Blogging dilemma

I know there are many of you out there. I am a relative newcomer on the scene. I started this blog, as many do, in order that I might have an outlet, and also to share links, news, ideas, anything really. It didn’t start off with the intention of being a “Catholic blog”. In many respects it isn’t, although having read many different blogs, I feel like I need to tart mine up a bit, shove in some Catholic widgets and links, fluttering Vatican flags, various novenas and the like. Make it look a little more authentic. Perhaps overhaul the design. One thing at a time however.

Initially I had the comment function set so that comments were automatically approved. When things started getting sticky and I began to receive unpleasant and personal comments, regarding my family, I decided to institute a policy of moderation. Anything containing ad-hominem attacks was instantly deleted, not having much to add to the debate, although I have published a few of the less offensive ones, just to give balance.

I am resolved not to engage in online debate, certainly for the duration of Lent and maybe beyond. I don’t think its proving spiritually healthy. As I outlined in a previous post, it became apparent that my twitter feed was being stalked and copied and pasted elsewhere. I have blocked all the followers related to a parenting forum in order to ensure some privacy and peace and quiet.

I blog because it’s cathartic, it’s like a mind-dump for me, it helps me to focus and arrange my thoughts into some sort of cogent and coherent order. If something is annoying or vexing me then I write about it. Really I do it for my own pleasure and if it  delights, entertains and indeed inspires others, then that’s an added bonus. Sometimes if I am pondering a certain issue, I’ll go off and do a spot of reading or online research to ensure that any theological pedants out there are satisfied. So it’s a useful distraction and source of therapy for me, like it is for many out there on the blogosphere.

Many specialised websites, such as parenting ones, provide user areas whereby users may post their pregnancy or child diaries which I suspect are written with similar motivations. Lots of people, friends, family, former parishioners say to me that they really enjoy reading it, even if they may disagree with the substance of what I have to say. I’m always self-conscious in the presence of people I know who read my blog, I think they expect that I’m going to be some sort of strident lunatic, whereas in reality I’m actually quite placid and often achingly self-conscious. I do try not to take myself too seriously, although when I’m blogging about my faith, the language will inevitably take on a more earnest timbre. I’m married to a theologian who takes these things terribly seriously, heresy, even if inadvertent is no laughing matter!

It’s become clear to me and many have stated, that on the whole, internet forums can be pretty bad news, particularly when you are Catholic. It seems to me at the moment, that my relaxing hobby is being hijacked. I don’t want to debate with people, I just want to write whatever takes my fancy. If people want to add interesting and constructive comments, or just want to let me know that they have appreciated or enjoyed what I’ve said, then I enjoy feedback. I also enjoy negative feedback or points of disagreement, so long as it is constructive.

But at the moment, I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. For some absolutely inexplicable reason, there is a core of people out there who seem absolutely determined to waste their time and mine writing reams of attacks. These are now going straight into the spam filter.

Shall I switch the comment function off entirely perhaps? Where people have taken the time and trouble to write a thoughtful response, it seems only fair to publish. However when the nice comments are published, a stream of emails comes accusing me of having written them myself and of having invented sock puppets. Apparently Betsey Bareback, Berenike, Londiniensis, Sanabituranima and Tim Pipe are all figments of my “twisted imagination”. I need to get a grip and get a life and some psychiatric help.

Today I attempted to email a few of the commenters, offering my phone number in order to discuss this like civilised adults, rather than be so public, one of the accusations I faced was that I insisted on making all this public, this was all my own fault and that I am guilty of internet attention seeking. So my remedy was to take this more private and discuss this like calm adults. I tried to email two people who had commented with my phone number, however both emails bounced back, either the addresses given were false or alternatively they had blocked my address.

Any time I appeal to the voice of reason, to say look, I’m not open to debate at this time, I want to quietly get on with my life, I want the freedom to be able to air my views in the public arena, the comments start screaming that I am playing the victim. Any appeal to decency, i.e. please don’t call my child “illegitimate” and that did rankle hugely, have a go at me if you feel you must, but don’t start attacking my children, any appeal to people’s better natures, simply solicits the response “oh you are so good at manipulation and making yourself out to be so saintly, you haven’t published my response which tells the world quite what an unwholesome and evil person you are, that’s because you are scared of what I have to say”. No I am not scared, but if you’ve made a point which I have answered, then there is no need to constantly labour it, again and again.

I don’t need to be repeatedly told that I am insane and live a desperate life. I don’t want to be scared of blogging because every post generates non-stop email traffic.

Perhaps I need some technical help here. Can I change my email address that is allocated to wordpress so that my usual email is not bombarded with this nonsense? So that people can comment away and I don’t have to see their comments, perhaps checking them once every few days. I set up this site using my regular email address, which friends, family and business correspondence comes through, is there any way I may change that without deleting the entire blog.

I am 34 weeks pregnant, I have more than enough on my plate at the moment, as many of us do, 2011 has not been an easy year so far and so I am politely asking that people simply leave me alone to blog in peace. If you don’t like me, then please, I implore you, just stop reading my output and leave me and my “adoring minions” in peace. Although which is it? Adoring minions who are not doing me any mental favours or figments of my imagination. Every single comment I receive whether positive or negative causes a publishing dilemma. If I publish it, is it going to inflame the situation further, if I ignore it is the poster going to get even more indignant at not being heard and keep flaming. Really I don’t know what to do?

This is not “internet attention seeking” but my hobby. I have a right to freedom of expression like anyone else. Any appeals that highlight the fact that I want to be left alone are met with derision and the fact that I have brought it on myself and that I need to “stop, just stop now” and that I need to take down my blog if I want any peace and quiet.

I’m a stubborn so and so. The more that I feel that I’m trying to be silenced, the more I am going to blog. Why should a bunch of women, who really don’t seem to have any purpose to their lives other than to gang up and collectively bitch and snipe in a pack mentality, stop me from what is usually an essentially enjoyable hobby?

What is the answer, apart from stopping blogging? Should I move to a different site and re-name the blog? Should I simply disable the comment functions? One particular commenter said “nobody ever reads your  rubbish blog except when somebody links to it, so we can all laugh at you”.

The stats tell a different story. Since starting this blog last April, I am approaching 1oo,000 hits. I have no idea if that is good, bad or average. My busiest posts have been the one on Peter Stamford and my pro-life witness posts. On the busy weeks I get 3,000 hits. So clearly some people are reading, even if they don’t like what they see. Perhaps that is what is causing the upset, people don’t like to be thought of badly by others, or feel they are being presented unfairly. I have named no names and there is nothing to identify anyone. I vented some fury at some ridiculous theological assertions and the backlash from those who made those statements has been absolutely unbelievable.

I think this might be the last post that I leave open to comments, although I can’t work out how to disable comments on WordPress, weak and feeble individual that I am. What’s the answer, close comments, change email or migrate site and keep its identity beyond the reach of the outraged “liberal”? If I migrate sites, can I still keep the content?

All sensible suggestions welcome. What I want to do is keep out the trolls, maintain a public blog, open for comments but get rid of those who wish to make the blogosphere unpleasant for all.


6 thoughts on “Blogging dilemma

  1. I have always thought that writing anything where the content is honest and perhaps controversial (to some) is an extremely courageous act. Even if I haven’t agreed with the blogger’s views – I still admire the writing prowess, the courage and the content as worthwhile.

    However, to be this honest, particularly as a woman and in the realm of organised religion, you are likely to attract a certain calibre of the insane. Namely, the zealots. Historically, these nuts have wrecked havoc on many a fine person/country/peace treaty.

    As a writer you will be naturally sensitive and the comments ARE personal and, in some cases, supposed to pierce you to your very core.

    However, please remember that there are others who support your talent & courage and can empathise deeply with the subjects you hold dear.

    Please continue. Much love Tabby x

  2. Hello everyone who thinks I’m a figment of this blogger’s imagination!

    From an article on the writer Ron Hansen:
    One famous novelist told Hansen to his face that he hated Catholics. “Well, I’m a Catholic,” Hansen answered him. “He was somewhat embarrassed, but not as embarrassed as he should have been.”

    On another occasion a novelist friend suddenly walked out of the room when he found out Hansen was Catholic. A third assumed him to be a “lapsed” Catholic, and upon learning that Hansen actually practiced his faith, said, “That makes me really nervous about you.” That makes Hansen wonder aloud: “Can you imagine saying that to anybody of any other religion?” (Monstrous Regiment of Women)

    Forums can get very nasty, especially if they don’t have good moderators – I suppose the fact that you blog under your real name (do you write under your real name on forums as well?) means folk can stalk you and vent their spleen here as well, without a moderator to calm them down. I am most taken with your telephone conversation offer, I am going to have to bear that in mind for future online communications breakdowns/commenter meltdowns.

    You can add ip addresses (and other things) to a “black list” in wordpress – comments from those addresses, or using those emails, etc, will be blocked. Go to dashboard, the bottom button thing of the column on the left hand side, and click “discussion” on the list that appears.

    You can change the email address your wp account uses by going to the third button from the bottom on that lhs column (users), and click “personal”.



    A figment of your twisted imagination

  3. *hugs*

    Speaking as a figment of your imagination, I’m pretty impressed at the effort you put into creating me. You have, apparently, been blogging under my username since May 2008. That’s an awful lot of effort to go to just so you could then pull me out to take your side in an argument now. I am a very well-fleshed-out sock puppet. 🙂 (Although not as well-fleshed-out as berenike, whom you have been “inventing” since 2004. I am jealous.)

  4. You have a lot of questions about your blog. Something that you enjoyed and valued has brought you much grief, and at a time when you are vulnerable because you are at the end of your pregnancy.

    Firstly, you need to take care of yourself. What now, is the best thing for you at such an important time? What can you deal with and what causes too much stress and agro?

    Secondly, I often find the Ignatian Examen helpful. Looking back over the last week, what draws you close to God and what pulls you away? What do you need now to enter fully into Lent and receive the gift God is offering at this time?

  5. I don’t know much about WordPress; but on Blogger there’s the facility to “hide” all comments and they are not published until the Blog Owner (you) have seen them and approved them.

    As for your email address. I suggest you get a free address like hotmail or yahoo and use this for your Blog; thus leaving your current email address only available to friends and family.

    God bless.

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