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.