A popular blog post is currently scoring top hits at the CNN.com iReport publicly-contributed blog site, titled “Why I Raise My Children Without God”. Talk about a firestarter: this article hits just about every possible nerve for Americans. It’s personal, it’s religious, and it’s political. CNN is overwhelmed with flags on this post, so much so, in fact, that they’ve asked people to stop flagging it, because they can’t keep up with the responses.
The blogger who wrote the post is probably used to personal criticism. After all, her entire blog is about the topic of raising children without religion, in a country that has religion as part of its founding principles. It also has freedom of speech as part of its founding principles, although the free speech part seems to have been forgotten by those suggesting that her defense of her non-religious lifestyle is “offensive” and “inappropriate for CNN”. (Taken from the comments.) CNN is actually capitalizing on the traffic by asking readers to register and vote about whether her post belongs on the CNN blog site at all.
How bloggers handle criticism can make or break the success of their blog. Some bloggers handle critics and bullies relatively well, and are happy to respond in a logical and clear manner. When handled properly, this can result in rallying fans and inspiring conversations that might not have happened otherwise: the entire point of blogging. But how do we know which criticism is worth responding to? Worth considering and internalizing? And conversely, worth ignoring? Did she do this deliberately to get traffic? It’s possible, but even if she did, this can’t be comfortable for her. Most bloggers find out the hard way that once we expose our thoughts to the public, we’re going to get some form of judgement. In her case, I’m sure she’s getting death threats from some folks with a warped sense of religious righteousness.
While the answers are unclear, and certainly no universal set of rules could apply, what is clear is that all bloggers will at some point receive criticism in one way or another. Being a blogger on multiple sites and on a variety of topics, I’m working to re-evaluate how I protect my privacy, how I respond, how I prepare myself for the inevitable, and perhaps most of all, how I feel about it. Blogging is not just words – it’s often a deep part of our psyche. The author of the post at CNN herself points out that she was happy to find support for her position online, something she had a tough time finding in the realspace. She says, “I just felt there is not a voice out there for women/moms like me.” If your people are not near you in the real world, they are always to be found in the virtual, but you might hit a few trolls while you look for them. So one way or another, it’s important to find a way to handle critics of all types, if only to protect the conversation.
No matter where you stand on her topic, one must admire what she wrote on her own site, on January 16th, 2013: “Yes, there have been some negative remarks, especially on CNN’s site, but I am floored by the overwhelming good will from people of all beliefs. It is so interesting to read about other’s stories, struggles and views.”
Yeah, that’s the point of blogging, isn’t it?