an art form, like all other types of writing.

But what we get from art should be the gift to ourselves, not what the artist can do for us.  If that makes sense.


Some of it comes down to why you read blogs.  I read blogs because I want to see another person’s point-of-view.  I want to hear about a life I don’t live.  I want to learn something new.  I also sometimes read blogs to connect with people.  But that isn’t the sole reason why I read blogs.  So I am happy when there is that friendship that grows between our two spaces, but I’m equally fine when the attention only flows one way.  Because I’m still getting something out of it.  I’m getting information, dinner ideas, insight into a different world.

Back when I was single, I went to a few dating events.  Sometimes they were at a bar, which really isn’t my thing, but I’d go anyway.  If I met someone, I thought the night was worth it.  If I didn’t meet someone, I was pissed off that I wasted my night and grumbled about it.  What changed everything was recognizing that I should go do activities I liked, and if I met someone, great.  But if I didn’t meet someone, I still had done a fun activity for two hours.  That’s how I approach reading blogs.  I read what I enjoy reading, and if I connect with someone, fantastic.  If I don’t connect with the writer, I still got something out of it.

And that’s what works for me.


This is not to say that I don’t get hurt feelings from living in the blogosphere.  It is impossible to rub up against people and not feel scratched sometimes.  But rubbing up against people can also… well… this analogy is starting to sound like frottage, so I’ll leave it at that and assume you understand what I mean.

Since I took this attitude about three years ago, I found that my Google Reader hasn’t changed much except to grow.  It balances out because people also stop writing their blog.  I used to have this shifting list of blogs that I read, and I did pay attention to things like reciprocation.  And then there was a day that I spent an entire evening upset over a slight and pretty much ruined five hours of my night (you may want to ask Josh to tell you how happy he was about this), and after that, I stopped shuffling who I read.  I want blog reading to be a source of happiness and education, not a source of stress.

Though sometimes it can be.

I don’t do it perfectly, but looking at my blog reading this way has saved me from at least some of the stress I felt years ago.  I’m not exactly at namaste-levels of blog reading, but I’m getting close to it as I’ve removed my expectations.  Though please don’t think that I’m this laid-back in my relationships.  I hold my friends to high standards, which doesn’t mean tit-for-tat reciprocation but does take into account some level of give and take.  Sometimes blog reading and friendships mix, but just as often as not, they’re two separate entities for me.

* I can’t think of many things I do where I get nothing back.  I’m currently making another person a meal who is in need of a meal.  She will not reciprocate this because I don’t have the need for someone to make me a meal, and we keep kosher and can’t bring in outside food.  But I’m not getting nothing in return.  I’m cementing my place in this community, I’m feeling good about myself, I’m teaching the twins about reaching out to others.  There is always something gained in return.

** Added this in at 12:02 pm: I picked Joseph Gordon Levitt as the example (instead of, let’s say, Brad Pitt) because he is a someone who does indeed make movies, BUT he also is the blogging equivalent to a movie maker, running the site HITRECORD which is an open-collaborative production company where regular people work together to create art.  He is down there in the writing trenches with everyone, and so it does make sense to have that translate into “I worked on his project and I watch his movies and why doesn’t he take a look at my YouTube vidoes.”  And this is a comment I read about him on a website.  Again, I think if people get something out of HITRECORD, they should do it — it looks like a lot of fun.  But if they’re doing it because they expect something back specifically from him, I think they need to reassess if they’re putting themselves in a position to be deeply disappointed and frustrated.


1 (In)Fertility Unexplained { 02.19.12 at 8:14 am }

Thank you for this post! I can be a shy commenter until I feel comfortable with another person’s blog, but that doesn’t mean that their writing is not meaningful and helpful to me. I think that your attitude towards it all is a great one – I try to always do things for others because I want to, not because I expect something in return.

2 Her Royal Fabulousness { 02.19.12 at 8:31 am }

This is a great post. I get your point about celebrities (funny sidenote – I went to high school with Joesph Gordon-Levitt) but blogging is of such a personal nature, I think it can’t be compared. Because we feel like we “know” each other from the personal nature of the posts, it is easy to get emotional about the commenting aspect. I try to keep perspective in blogging, the same way I do in other forms of social media. Some people are great about reciprocating, some people aren’t. It only changes my reading habits if I didn’t love their blog to begin with. But there are def some blogs where I feel like my commenting is one sided and usually it is fine, but sometimes it hurts my feelings. Usually those are blogs with hundreds of followers, so I try to take it with a grain of salt.

Actually, Twitter is where I feel this most.

3 Mo { 02.19.12 at 9:25 am }

Hmmm…I’m with you, I think. I don’t read others’ blogs expecting them to then become readers of mine. I read them or link to them because they resonate with me in some way. The rest for me is a natural (not required) process. I readily admit I’m not a great or consistent commenter – even of blogs I read regularly – even of bloggers who have become IRL good friends. Partially through some personal failing and partially because I am so busy i barely have time to post myself sometimes. so i hope people aren’t hurt if it’s not always a quid pro quo experience. when my readership was smaller (and my life more sane), i used to try to respond back to every comment. and now when i am moved by a comment, i try to click over and see who that person is and maybe link them on my blog roll….but so many factors go into that – and often I just don’t have time when the comment comes in and then the comment is beneath 30 other comments and it doesn’t happen. I often feel deeply moved the comments I receive – shocked again and again actually that people are out there reading the blog. I guess I went into blog-writing with Will thinking it was mostly for the two of us and it has grown from there…

anyway, Melissa, as always, thank you for another post to get us all thinking.

4 Lily { 02.19.12 at 9:34 am }

haha! I totally read (and comment) a lot of other blogs in hopes they come read mine! It doesn’t happen (and I only have like 3 people who subscribe and post to mine…lol) but that’s ok. I still like reading others’ blogs though – mainly to know that I’m not alone in my infertility. If I post on theirs and never hear from them, I understand they probably have a TON of blogs that they DO give love to…so I do cherish all the commenters that I do have!

5 Illanare { 02.19.12 at 10:09 am }

I certainly read many blogs whose writers don’t read mine, but I don’t mind that – I just feel honoured I have a few people who stop by and comment. But I do sometimes feel guilty that I get more from this community than I could ever give back.

6 Esperanza { 02.19.12 at 10:52 am }

I have to admit, I don’t think your Joseph Gordon-Levitt analogy really works here. First of all, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a HUGE movie star. I doubt any blogger who reads a huge blogger, one that gets hundreds of comments, ever expects reciprocation from said big name blogger. Second of all, actors are in the business of making movies to get paid and there is no community built off of the self-expression in their movies. Also, that self-expression is not of a personal nature in the way a blog post is. Watching Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s movies is not like reading an entry in his personal journal. He is not sharing his inner most secrets. He is not asking for support. And third, your hypothetical YouTube movies have nothing to do with the big-budget box office hits that he stars in. The two are totally incomparable except that they are both, technically movies. Whereas two smaller blogs, written by woman going through similar experiences, and read by a similar amount of people, are very comparable. It makes sense that one would feel hurt if the other failed to acknowledge their existence.

I guess I do think it makes sense that one small blogger reading the personal thoughts of another small blogger and time and time again leaving her own thoughts in return, might feel somewhat slighted when she doesn’t receive any form of reciprocation, ever. If you know you stand out to that blogger, because you are one of the few people who comments, and you know that blogger doesn’t take the time to read anything you’ve written, well I think it’s totally understandable that you feel a bit slighted.

Having said that, I don’t think any blogger owes it to their regular comments to become a regular commenter on their blog. I’ve had people who comment quite frequently and when I’ve gone over to their blog (after the third or fourth comment) to check it out, I’ve always left a few in return, but if their blog just isn’t for me, for whatever reason, I don’t feel obligated to keep reading. Having said that, I do feel an obligation to go over there in the first place and see who they are and what they are about. That only seems fair.

Of course I have much few readers and commenters than someone like you has, and I certainly wouldn’t expect the same from a blogger who gets 30+ comments on every post.

Having said that, I think there is third category of blogger that you interact with, besides the “friend that you communicate with outside of your blog (via email for example)” and the “person you just randomly read and comment on” that you also mentioned. I think there is a third category of blogger that you wouldn’t consider a friend, but whose blog you read regularly, or semi-regularly, and who you comment on once in a while. I feel like I fall into that category. I don’t consider us “friends” outside of blogging (thought I’d love to!) but I do get comments from you every once in a while and I comment on your blog a good portion of the time that you post. I notice many other regular commenters on your posts and have seen you comment on their blogs from time to time too. And I think that is the reciprocation that was being discussed in Jjiraffe’s blog and while you may not think others should feel obligated to participate in that kind of reciprocation, you do seem to engage in it yourself – which I think is awesome! And which I think is one of the reasons you are such a pillar in this community.

I know that it’s dangerous territory when we start declaring there is and is not a “right” or “courteous” way to blog. I’m not trying to espouse a strict form of “commenting etiquette” or to push any set of rules on this community. But this IS a community and we are engaging in a form of communication and, as with all forms of communication, there are ways in which we can be polite and inclusive and ways in which we fail to be those things. I’m not saying that anyone should feel they *need* to be polite or inclusive here, or that they should feel there are expectations of some kind of them, but it is important to remember that behind every thoughtful comment is a real live human being who has taken the time to reach back out of the ether and say, I’m here, I’m listening, I’m valuing what you have to say. If we have the capacity to do the same, I think it’s a shame when we don’t.

7 m. { 02.19.12 at 11:52 am }

There was a time went I felt I had to, absolute HAD to comments back to every person who was kind enough to comment on a post. I had to add them to my reader and I had to go right away and read their latest posts and I had to keep that up on a regular basis. And all of a sudden, blogging wasn’t a release, wasn’t a joy, it was another clump of items on my to do list that either didn’t get done or got done in a half-assed kind of way.

Whenever I feel driven by guilt, here or in real life, I try to force myself to step back and re-evaluate. Am I commenting because I have something to say, or am I adding some words because I feel like I MUST? Am I reading this blog because it resonates with me, because I appreciate the writing, the blogger makes me think/smile/laugh?

I love what Esperanza says: “behind every thoughtful comment is a real live human being who has taken the time to reach back out of the ether and say, I’m here, I’m listening, I’m valuing what you have to say”

And that is something to be valued and cherished. And I still get a thrill when a comment takes me to a place I’ve never been, a blog I hadn’t read, a person I haven’t met yet. And, like, Illanare, I too suffer from the “am I giving back as much as I have been given??” worry.

It has taken me a very long time to learn how to graciously accept a gift, a compliment, or a kind act. M. still has to whisper sometimes, “just say thank you!!” Comments are a gift, even ones from anonymous peeps that ruffle your feathers, they are a gift of a new perspective. And sometimes I can reciprocate, sometimes I can’t. But in my head, I am always saying, “thank you.”

8 slowmamma { 02.19.12 at 2:45 pm }

I think this is a really interesting conversation, especially in the context of our little micro-neighborhood of the web. It’s a bit of a simplification, but I think it’s natural that within any community, particularly one where there are so many different approaches to blogging etiquette, it is just to be expected that people will occasionally feel disappointed or slighted in their attempts to connect with others.

9 Sarah { 02.19.12 at 3:21 pm }

I completely agree with you. If I expected replies and comments from every blog that I read, it would take too much control away from allowing me to read what I actually enjoy! I appreciate each and every blog reader that I have and every comment a receive. In a serpeate catagory, I appreciate each and every blogger that I read beause their writing adds something to my day that I couldn’t get anywhere else. I do not read the blog of every person who reads mine, but I do try to stop by and leave a comment if they are a regular commenter at Bio Girl. I do not leave comments often on the other blogs I read, but when I do I do not expect replies and I never go looking for them in the comment section. Hell, I think I am doing awesome if I get to the comment section the first time!

Now, I recently have started replying to comments in the thread on my blog. It is new for me, and I don’t do it to every comment, but it allows me to answer questions sometimes and I do enjoy it. But I don’t actually expect the orignial commenter to necessarily see it. It is more for closure on the comment than anything else.

10 gwinne { 02.19.12 at 3:41 pm }

Interesting topic. I’m an erratic commenter myself, both in terms of responding to comments on my own blog and those I read. A lot of it has to do with time, as I’d rather write another post/read more blogs than comment. But reciprocated comments, I find, have also been the first step in friendships that move beyond blogs to email, phone calls, gifts in the mail, etc. That’s rare, to be sure.

11 a { 02.19.12 at 5:07 pm }

I like to comment. I don’t expect anything back for it. I like to read. Sometimes I’m not inspired to comment. It is not a reciprocal thing for me I enjoy connecting and debating. I learn things about people that make me think of them when I’m browsing elsewhere around the internet. And when I do get a response, I am pleased.

12 Chickenpig { 02.19.12 at 6:51 pm }

I don’t have any expectations. I’m still amazed that anybody reads my blog. Sometimes these days it depresses ME to read it. But every comment has been precious to me. I can almost feel the hugs and compassion coming out of the screen, to the point where I go back and read them when I’m feeling down. They have been absolutely priceless to me.

13 HereWeGoAJen { 02.19.12 at 8:14 pm }

I’m torn on this subject. I kind of feel like it is childish to expect everyone you read and comment on to read and comment on your blog. It feels like a middle school clique thing to me. “Well, if you don’t invite me to your birthday party, I am not going to invite you to my sleepover!” Now that I am an adult, I don’t do things expecting reciprocity, I do them because I want to and because I feel like they are the right things to do. I comment on people’s blogs when I like them and I have something to say. I don’t comment on their blog because I want them to notice me.

Now, that being said, I have had at least one comment from every blogger that I’ve “crushed” on. But most of them came from the dead baby era, so I’d really rather have not. But it did tell me who was reading, I suppose.

14 Orodemniades { 02.19.12 at 8:19 pm }

I really feel the need to reiterate that many times I have made comments that do not get posted due to the commenting policy on the blog. Sometimes I’ll try and send the comment directly to the blogger, but many times there’s no email address listed. I don’t mind if I have to register to comment, I hate spam as much as the next person, yet this seems to rarely be on.

15 Kristin { 02.19.12 at 11:22 pm }

I love this way of thinking about reading and commenting on blogs. I try to follow this outlook and there are definitely times I am more successful maintaining this mindset.

16 Justine { 02.20.12 at 12:30 am }

I think I’ve approached blog-reading in the same way. And it’s interesting … I’ve commented here or there, but I only become a regular commenter if the blogger and I develop a relationship … one comment begets another, and another, and another. Otherwise, I’ll leave my one comment and continue to read for pleasure, as if I were reading a book or watching a movie. As much as I want to be loved, I try not to confuse consumption with relationship-building, if that makes sense. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to separate the two.

17 jjiraffe { 02.20.12 at 1:32 am }

Thanks for the link, and this discussion has been fascinating! This is what I love so much about this community: people are so honest about how this stuff makes us feel.

I think your attitude about reading blogs is ideal and is what I’d like to do, and try to do. But at the same time, it’s refreshing to hear that people also wonder about their crushes, and sometimes feel, well, “crushed” (sorry) when they don’t respond.

Great discussion. I can imagine this would make an awesome dinner conversation or a roundtable. Maybe at a BlogHer conference or something?

18 Kimberly { 02.20.12 at 3:30 am }

I always come back to the mindset of, I write for me and if others stop by and comment then thats the icing on the cake. That being said, I do have blogs that I love to read, yours and Keiko’s being the first two IF blogs I stumbled across which lead me to create my own blog. But just because I still enjoy both blogs, doesn’t mean that I expect the same from either of you.

But as much as I enjoy reading your blogs, I don’t really expect you to come over and be all BFF’s with me. If you stop by and say hi? Wonderful! If not, thats ok too. We all have lives. Blogging is just a small part of all of our lives. Sometimes I go weeks without touching blogger and when I do, I feel slightly bad that I need to catch up on the blogs that I follow and comment on regularly. But those are people who have reeled me in and I like to stick around cause their stories fascinate me. I have people who follow me and comment on my posts who I don’t follow back, and I generally only stop by their blog after they comment. I don’t think any less of them, but I only really interact when I feel that I can contribute to the conversation or when the topics reel me in.

19 KH99 { 02.20.12 at 2:10 pm }

This entire conversation is so timely because I feel like some of my relationship-building efforts are being rebuffed. This is happening mainly on Twitter and not our blogs. There is a group of people I follow on Twitter and we’re friendly and I’m not trying to crash their party, but I sort of feel like they’ve closed their group. It was really bothering me until I read your post and JJiraffe’s post and the resulting comments, and now I’ve resolved not to let it bother me and to remember that I am primarily blogging for myself so I can have an outlet. If I can build relationships, great, but if not, oh well. That said, it still hurts sometimes. I think I’m feeling it a lot more keenly because I’ve feeling very lonely overall both online and IRL lately. Bottom line is that no one owes me a comment.

20 Lori Lavender Luz { 02.20.12 at 9:47 pm }

“But what we get from art should be the gift to ourselves, not what the artist can do for us.”

Makes perfect sense.

21 TasIVFer { 02.21.12 at 11:01 pm }

I have been out of the blogging world for a couple months for various new-bub, revolting internet connection, and vile mother vist related reasons, but I miss it so much! And I miss many aspects of it – I miss writing and the opportunity it gives me to analyse and shape my thoughts. But more and more I miss the people. Learning from them, sharing something, and being human together.

22 chon { 02.22.12 at 9:17 pm }

I used to get really upset when I would comment on someone’s blog all the time and they never would write back. I admit that there were a few blogs I stopped following because I felt slighted. But now I have been blogging for two years I have a core group of followers and a core group of blogs I follow and I do feel more intimately involved in their lives. There are other blogs that I read and don’t really comment on and I am always updating my blogroll with new IF gals even though I am pregnant now because they are the ones that need the support the most and it reminds me how important it is to feel loved and needed when you feel so alone!

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