In high school, we had the geeks, nerds, drama queens, beauty queens, jocks, jills, freaks, grungers, punkers, and band members. I’m sure there were more social classifications, but those were the most popular cliches. Every year I worried about going back to school and hating all the social isolation and groupings that formed, never wanting to be a part of any of them. I’d try to think of the start of the school year as a fresh clean slate. Maybe this year the jerks from last year would have had a mental make over and play nice. Maybe they would understand that relationships are built with honey not vinegar. Maybe the drama queens would tone down their drama, the beauty queens would find self esteem, and the jocks and jills would understand that grunts and poking fun at non-jocks just wasn’t fun any more. Maybe the geeks and the nerds would learn that it takes more than numbers and big words to carry on a conversation. And the grungers and punkers would realize what is under the paint and clothing defines your personality or character more than the costume. I knew there was no hope for the band and choir members. We understood the social in team work early on, and how to protect each other within our group.
The transition happened for some, I’m sure, but within the first few weeks of school, we knew which kids were the losers, asses, and bullies to avoid, the twits and sillies to laugh at, and the queens and kings we envied for their calm, cool, self-confidence and voted them as student body officers, even though we really hated them – or at least made fun of them from our weird little corners of our social world.
The move from static HTML to dynamic blog platform opened my website to social interaction, interaction that was both welcome and terrifying. Over time, those who hung around and contributed through blog comments became part of my social cliché, brought together by common interest. I felt like blogs were the next generation from the first usenet groups and online forums which gathered together people with a common interest to exchange information and form support groups. As with all such social groups, you have your good guys and bad guys, along with the geeks, nerds, jocks, jills…oh, and band members.
Social networking emerged on the web, expanding the social relationship climate for online users, using blogs, bookmarks, peer pressure, and a variety of networking options to create new cliches, new social groups. While Web 2.0 is moving the world online and forward with relationships crossing borders, cultures, religion, and even languages, have we really left our high school mentality behind?
Mean Spirited Commenters and Bullies Come to Roost
I’ve written a lot about mean spirited comments, comment tips and techniques, and when commenters get out of control. What surprises me is how people are so shocked when a comment bully appears on their blog. They often find my blog posts and ask me what to do about it.
Why is anyone surprised by this behavior? Remember, we humans bring our experiences and history with us to the web. Bullies will always be bullies, online and off. Jerks will be jerks. Just as I hoped at the start of the school year that they would change, few changed. Just because the location changes, the nastiness of human social behavior do not. The more people entering the virtual world of the web, the more uglies join the crowd.
Don’t let their visit influence you. One or two nasty commenters shouldn’t change your blog experience. Look at the odds. One person recently complained that their site gets 50-100 comments a day but how this one nasty commenter was ruining the experience for everyone. Really? One comment out of maybe 500 a week is a problem? Does everyone who reads your blog read every comment on every blog post on your blog? Not everyone who reads a blog post will read every comment. The people impacted are the ones reading that particular post and finding that particular comment. What are those numbers? One? Two, twenty? Fifty? And not everyone who reads your blog post will comment, so maybe the numbers are a little higher, but are they really offended by the commenter? Or is it you with the problem?
The only one truly feeling the heat is you, the blog administrator. It is your response to the mean commenter that sets the tone for everyone involved.
How do you respond? You are in charge of the comments on your blog. You choose what appears or disappears. You can edit blog comments or delete them. You can leave them, respond, or let others respond.
The best protection from nasty commenters is prevention. Here are some steps you should take to help you set the game rules for blog comments in all forms on your blog.
- Define Your Comment Policy: Test yourself. Set up scenarios in your mind about what you will or will not allow on your blog. Will you allow swear words? All of them or only certain “acceptable” words? What about name calling? Will you allow arguments within your blog comments? Will you allow signatures and signature links? Are nicknames and search term keywords in the comment name acceptable or not? Will you allow them to publish email addresses or private information? What about links? What about HTML in the comments? The more clearly you define your comment policy, the easier it is to act when those scenarios occur.
- Publish Your Comment Policy: A clear public comments policy defines what you will or will not allow on your blog so everyone knows the rules. This sets the guidelines and answers any questions. Be sure and follow it.
- Comply with Your Comments Policy: There will always be exceptions to the rules, but no one likes people who don’t play by the rules. If you say you won’t allow swear words, then nuke them when they appear. Use Plugins to bleep swear words or put specific keywords in comments into moderation. If you won’t allow signature links, then edit and delete the links in the comments to set an example. Whatever your policy, practice what you preach.
- Update Your Comment Policy: As your blog evolves, your feelings about blog comments will change. Maybe your skin will toughen and you will be more willing to allow more abusive comments. Or maybe you will toughen your stance and be more willing to hit the delete key to keep your comments clean. As your position on comments change, so should your comment policy.
Here are more articles I’ve written on the subject of blog comments to help you set your ground rules and guidelines and develop your comment policy.
- Comments on Comments
- Mean Spirited Comments and Blogging
- How to Handle Tough Questions (and Comments) from an Audience
- How NOT to Comment on Comments
- One Year Anniversary Review: Comments on Comments
- Editing Your Blog Comments
- Are Blog Comments Getting You Down?
- Blog Comments: On or Off and Why
- Blog Struggles: When Are Too Many Comments Too Many Comments?
- Are You Torturing Your Blog Commenters? Help Stop Comment Spam
- Do You Kill The Blog Conversation?
- Is Your Blog a Conversation Blog or Answer Blog?
- Time Wasting Blog Comments, Comments Policies, and Comment Etiquette
- When Your Comment Inspires Posts
- What Do You Put in the Name of a Comment Form?
- Does Dofollow Influence Your Willingness to Comment?
- Are You Becoming a Little Over-Sensitive Over Comments?
- Does Your Blog Have A Comments Policy?
- Does Your Blog Still Offer Popup Comments?
- Are You Stopping Comments Before They Ever Get Started?
The author of Lorelle on WordPress and the fast-selling book, Blogging Tips: What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging, as well as several other blogs, Lorelle VanFossen has been blogging for over 15 years, covering blogging, WordPress, travel, nature and travel photography, web design, web theory and development extensively as web technologies developed.