An Open Letter to the Online Community: Let Kindness Reign

open letter to online community graphic

Blogging is about community.

It connects us across the miles. It allows us to share our knowledge, our inspiration, our struggles and yes, our very lives. It is a fabric woven of a diversity of people, and it can be a very beautiful thing.

It can also hurt.

I’ve been a blogger for over 6 years. At first, it was pure enjoyment, sharing from my life and connecting with readers. Then, gradually, the comments and emails came…

the ones that quietly shamed me

the ones that poured salt in my wounds

the ones that told me I was less than

the ones that heaped on the mommy guilt

the ones that said I had done them wrong, or hadn’t done enough for them

the ones that tore me down, clawed away at my self-confidence and made me doubt myself

Over time, as a blogger, and I think as any sort of a public figure, you build up a thicker skin. I know I did. The tenderness and delicate places grew rough callouses, protecting me from the thoughtless words of others.

Most of the time, I can remain in that place. I know when to let something bother me, and when to delete or walk away and let it be without having it gnaw at my soul.

I first wrote these words almost a year ago, when I was feeling hurt and accused. Unsure of whether to share them, I let this post sit and simmer for a good long while, and gradually the hurt went away. These past few weeks, however, I’ve started to struggle again.

But this time, it’s not for myself. It’s for the other people I see being slandered and torn down in similar ways. I couldn’t remain silent anymore.

There’s the one who’s been betrayed and judged by friends who couldn’t handle her blogging success. Another whose privacy was violated and the information used to publicly humiliate her. And yet another who is simply weary of the sheer meanness of comments being directed her way, for sharing something as benign as what she gave her kids to eat for lunch.

It’s not only against bloggers, either.

I see this unkindness in the comments on blogs and Facebook, where one reader goes against another, one mom makes another mom feel small, one woman lashes out at the opinion of another woman, one anonymous smiling Gravatar photo belittles another smiling face with the flick of their keyboard.

It seems to me, and correct me if I’m wrong, but the longer I share this online space, the more I sense this pervasive and ugly thread weaving its way through our tapestry of community.

Anonymity makes us unkind.

When screen to screen, and not face to face, we say and do things we would never do otherwise. We tread harshly on people. We belittle, we mock, we rip, we shred, we push, we judge, we condemn.

Social media has changed the way we interact with the world around us. Our lives are virtually open books (or Facebook walls). In a day and age where we live increasingly isolated and lonely lives, we’ve chosen to open up ourselves to this online “community” in hopes of finding meaningful connections, friendship, support, encouragement, camaraderie, and care.

We put ourselves out there in a way that is unprecedented. We share “what’s on our mind” statuses freely. We tell the world what we “like”. We write blogs full of our summer vacation photos, our how-to tips, our bravely told stories, our musings and inner conversations. We create pin boards to show off our style, our dreams, our preferences.

So here’s my question… Does putting ourselves out there mean we’re open season? Does it make it justifiable to berate the opinions and ideas of others simply because they’re out there?

Like vicious, ugly chickens, we peck away at one another until we bleed.

I know that it’s common among bloggers to feel worn down by the attacks, the nasty comments, the hurtful judgments. As those who participate in this online space called social media, I’d wager that you’ve felt picked at in one or way another as well.

Perhaps we think that these screens, these metal computer casings, are somehow protective. That things said in cyberspace don’t have an impact in real life. That sticks and stones may break our bones, but Facebook comments will never hurt us.

But they do.

My Macbook and keyboard may be made of steel (you know, or fiberglass and aluminum), but my heart? My mind? Not so.

I am a real person.

The women online, be they bloggers or fellow readers and sharers of this space… they’re real people.

The barbs that we launch into one another’s skin may come out, but not without tearing a little flesh, or leaving a scar. Our words spoken online matter. They impact people. They hurt.

Friends, may it not be this way among us.

may we speak to one another with honor and respect

may we remember that the person on the other end of the screen is a real person

may we ask ourselves “would I say this to their face?”

may we judge that others are innocent until proven guilty

may we extend the benefit of the doubt

may we season our words with kindness, and sprinkle our emails with grace

Let us be a community in which kindness reigns.

About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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Comments

  1. It is unfortunate such bullying exists however, you’re right we need to develop the mental fortitude when reaching out for companionship that the whole world is not our intimate friend; and what you present is your best foot forward and your gift to others and the universe. You can expect that to be rewarded.

  2. Brittany Ericson says:

    TRUE! Thank you! I have been told I should start a blog… But a year and a half ago I guest wrote for a blog. It was just a personal story about breastfeeding, and people called me a liar. I was in tears for almost 2 days, fell into depression and almost had a mental breakdown. What I had done had only been a natural progression of events. I had followed my instinct, researched, read and at long last found something that solved my dilemma… Then, I shared my story because I was SO happy I only wanted to share my knowledge with others. The hateful/spiteful comments were awful! And I didn’t even read the comments posted on the bloggers facebook page. I’ve been asked to write guest blog posts again, and I refuse(and if I didn’t my husband wouldn’t want me too). Since then I very rarely comment on any blog because I never want to unknowingly offend the person behind the post. The keeper of the home blog and the many blogs I’ve found through this blog have encouraged me so often. I stay at home with 3 under 3 and the wisdom, laughter, tips and spiritual reminders I receive from my sisters all over the world have kept me sane. Thank you! I wish I could hug you every time you receive a negative comment!

  3. I agree wholeheartedly with what you say and I appreciate that you have said something that needs to be said–and heeded.
    I’d just like to point out that, even with the best of intentions, things written in cyberspace can often be misinterpreted because of imprecise/careless choice of words and because the recipient doesn’t have facial clues and body language to help them to more accurately interpret what is being said–something they do have in face-to face speech.

  4. Very well said… (((Hugs)))

  5. Here is one thing that I have noticed and never felt comfortable responding with on a blog. I started reading blogs (I read about 2 dozen) to learn things. And then I found out that a lot of the blog posts are sponsored or the bloggers are part of a network and they HAVE to write about certain things. (Like one big network that really rubs me the wrong way).

    I understand the bloggers need to make money. But the reviews of products is one thing that bugs me… and the pushing all the readers to buy things. Affiliate links, sponsored stories, etc…

    I have stopped reading as many blogs lately because of this. I think that even though people say they are writing a truthful review, there is always some bias involved in writing about a product where there is a monetary exchange of some sort. It can’t be helped.

    I LOVE how skilled the writers are, and I love reading about their personal struggles. It is only when they are writing about things they push on their readers makes it seem to me like they are being fake.

    I wish there was a way to have more posts like this one written here — real honest perspective, and less salesy ones.. haha!! I hope no one takes offense for me sharing my perspective… and if you did, it isn’t intentional.

    • Rebecca, while it’s true that many blogs ARE sponsored, try to choose responsible blogs that are not swayed by their sponsors. One such is wholenewmom.com. NO, it’s not my blog; I don’t write a blog! But, watch for the disclaimers, find out WHY they have chosen the sponsor(s) and watch to see that they inform you about other choices in a non-biased manner. Many will tell you other products that work in a similar, or even better, manner. Blogs cost money. The bloggers also need to pay for their time spent on their blog; research takes massive amounts of time and energy, so YES, I believe they should be able to get some assistance.

      If you are not comfortable with the products or ideas being promoted, simply stop following that particular blog. But don’t write off all sponsored blogs in one fell swoop. Aside from the one blog I mentioned (I know it’s reputable), there are several others. Check out her links on the site, and use common sense at all times when using the internet. Happy browsing!

  6. So, so true! It’s exhausting. I’ve only had a few really mean comments but sheesh, they sting! And they are hard to ignore and let go. I see these people – even believers – who are acting on the behalf of our enemy and I have to take those thoughts they’ve provoked captive. That is NOT easy to do. I stopped reading a couple of bigger Christian bloggers because I can’t stomach the attacks. As an abuse survivor, I want to run to the defense of anyone I see being bullied and that’s not always the best thing for me. And that’s not to say I haven’t said or done stupid things online either. When someone writes something ugly, it’s all about them, and there is usually next to or no truth in what they have to say. If we have something to disagree about and we can’t do it in a nice, humane, respectful way, then we’re not doing it out of love. Thanks for talking about this subject. Each time the hate mail amps up, it’s because you’re doing something satan doesn’t want to see be successful. And THAT motivates me to pursue and push on!

  7. Very well said and such a timely reminder. I think it’s especially easy to be unkind when we feel like we or our reputation is being attacked. Funny thing is, often the other person isn’t even meaning it the way we are taking it.

    Thanks for posting this!

  8. Y’know, I’ve toyed with the idea of setting up my own blog; but I think it’s this exact reason that stops me. I don’t have a thick skin, and I take things entirely too much to heart. I cannot imagine what it would do to me if I had people lambasting me on a regular basis the way I’ve seen done to people on their own blogs or Facebook, heck–even on Pinterest!
    You’d think we could all play a bit more nicely together. *HUGS* I am sorry you had to write this–even more sorry that it was posted because of others’ pain. I love your blog!

  9. Very well said! It’s sad that people can be so cruel. We all need to love, support and encourage each other in this already difficult thing called life. God bless.

  10. Hello Stephanie..

    What a beautiful, honest post.

    NO.

    No… being a semi public figure as a blogger does not make you open season to unkind or malicious people.

    Here’s what I decided a few years ago. This is my business and I get to do it on my terms. That’s one of the benefits to a business online so why not take advantage? You know who you are..and words can hurt.. so don’t allow unhappy people to hurt you. Cut ‘em loose. Adios. Good-bye.

    darlene
    p.s. Just stumbled upon your blog for the first time. :)

  11. Thank you so much for opening our hearts to this topic. My heart is sad when I see these kind of comments, esp. on open forums.

    May I share with you all the scripture that shows why it’s so important that we’re kind? For some, the “Be nice” rule perhaps is an option. But for those of us who proclaim Christ, we are called to this: “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” {Eph. 4:32}, “follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another,” {Rom. 14:19} and “comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.” {1 Ths. 5:11}

    Hoping with so many of you that the “Be Nice Revolution” starts here. :o)

  12. Such a good reminder for everyone! It saddens me to hear that this is what I can expect as I begin my own blog, but I’m thankful for the warning! ;) We must continue to encourage ourselves in the Lord and encourage others. Thank you for this!

  13. I love this – so well worded! Some areas are things I am definitely guilty of. We have much courage behind a computer screen – with strangers and family too! This post is applicable in all online spheres, as you touched on. I’ll be sharing this in my little online Facebook community because I whole-hardly shout “amen!” behind you!

    Blessings,
    Nicole
    WorkingKansasHomemaker.com

  14. People who tear others down do it to cover up their own insecurities and issues. It sounds cliche but it’s just the truth. People who are confident, self assured, and happy with who they are simply do not feel a need to judge others and to share that judgement publicly. You really just need to hope for them that they are able to recognize that their personal attacks on others don’t bring them any joy, and that they will seek counseling to help them become happier and more productive human beings.

    • Well said! And unfortunately you can’t reach through the screen and convince each of them of this fact. There are just too many, and, well, that’s not the bloggers role anyway.
      People see the world through their own lens, but seldom are aware and look at both the world and the lens they view it through. (I’m reading “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” for the 2nd time in a decade, if you can’t tell!)

  15. Agree. We should think before we type! : ) I have some thoughts, though. Granted, I’m not a blogger, just a reader, so maybe I don’t fully know what I’m talking about…
    Why do bloggers allow hateful comments? I’m a reader of one blog who has a comment policy whereby she says she will delete any comments she deems to be rude, critical, etc. Why don’t more bloggers adopt this rule? Of course, they would still see the comments or emails before deleting, so maybe that wouldn’t make a difference. But at least they could ignore it instead of responding in an equally unkind manner. It irks me when a blogger is upset and feels she has to rudely defend herself in the comment section. (No, I have not seen that on this blog.) But when someone poses a question at the end of their post, such as, “What do you think about ____?”, shouldn’t they expect opposing views to be stated? Is it wrong to disagree about an article and say so? I’m talking kindly, of course. But I’m wondering if bloggers sometimes take other’s differing opinions left in the comments as being rude. Like I said, I don’t have a blog, so I may be off in my thinking. And, yes, I have seen blatantly rude comments, and agree that they have no place.
    On the flip side, why do readers keep reading a blog where they disagree with the content? I’ve “left” numerous blogs wherein I disagree with the beliefs of the writer and/or who allows rudeness(I’ve even seen cursing!) in the comments. As a reader, I have the choice to read a blog or not! There are SO many blogs out there, I personally stick to reading ones that I at least mostly agree with the views of the writers.

  16. Very well spoken and very true. Generally I find that I follow blogs of people with whom I am in general agreement, so I’m always shocked to see very mean, nasty comments under some blog posts. Some commenters obviously disagree strongly with the whole lifestyle or entire values of the blogger—my question is: what kind of mean-spirited person actively spends time seeking out people they disagree with just to say mean things to them?
    I read a newspaper article shortly after the last presidential election. It stated that most people would never walk in to a room of 250 strangers and announce their political/moral beliefs and face-to-face insult all of those strangers who believed differently. Yet people do that freely on facebook, twitter, and other sites. You are correct in saying that anonymity makes people unkind. It makes them unkind and simultaneously strips away the “human-ness” of the audience, so people lose the careful and respectful way that they’d interact with others face-to-face. I think the only recourse is to continue to talk about this and bring it in to the open—to make people more aware. It won’t change everyone, but perhaps some will give pause and reflect on the reader’s feelings before they type.
    We should pray for the less-than-kind commenters, that they may find peace, love, and kindness within their hearts.

  17. Oh I am so glad to see this blog post today. I have been lucky and not had any negative feedback on my blog yet. But it is still in it’s baby phase too. But I noticed just yesterday on another blog I follow that some of the comments were just terrible. I felt so bad for the person who had wrote the blog and was getting torn down for it. It’s like some people out there just go to blog just so they can tear that person down. I just don’t understand people like that.

  18. Great post.
    It’s too bad people don’t remember the basics we were taught as a child…. “if you don’t have anything nice to say, then keep your mouth shut”. You know? People just feel entitled to rail on others and I am not a fan of that.
    I hope and pray people take your words to heart. Pray about what it is they don’t like about a person or post or whatever, and not just vomit UGLY all over the Internet and their lives. It’s hard to clean all that up anyway.
    Blessings,
    Emily

  19. Teresa Lee (T) says:

    I’m not a blogger but have often felt the same just reading others’. To me it seems almost frightening, as if one comment feeds on another. You said it very well.

  20. Thank you for writing this! What a sad world we live in that it even has to be written. I don’t understand why women are so mean and judgmental to each other. I barely have time to read all the great info on your blog and the many others I follow much less have time to email negative remarks. Do people feed convicted or inadequate when they read these blogs or see a picture of a child’s lunch? Is that why they lash out? It is beyond ridiculous. I pray that some of these folks will read your post and be convicted.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] I’ll send out a brief reminder email tomorrow, and mention it once more in Weekend Links, and then, that’s that. We’ll go bck to our regular programming (although we’ve had some awesome posts this week, like Stacy’s tips for making natural cleaning faster, Kelly’s ideas for saving time in the kitchen, and my own open letter to the online community). [...]

  2. [...] An Open Letter to the Online Community: Let Kindness Reign at Keeper of the Home [...]

  3. [...] An Open Letter to the Online Community: Let Kindness Reign, by Stephanie at Keeper of the Home (an important message for all) [...]

  4. [...] and I’m proud to say, she’s gone again.  Anyway – I read this blog post – An Open Letter to the Online Community: Let Kindness Reign and realized how far I’d come as a person. Being a Catholic Blogger I am very aware that some [...]