Oh the Cruel, Cruel Internets!

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The world of mommy blogging is all aflutter. Bloggers have been criticized and those responsible for dishing out the criticism must be shamed or sued or both!!!

For those of you who aren’t hip to what mommy blogging is… it’s blogging done by moms. Lots of them are just using blogging as a creative outlet or for a way to let friends and family know what’s going on with them and their children. Others like Heather Armstrong (Dooce) make obscene amounts of money doing it. And others like Sandi Benson are unusual sorts seemingly looking for attention and validation.

So here you have many women blogging about their personal lives, and that (naturally) means they’re going to have some critics.

What happens when you start writing very publicly about your inability to be a good parent, your spouse’s chronic alcoholism, your child’s mental illness, or your choice to quit your job when you don’t have any money or another job to fall back on???

People are going to say something. In the past, all of these types of things were typically kept private. If you did talk about your family’s issues, it was often to another family member or a close friend or two. Why? Because they’re personal issues. Moms don’t need to feel ashamed of their troubles, but at the same time, there is something called prudence.

Why stigmatize your child? Why tell the whole world about your husband’s affair? Why share with everyone that you were an unfaithful spouse?

There is no good reason for blogging about these things. We have a term in blogland for doing so: oversharing.

Yes, I’m a believer that these things are meant to be private and not shared with millions of people. The internet never goes away. How will your child feel when a classmate says something about his mental illness? What happens when your ex-husband is applying for a job and someone searches the internet for him and doesn’t hire him in part because of the juicy gossip you shared with the world?

And you see, blogging about these private matters doesn’t accomplish anything for the mommy blogger. Oh sure, she’ll get some pats on the back and words of encouragement. But at what cost? The cost to her family does not outweigh the temporary lifting of her spirits. At the end of the day, when the computer is shut off, her family’s problems are still there. Just that now they’re on display for anyone and everyone.

So now that I’ve laid the groundwork for my position that certain mommy bloggers shouldn’t be writing some of the things they’re writing on the internet… we move on to the real focus of this article.

The internets are all aflutter because (*gasp*) people have been criticizing those doing the inappropriate blogging. How dare they! They’re so mean! You have no right to judge me or my family!!!!

I completely disagree. I think that people have every right to voice their opinion on whatever it is you’re blogging about. So if all you write about is special deals you found at the grocery store, then readers should have a great time discussing those deals. If you do book reviews, then people should be free to give their opinions on those books and your reviews. I write about fraud cases and scams, and so people come here and give their opinions on whether or not my analysis is correct.

Those types of topics have nothing to do with your family and your life choices, and so readers should have no reason to talk about your personal life. Who cares how you disciplined your child? You didn’t discuss it on your blog, so it’s not a topic for commentary.

On the other hand, if you’re going to write about the dirty details of your life, then you should expect some reaction. Of course you only want good reactions, but we all know that’s not realistic.

And face it. The more controversial the things you write about, the more likely that you will get negative feedback.  For example, Heather Armstrong ridicules her oldest daughter Leta mercilessly on her blog. People have opinions on that, and I don’t mind them sharing those opinions.

Why would Heather think people would not give their opinions? We’re talking about a defenseless child who will one day read all the insults her mother heaped on her. Heather complains incessantly about motherhood, and I would have sworn that she is the ONLY woman in the world who has ever been pregnant and been uncomfortable during it. No one’s life is quite so dramatic, and no one has quite the same level of vulgarity in describing it. Let the criticism begin.

Sandi Benson blogs about her dysfunctional marriage and her many adopted children on her blog Lucky Thirteen and Counting. Don’t you think she might get some reaction to her tales?  She blathers on about how she and her husband don’t trust each other and how all of her internet activity makes the problem worse. Sandi writes about her mental problems and her sex life. She calls her adopted disabled children by derogatory names like “special eddie.” Sandi is all about “being real” on her blog and spilling all the dirty details of her life.

And so there will be criticism of her and others like her who share far too many details and cross too many lines on a regular basis.

Sandi has been called out on a blog called Poop on Peeps and all hell has broken loose. Frankly, I don’t think the author of this blog is far off the mark. She’s concerned about the dysfunctional household in which Sandi’s kids live. And she’s entitled to her opinion. And incidentally, entitled to express that opinion.

Of course, there are critics of the critics. You have your typical “don’t read it if you don’t like it” crowd.  And you have those who write their own articles to criticize the critics for being critical. And then you have the object of the criticism itself, Sandi Benson, making all sorts of legal threats and trying to bully her critics into not being critical. Really? A lawsuit because someone takes the things she’s openly discussed on her site – her mental state, sex life, affairs, children’s disabilities – and expresses a negative view of that?

I guess mommy blogging wouldn’t really be complete if there wasn’t always some sort of drama. People have had run-ins with Heather (Do You Know How Many Twitter Followers I Have) Armstrong.

And it seems no one wants to get on her bad side.  Last year someone referred to Dooce as a “mythical hobbit” (not an insult, just a reference to the fact that Heather has an almost cult-like following). And Heather brought it up during the closing keynote of Blogher 08. Plenty of people felt that Dooce did this to publicly shame the other blogger. Who knows if she meant to do that or not, but it’s interesting that it took Heather more than a year to come up with this non-apology for the situation. (Notice that the story according to Dooce has changed over time.)

So there is plenty of talk about bullying and legal threats and general drama surrounding the mommy bloggers and their critics.  Heck, a blogger named Jennster was essentially bullied by Heather because she posted a mildly dissenting comment on Mr. Dooce’s (Jon Armstrong) blog last year. Oh yes… the cruel cruel internets say mean things about Heather, but that doesn’t seem to stop her from doing exactly the same thing. (Although recently Jennster got up the nerve to blog the truth, even though I’m sure she was nervous about the potential backlash from the internets. Yes, Dooce has some frenzied followers!)

So what’s my conclusion about all of this drama? If you’re going to blog about your personal life, expect to be criticized about your personal life. If you’re inviting the world into your life via your blog, then expect a response. If there is a negative response, instead of running to your lawyer or whining about being criticized, maybe you should re-evaluate what you’re writing about.

4 thoughts on “Oh the Cruel, Cruel Internets!

  1. This was extremely well written. Thank you for putting it all into perspective by actually including links. I’ve been posting on pooponpeeps.com for a long time now and have always maintained that reading Heather’s “posts” (more like attacks) on her daughter’s character have left me angry at her. I just don’t understand how a mother could write the things that she writes about her child.

    Thank you again.

    Dana

  2. CLH09

    Oh, this is a very nice read! Thank you for writing it and I am hoping very much that a certain ex-mormon blogger from Utah reads it and learns from it.

  3. Well written. I have diagreed with Poop on Peeps in the past and I probably will in the future. The thing is, I’m allowed to disagree with her. I’m allowed to have an opinion and state it, loudly if I want to.

    And you know what? Sometimes I disagree with what a lot of people have written. Sometimes people disagree with me. With blogging about your personal life, you either develop a thick skin, disallow comments and never google for your blog name, or you don’t write about it anymore. Your choice.

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