Sunday, December 7, 2014

When Bloggers Attack, and What We Can Learn

This is a post I've really been wrestling with, but I want to be able to talk about things like these. Identifying details have been removed, because it's not about the individual people or the circumstances, but what we can try to learn from each other.

The other night I found myself wide awake at 3 am, and so I did what any reasonable person wide awake at 3 am would do: I looked at Facebook.

Okay, yea, that's probably the worst idea ever. Don't do that at 3 am. Be better than I am.

I rubbed the bleariness from my eyes and saw the top story in my news feed, an article I'd seen shared by a number of my friends earlier in the day. This time though, it said three of my friends had commented on the post, and there were 40 comments on it at the time. "Oh no," I thought to myself. I knew that this thread was going to be very different from the others I'd read earlier.

The subject of the thread was a magazine article, about a writer and mother I know, on a complicated and difficult topic. This wasn't the first time I'd read details of this story, as I've been following this woman's blog for years. Meeting her at BlogHer13 was like meeting a celebrity for me, since I'd long ago fallen in love with the way she puts words together. We are Facebook friends, and while I don't know her incredibly well, I think very highly of her.

I like this friend. I believe she is a good mom, a good person who was trying to do her best in a situation that I can't begin to comprehend. I was grateful to read her story, to gain some insight into that which is beyond me.

The thread I read at 3 am was initiated by a friend, another blogger I admire and respect greatly, and had the pleasure of meeting at BlogHer14. Two other bloggers and friends of mine commented on the thread, coming from the other side of similar situations in the magazine article. They were all very upset about the story shared in the piece, as well as the tone and some of the specific word choices used. All three of these friends are people I think very highly of, and am honored to know.

I really like these friends. I believe they are all good moms, good people who have tried to their best in situations that I can't begin to comprehend. I am grateful to read their stories, to gain some insight into that which is beyond me.

Though the Internet can seem so big, the blogging world is in fact pretty small. If I were to ever bother classifying people into the lists encouraged by Facebook and Twitter, I'd probably put all four of these women on the same list. But it wasn't until that night, when I was confronted with the hurt comments I saw, some of them attacking my friend, that I realized the four of them were also connected through the tangled threads of this difficult topic.

At 3:15 in the morning, I sent one of them a message, trying to describe how I felt. We talk often, and I knew I could open up to her about how I felt and we could have a discussion. That I thought the article's tone was off, that maybe the circumstances weren't perfect, but that I knew the woman and felt that she tried to do good overall. My friend said she appreciated my reaching out, and in fact, I asked her to pre-read this blog post before I hit publish.

Did I diffuse some of the hurt my friend felt? I doubt it. Maybe a little. But I did learn.

As I have been writing this over the past few days, the world has been reacting to another situation like those we have seen all too often lately, dealing with police and matters of race. I have tried to dip my toe into talking about issues like race, or other complicated topics like depression, over the past few months. I know the power of the written word, and if I'm going to bother contributing to the cacophony, then I at least hope my words are fair, that I try to listen first, that I use this space as a medium for transmitting higher ideals.

While the topic may not be the same, I believe that all four of my blogging friends are trying to use their spaces for the same mission. We are sharing our stories as best as we know how, and hopefully, even through different points of view, we are all able to learn something from each other, and can limit the judgement we cast out towards others. I'm grateful to all of the people in my blogging community who help open my eyes to the complexities of these issues, and who force me to try to do better. I hope that I become a better human being because of your efforts, and that in turn, maybe I help some of you who are reading along, too.

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