Is Blogging Putting You at Risk?

July 17, 2008

Celebrities get a lot of flack in the media. And many people claim that celebrities have no right to complain because they put themselves in the public eye. Also, most of them are paid a small fortune for entertaining the public.

So what about bloggers? By putting ourselves in the public eye, are we giving them carte blanche to attack, humiliate, gossip about us and worse? It isn’t really something I worried about before but something happened to change my mind.

Yesterday, some people I barely know did something to deliberately humiliate and upset me in public. It was pretty bad - in fact, I was so upset that I reverted to bad habits that have caused harm to my health in the past. And the worse thing was, the amazing pills my GP gave me a few weeks ago, which have helped me to sleep an uninterrupted 8 hours every nights didn’t work. I woke up after 4 hours, still feeling upset about the incident.

The first thing I asked myself was, why on earth would people who don’t even know me, deliberately go out of their way to hurt me? And it occurred to me - if they’ve been reading my blog, they may actually think they know me. But does this make it ok for them to cause me deliberate harm? And is this just something I’ll have to accept because I blog?

It’s not like I blog about anything really controversial. When a business behaves badly, I’ll blog about it if I think it makes an interesting story. And sometimes, I’ll call out businesses who rip people off. Also, I did receive a comment telling me to “go die”, and various other insults, when I wrote this post.

Have you ever had a bad experience as a result of blogging?

How did you deal with it?

Do you think bloggers deserve any hassle they get because they’re putting themselves in the public eye?

Do you find that people who are virtually strangers act as though they know you intimately just because they’ve read some of the things you write?

Do you think bloggers attract a certain amount of jealousy from strangers? Why is that? Is it because they think we’re all making millions a year like Perez Hilton, or is there some other reason? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Related Reading

Those Are Fighting Words: Want to drive a heap of traffic to your blog and don’t mind if you also get a lot of hassle because of it? Barbara Swafford discusses some articles that have pissed off a lot of people.

Are You Sick Of The StumbleUpon Freaks?: The original article I wrote that provoked a heap of attacks - I also got a decent amount of traffic from it ;-) And this is the follow up that prompted a commenter to tell me to “go die”: Is StumbleUpon Going Down The Tubes?

Egyptian Blogger Jailed For Insult: Some bloggers may get a lot of flak when they write something controversial. But this guy was jailed for three years for insulting the president.

Kathy Sierra contacted the police and quit blogging after she received death threats in the comments section of her blog. The offensive comments have been taken down and the blog hasn’t been updated since April 2007. But the blog still gets a lot of traffic due to it’s brilliant content and you can still check it out here: Creating Passionate Users.

Teenager Commits Suicide After Cyber Bullying:
An evil neighbour deliberately set up a fake MySpace account to harrass a teenage girl and drove her to commit suicide.

Five Ways To Defeat Blog Trolls And Cyberstalkers:
Having trouble with a Psycho Troll or Cyberstalker? Computerworld discusses the behaviour of these wackos and shows you five ways of dealing with them.

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24 Responses to “Is Blogging Putting You at Risk?”

  1. Scott McIntyre on July 17th, 2008 7:18 am

    I’m horrified, and sorry, to learn of your experiences Cath. It’s shocking.

    As for the comment to ‘go die’, surely the commenter knew that this would be deleted (I hope you did) and never make it to the public section? Or, maybe, they knew this and still left the message for just you to see as you moderated it. Coward!

    I guess this is a wake-up call to people like me who put their image on their internet presence.

    Many other people do include an image of themselves in both their blog “About Me” page and on their social media profiles. On the other hand, many don’t.

    I suppose we have to assess our own attitude towards being, potentially, recognised in public.

    It’s funny, but I actually hadn’t regarded blogs, social media profiles etc as being so universally popular that bloggers would be recognised in public going about their daily business.

    Certainly, food for thought, so thank you for highlighting the issue.

  2. cathlawson on July 17th, 2008 7:28 am

    Hi Scott - Thanks. I didn’t delete the go die comment on that post. I deleted the abusive comments on the first posts but I left that, as the commenter seemed really worried that it would interpreted as a death threat.

    I don’t have a picture of myself on here and I changed my name when I remarried 21 months ago. I pretty much keep myself to myself and it didn’t occur to me that people who live nearby read this blog, until I began receiving comments from them.

    This really puts me off adding a pic. Thinking about it, there’s a lot of bloggers I would recognise instantly on the street and I would hate to attract even more wackos.

  3. Barbara Swafford on July 17th, 2008 8:30 am

    Hi Catherine,

    It’s no wonder you want to emigrate. Some people can be SO rude and inconsiderate it would be a blessing to be away from the sickos.

    So far I’ve been fortunate and hopefully it stays that way, however, I’ve been on Problogger and have seen comments from readers that are down right mean. Often, it’s over the smallest thing like a typo. I’m thinking “give the man a break, he’s sharing what he knows for free”.

    I realize those reactions are often due to envy and jealousy, but it still doesn’t justify treating others badly.

    As you know, I haven’t shared a picture of me either (other than the one when I was six). After reading stories like yours, I hesitate to even consider it.

    Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..What Does That Have To Do With Anything

  4. Barbara Swafford on July 17th, 2008 8:31 am

    Me again,

    Thank you for linking to my blog. I certainly appreciate it!

    Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..What Does That Have To Do With Anything

  5. cathlawson on July 17th, 2008 8:49 am

    Hi Barbara - you’re welcome. It certainly does want to make me leave sooner rather than later. No wonder some people use pseudonyms on the Internet.

    I noticed folks like the grammar police on sites like Shoemoney and Problogger too. Those people are obviously jealous.

    Hopefully nobody will recognise you from the pic when you were 6 - but it really does put you off using a real picture doesn’t it?

  6. Tom Volkar / Delightful Work on July 17th, 2008 11:22 am

    I must not be stirring anything up much because I have never experienced any kind of attack. I commend you for writing on what matters to you. Since your writing does hit a nerve I’d ask, what’s good about this? It’s really a compliment that you are reaching these emotional cripples.

    I liken this to the guy in traffic who flips you the bird because of some imagined slight. He’s real courageous behind the wheel and protected by that buffer. But if I accidentally bumped into the same guy on the street he’s probably excuse himself. These cowards are hiding behind the safety of the Internet and likely would have no spunk at all in a face-to-face meeting. Forget about them.

    Tom Volkar / Delightful Work’s last blog post..Today I Simply Ran Out of Excuses

  7. cathlawson on July 17th, 2008 12:31 pm

    Hi Tom - thanks. I knew you’d help me see the positive side of this. I guess I annoy people by saying what I think but you’re right - it is a compliment and I guess it’s far better than being ignored.

    If a blogger is open and speaks their mind, they shouldn’t be worried about cowards who hide behind pseudonyms.

  8. Marelisa on July 17th, 2008 1:01 pm

    Hi Cath:

    The reality is that whenever you put yourself out there you’re leaving yourself open to attack; there’s a lot of really sad people out there. There’s a saying that goes something like: you only throw rocks at trees that bear fruit.

    Marelisa’s last blog post..What is Love?

  9. cathlawson on July 17th, 2008 1:11 pm

    Hi Mare - that’s true. And we can’t hide, just to avoid these negative people.

    I really like that saying. Thanks.

  10. Tom Volkar / Delightful Work on July 17th, 2008 1:59 pm

    Cath you may annoy them but that’s only because they already have considered some truth in what you are saying. It may be an uncomfortable truth that they may be trying to avoid looking at. You’ve actually done them a great service by exposing their avoidance.

    Anyway what matters is that you can find a clear and positive way of looking at the lesson you were meant to see in all of this. Can you clearly see that lesson yet?

    Tom Volkar / Delightful Work’s last blog post..Today I Simply Ran Out of Excuses

  11. Hunter Nuttall on July 17th, 2008 2:46 pm

    Unfortunately, this kind of thing seems to be the norm as a blog grows. I think Tom has a good point–if they didn’t think there was any truth in what you were saying, they’d just ignore you. But if they overreact, that means you hit a nerve.

    I’ve only had negative comments on a couple of posts, and the only thing that bothers me is when people attack me without identifying themselves. I think those situations are rarely constructive. But then I have to wonder how productive they are if they have time to do that kind of stuff

    BTW, in the Related Reading, your “tubes” link points to the “freaks” post. Hope this doesn’t qualify me as grammar police or something!

    Hunter Nuttall’s last blog post..The Hidden Question In All Job Interviews

  12. Stuart Lawson on July 17th, 2008 4:31 pm

    Just shows you how petty and jealous some people can really be, I am really proud of what you are doing, just ignore them and carry on the good work.

    As for what happened yesterday that was bang out of order and was a deliberate act to belittle you in front of others, How insensitive can you get especially coming from a …… …………

  13. Vered on July 17th, 2008 6:34 pm

    I am so sorry you are going through this.

    Marelisa wrote an amazing comment on my blog a few weeks ago. She said:

    “I got not one, but two comments on my blog (both from the same person), saying some really awful things about my last post and about me (and using a lot of the “f” word). I immediately got an image in my head of what the person who posted those comments must be like, and I actually felt sorry for them. Then I just deleted the comments.”

    I will always have a huge amount of respect for Marelisa, for many other reasons, and especially because of this comment.

    No one deserves all this hate. Celebrities included. I see the tabloids when I wait at the supermarket checkout line and I am appalled at what I see.

    I think the best thing to do is to remember, that no one attacks others unless they are very unhappy. Happy, fulfilled people do not feel the need to attack others and humiliate them. Anyone who needs to put others down in order to build themselves up and feel better about themselves is miserable.

    Is it a consolation that your attackers are deeply unhappy persons? I think it is.

    Vered’s last blog post..Lima Beans in Gelatin… Mmmm TASTY (Wordless Wednesday)

  14. Brad Shorr on July 17th, 2008 8:12 pm

    Cath, Sorry you’re going through this. I’ve had it happen a couple of times, and it is very difficult not to let it gnaw at you. But for every person out there who takes anonymous pot shots, there are hundreds more who like and respect what you’re doing.

    Brad Shorr’s last blog post..Fear

  15. Marelisa on July 17th, 2008 9:18 pm

    @Vered: Thank you for adding the comment I left on your blog and for your kind words. I was in charge of the Labor Relations Division of the Panama Canal Authority for awhile and I was constantly being attacked by the unions (just part of the job) so I’m kind of used to it.

    Marelisa’s last blog post..What is Love?

  16. Vered on July 17th, 2008 9:25 pm

    @ Marelisa: well, I really do admire you.

    Vered’s last blog post..Lima Beans in Gelatin… Mmmm TASTY (Wordless Wednesday)

  17. RacerX on July 17th, 2008 9:55 pm

    Well a smiliar thing happened to me that basically stopped me blogging, almost forever. i have two stories picked up from my blog. One I know was controversial, and was intended to be thought provoking and the other was just a regular post on saving money.

    On the first one, I recieve really nasty comments about me , my kids, etc. Since it was one other site I couldn’t modete them. I am actually fine with personal attacks on me, cause I really don’t care. But going after my kids was too much.

    The second artical was soooo benign. It was about saving money while go out to eat. And people got off on attacking me…

    To your point, people think that what you get, or we are all Perez Hilton or something, but we are all just regular folks sharing our lives.

    If you said some of the things people post, you would get decked! :)

    Hang in there champ!

    RacerX’s last blog post..Tempus Fugit is NOT a Rap Star

  18. cathlawson on July 17th, 2008 11:29 pm

    Hi Tom - that’s a great point. I guess they’re just not grateful for me helping them out.

    I’ve been thinking all day about what I was supposed to learn from this and I guess one thing would be to think ahead before I write, try to anticipate the consequences and decide whether I want to deal with them.

    Also, by allowing strangers to upset me, I’m giving them power. They want a reaction, so I should not give them that satisfaction.

    Am I on the right tracks?

    Hi Hunter - I heard what happened to you through Barbara. It’s bad when people attack you anonymously but it’s sad that they have nothing better to do and as Tom says - they really are cowards.

    No - I don’t think you’re one of the grammar police. Thanks for pointing that out.

    Hi Stuart - thank you. I shouldn’t have let it get to me so much. I deleted the last part of your message because I won’t include references to those types on here. The StumbleUpon comments will come down in a few days too.

    Hi Vered - That’s an excellent point. You really have to pity people who behave like that because they’ve obviously got problems. That makes things feel a lot better - thanks.

    Hi Brad - that is true. It really is only a small percentage who do things like this - the majority of people have good intentions.

    Hi Marelisa - I guess that getting attacked on your blog must be nothing compared to that. And I know how mean unions can be.

    Hi Racer - That is terrible. Saying things about your kids is the lowest of the low. Some people are just sick. And how can they possible find something hostile to say about saving money on eating out? That is just sad. I’m glad you didn’t stop blogging because of them.

  19. Sara at On Simplicity on July 18th, 2008 5:38 am

    I love Marelisa’s viewpoint that after the initial reaction at the comments on her blog, she just felt sorry for someone who was so unnecessarily mean. I’d love to think that I’d react like that, but who knows?

    Getting attacked has a way of rallying your friends to your side, so I hope that’s been the case for you. You’ve got a friend here.

    Sara at On Simplicity’s last blog post..What Feng Shui Has to Say About Clutter

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  21. Tom Volkar / Delightful Work on July 18th, 2008 2:22 pm

    Cath this is a very good realization for you. “Also, by allowing strangers to upset me, I’m giving them power. They want a reaction, so I should not give them that satisfaction.”

    I’d never presume to tell you if you’re on the right track or not. But this realization is powerful. I’d like to share a mantra that works well for bloggers. Sorry I don’t know who to credit it to but it goes like this. Some will, some won’t, so what - next!

    Tom Volkar / Delightful Work’s last blog post..The Missing Key to Success

  22. cathlawson on July 18th, 2008 4:13 pm

    Hi Sara - Thank you. Marelisa’s reaction was a good one and I’ll definitely be taking a leaf out of her book in the future.

    Hi Tom - That’s a great mantra. I’ve definitely learned from this experience and I’ll handle it much differently if it happens again.

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