Blogs Are Not Public Message Boards

Karen has been quite the troll magnet lately, so she posted this as a response. It’s a hysterical reply to all the trolls who don’t approve of the way she’s handling her adoption and the feelings it’s awakening in her. ‘Cause, you know, there’s a specific way you should feel when you’re adopting, and soul-searching is not allowed.

One of the trolls that precipitated this response came back under an assumed name and posted a comment that began:

holy crap. someone disagrees, everyone blacks out and yells, “Troll”. It happens on boards all the time, I know. Natural internet thing.

This is something that’s been irritating me for a long time. A lot of drive-by commenters on blogs make the, very incorrect, assumption that the blog they’re commenting on is a public message board, and that their comments are welcome. You know what Ms. Drive-By? Most of the time, your comments are neither welcome nor wanted.

On a blog, one person initiates all conversations. Even on group blogs, there are specific people approved who have the right and ability to initiate new conversations. This is an extremely different online community model from a message board, where anyone who’s registered can initiate a topic of conversation.

At the root of this is the idea that, for many bloggers, a blog is a journal. It’s a place for the blogger to talk about the things that are on her mind. A way to work through an internal dialogue. People may be invited, through a comment form, to participate in these internal discussions. However, the argument that, because a blog is on the public Internet and allows comments, a blogger must be open and willing to accept all manner of judgement, assvice, meddling, and vitriol is a ridiculous one. My house is on a public street. Does that mean I have to allow strangers to come in and comment on the draperies?

Some may see that analogy as absurd, but I don’t think it is. Just as my home is my private space in the middle of a public municipality, my blog is my private space in the middle of a public cyber municipality. Just as I welcome certain people into my home, I welcome certain people into my blog. To some degree, I’m certainly more welcoming on my blog, because people wander in on their own in a way that would make me call 911 if they did it in my home. But once they’re here, I’m the one who gets to decide whether they’re allowed to stay or if they’re to be tossed out on their ears.

Taking the analogy further, I have to wonder if these trolls would behave as abominably if they were guests in Karen’s home as they do as guests in Karen’s blog. Would the troll feel so free to say this:

Instead, this child will have to grow up knowing that she is second best… you couldn’t have your own (it consumes you!) so you took what you could get.

In Karen’s living room, to Karen’s face, as she is saying it on a blog? I don’t think so. The same standard’s should be applied to someone’s private space online as it is in someone’s private space offline. Or, in the words of Thumper, “If you can’t say somethin’ nice; don’t say nothin’ at all.”


2 Responses

  1. Personally, I have no compunction about banning IP addresses and deleting trollish comments.

    It’s well-established that people behave badly on the Internet because of the anonymity factor. I suspect you’ll never convince people to act any differently. To me, it becomes highly ironic when the troll is also a blogger (which frequently happens, since bloggers are the main audience for all the other bloggers), but some people cannot control their own behavior, especially when they know no one will call them on it in person.

  2. I think this was a really good analogy. I love it, in fact. It’s perfect–my blog IS my home, and yeah, that’s on a public street, and anyone COULD walk into it, since I don’t lock the door all the time. And it wouldn’t be so bad if a cool, awesome person walked in, but when a stranger walks in and insults your way of life, then yeah, it sucks.

    Anyway, very wise post, and thank you for writing it.