After (nearly) nine years of blogging I have a few regrets. It would have been better for me to have stuck more diligently with one platform and a regular schedule of writing early on. It would have been better for me to have been more open about the struggles I was having in academia and […]
After (nearly) nine years of blogging I have a few regrets. It would have been better for me to have stuck more diligently with one platform and a regular schedule of writing early on. It would have been better for me to have been more open about the struggles I was having in academia and the church earlier and to write more about everyday experiences. And, it would have been better to be more open to negative and even abusive comments from readers.
Like most bloggers who’ve been at this for a while, I’ve had to revisit the question of how to approve and moderate comments over and over again. Some bloggers simply switch off comments; an option I’ve never found attractive. Others approve every comment that is not obviously SPAM; a little too brave for me.
Back in 2007 I wrote about this topic and expressed my reservations about deleting too many harsh comments.
“I restarted this blog in October 2004 (having previously blogged in 2001 and 2003) and since that time I’ve had a steady trickle of comments and a deeper stream of email correspondence covering the various posts. There’s been a small, but regular amount of what could best be described as “hate-comments,” typically clustered around posts about India, Australia and to a lesser extent, the emerging church. Most often these comments are anonymous, vulgar and misrepresentative of what I, or others, have said. Rarely, they raise very valid concerns, but their anonymity makes it impossible to verify their content.
Those comments get deleted – but, now I’m starting to miss them. Sometimes the best repudiation of a position or ideology actually comes from the mouths of those who try to defend it. Maybe, instead of working so hard to defend the “respectability” and “legitimacy” of this blog, I should have been more permissive and let the world see what people who claim to be defending the good of their country or church are willing to say to another human being who is simply trying to find some truth and honesty in this world?”
My natural reaction, when someone makes an asinine or belligerent comment is to back away from the situation. I do love a good exchange of ideas and a hearty debate. But, I have little patience for proud ignorance, spurious antagonism or truculence of any kind. The best arguments are like painting with ideas.
As a blogger it is natural to want to own one’s bandwidth. Having been in situations where I felt unreasonably hemmed in by other people’s fears and prejudices, the freedom to blog is precious and even, in a way, sacred.
The challenge is to see past a commenters attempt to wound us, or call into question our project. There’s a tremendous opportunity in letting an angry or ignorant comment stand. When I think back to some of the comments I’ve deleted there were some very telling opinions – sometimes racist, narrow-minded, or in other ways bigoted – that expressed points of view people should be aware exist. It’s one thing for me to try and write about those ideologies in my words, it’s all together another to have those words on the blog for all too see.
Which, of course, raises a question of trust. I have great faith in the people who regularly read this blog, particularly as I’ve never tried to be a populist (more on that here and here). These regular readers don’t need me to hold their hands or shield their eyes; they have the sophistication to put negative comments in context and if anything, would be interested to think about why a blog like this might, occasionally, attract such opinions.