A post about comments and why i don’t delete them

October 24, 2014 |  Category:   life rambling

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I’ve been asked why I don’t delete offensive comments – and I do publish them all unless it attacks another blog reader. Let me explain. This is my blog, yes, but I don’t really believe that it’s “my little corner of the internet”. I do believe that everyone is entitled to express their opinions because even though this is my blog, it’s published in a public space. Aside from the sometimes polarizing opinions around online censorship, I leave comments alone, no matter how harsh or personally offensive, as a reminder of this.

 

I think sometimes we might get a little too insulated in our own little blog bubbles. There may be this false sense of security leftover from the early blogging days back when our audiences were smaller (well, this blog has gone back to being small) and it really was a community of bloggers and readers who were just trying to figure out what blogging was about. The internet in the late 90s and early 2000s is vastly different than the internet today. There wasn’t as much noise or opinions or conversations. There was just less of everything. Blogging back then really did feel like a journal that you shared with anybody who happened to stumble across it, and even though there weren’t as many ways to promote your site, people did find you because they were seeking communities with the same interests; those communities were just only forming. At least that’s how it worked when I ran my Asian-American webzine and a few years later started a product design blog for new parents, both of which were one of the first sites to exist in their respective online spaces. I’ve certainly learned a lot from running public webzines and blogs for the past 14 years and I’ve made a few mistakes, but there are no regrets. How can there be? When you go into uncharted waters it all feels like an experiment. It’s really only in hindsight that you can draw conclusions on what you could have done differently because there was no precedent to learn from at the time.
 
We’re also the first (or maybe 1.5) generation of parents who are raising kids in the age of social media. The way in which we conduct ourselves online is essentially our road map to teaching our kids about being smart in their own online identities and interactions. I’d rather be the one stumbling my way around social media networks and learning from mistakes than my kids for now, though I recognize that I won’t be able to keep up with all the new and yet to be developed networks and platforms that are cropping up every day. But this groundwork informs what we teach them about using social media responsibly regardless of whatever app is popular.
 
The girls don’t have social media accounts yet, but I know that’s inevitable. It’s encouraging that our public school is starting to include internet safety in their 5th grade curriculum and I can only imagine that this will become the norm if it isn’t already. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen too many times, it can really be a matter of life and death. The gravity of that statement is overwhelming, but this is our reality.
 
I would hope, though I realize it’s probably too idealistic, that people would exercise basic courtesy, restraint and sensitivity in their responses and comments on any public website, but if you have ever read a comment thread on CNN (though interestingly enough they disabled comments to most of their stories), then you know that doesn’t always happen. I was dismayed to learn that my mom read a recent comment that was particularly judgmental, but we talked about it and it served as a jumping point to other related issues that we then discussed. The internet isn’t always the safe haven that we’d like to imagine it to be and these are just periodic reminders of that reality. But there’s always something to be learned, I think. I’ve certainly taken a deeper look at myself whenever I’ve been called out in comments, and I’ve grown a bit more careful about the things that I’m now willing to share. These are good things. Besides, I’ve never been one to craft a certain image or lifestyle on my blog. It therefore seems wrong to me, no matter how flawed that thinking might be, to prune and censor blog comments to read a certain way. So those blog comments that I sometimes wish I hadn’t read? It’s just part of the story.

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  • Melissa@Julia's Bookbag October 24, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    Ah Jenna. I wonder if you’ll ever really truly get how much I value your blog, and your willingness to express your thoughts in the way that you do. I’m guessing I’m far from alone in feeling this way :).

  • Reba October 24, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    Jenna,
    You seem like you live such an intentional life. Thanks for sharing.

  • anna r. October 25, 2014 at 3:45 am

    dear jenna, i live in europe and my 2 daughters are grown up now… but i do remember vividly how many arguments we had about how to use their facebook accounts…. nowadays they remind ME to be careful… which i am to the point of never sharing my (our) full identity…
    while i think your approach is very brave, i personally would not allow any vile and/or derogatory comments on any of my accounts… i would delete them immediately and block those users from further comments.
    especially in a world that allows so much transparency, i find it important to guard and protect myself and my family… after all, if i or my children were victims of bullying (which i was in my workplace and which especially my handicapped daughter was frequently at school), i would also take measures immediately and remove ourselves from that particular influence. the same applies to “cyber bullying”… for me, it is part of taking a stand and of making known that there ARE indeed still standards of decency that at least I will continue to uphold.
    keep up the good work all around, i admire your seemingly boundless creativity and your courage!!
    all the best for you and your family, love, anna

    • Jenna October 25, 2014 at 7:34 am

      Hi Anna, thanks for this. It’s a good reminder. I do use judgement and go with my instinct in every case (and really, it doesn’t happen often). If I felt like we were in any danger or if it felt like bullying I would probably remove (this is why the only times I have deleted a comment was when a commenter attacked some of my blog reader in the comments), but most of the times I find that the negative comment isn’t about me at all – usually it’s about the commenter’s issues and they are just looking to lash out at someone.
      As far as taking a stand that there are standards of decency, I don’t see how deleting a comment accomplishes that. For me (and this is only my view, obviously) it’s just ignoring that this happens. I would much rather comment back (but not feed into or flame the comment). There have been a few instances where I’ve had a dialog with a commenter and we came to an understanding of where the negative comment was coming from, but in most cases, they never comment back.

  • anna r. October 25, 2014 at 10:53 am

    thx for your comments!
    did NOT mean to criticize you… don’t know enough about the history of comments you are referring to, as i usually read only blogs, not the comments…
    and, of course, i would always respond first as well before deleting any comments…
    have a good weekend ????????????

    • Jenna October 25, 2014 at 12:14 pm

      Oh I didn’t take it as criticsm, no worries! This is one of the issues with the online world- sometimes the tone of a comment or response can be misinterpreted.

  • Jane October 26, 2014 at 10:41 pm

    Hey Jenna,

    I’ve been following your blog since the girls were quite a bit younger and have always loved your beautiful words and images. Although we’re many miles apart your life resonates with me in many ways. I hadn’t checked in for a while and when I did recently it was to read about the passing of your brother. Your pain was so evident, yet you wrote eloquently and thoughtfully about your loss. It doesn’t surprise me that you’ve chosen to leave critical comments alone and your considered response is always just right.

    I haven’t commented for a long time but wanted to let you know how amazing I think you are. Thanks for making the effort you do – I think you touch a lot of people.

  • Renita October 26, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    Hello Jenna, will there be a food calendar this year?

    • Jenna October 27, 2014 at 8:21 am

      Actually, I just put it up on our sites. A little late this year…

  • lulu October 27, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    Thank you for always being honest. Blogs are so heavily edited now that it is refreshing that you are still kinda a bit old school with the way you maintain your blog.

  • Christina October 30, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    It’s frustrating to me because the internet allows so much room for judgement that I suppose has always been there but we are mostly cognizant that you don’t share the rude opinions out loud because that’s improper. But the cowardice of hiding behind the keyboard (so to speak) makes everyone feel that they can just say whatever they want because they don’t feel the immediate consequences. As we learned before the age of internet, words are power, they can be used to build us up or dismantle. The fact that someone comments rudely or offensively to you and stands behind this “well that’s my opinion” is quite frankly bullshit. They would most likely never make comments like this in person so I’m not sorry to say that we should exercise similar modes of behavior and not do them on the internet. It breaks my heart to read that your mother was upset by a comment, again, what we write has impact on peoples real lives. I hope things get better on the commenting realm and also that healing comes towards you and your family. Much love from California!

  • kerri October 31, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    I’ve been reading your blog for years now and never comment, but just thought I’d let you know how much I appreciate your honesty. Blog content is so heavily edited for a certain kind of branding and lifestyle, it’s rare to find one that is true to how complicated life really is. Honesty has become the new bravery.

    Whatever is going on, just know that we (the silent lurkers) support you and are sending plenty of good thoughts your way. 🙂

  • Carrie Snow November 2, 2014 at 11:44 pm

    I really love and respect your honesty Jenna! Thank you for sharing.

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