Stand-up comedian—and newly minted mommy-blogger—gives some advice (based on experience) on how to comment like a grown up.
Back in the days of yore, or vaudeville as the case may be, the peanut gallery referred to those who sat in the “cheap seats.” They were the hecklers, the rowdy bunch, the group who would throw food at the performers…usually the cheapest snack, peanuts.
Unfortunately, now with the blogosphere a-booming and instant access to practically every person’s thought the minute they think it, the peanut gallery has leapt out of the cheap seats and onto our blogs.
And their taunting comments are aplenty. It is becoming more and more difficult to enforce the phrase, “no comments from the peanut gallery,” because they heckle (sometimes even anonymously) from behind the mask of an avatar.
I touched on the hyperbole of terrible commenting in my piece, How to Lose Friends and Create Enemies Online, but the regrettable thing is, reality is not that far afield from the exaggeration.
However, in spite of the people who don’t know how to behave like “people,” having the ability to comment and receive feedback on your work allows for interesting conversation, sharing solicited (again, *solicited*) advice, compliments and information.
Here are some things I’ve picked up along my blogging journey…
When seeking assistance / giving advice
If you are seeking advice outside the comfort of your friend zone, I will caution you to tread lightly. If you are heading to a forum, try being a silent observer for a bit. See how the other members respond to questions. Are they respectful? Judgmental? Helpful?
Now, do you in fact *want* to seek their guidance?
If your answer is yes, ask away. But remember, in asking for advice, do not insult the choices of someone else.
For example, if you are asking for a suggestion of a new SUV to purchase. You don’t want to say something to the effect of, “I don’t want to buy anything for less than $50,000 because when you buy cheap, you get cheap, and if you get cheap, you are cheap.” Or you don’t want to say that you are looking for something under $50,000 because, “I want to put my money into more important things like feeding my family and anyone who has that money to burn should be shot in the face.” You’d be better off just listing the price range you are aiming for and leave the colorful commentary out of it.
And when you find a site that meets your needs, there will be people willing to share their coupon codes, favorite recipes and power tool recommendations. There are people who will take the time to research answers to your questions…people who, without the ability to seek out advice online, you would not otherwise have met.
When sharing/reading a personal story
When you are sharing a truly personal and honest story, know that you are essentially standing in front of the world naked, scars and all. And by doing so…while there will be people who will admire your courage, there will be those who cannot look past the imperfections and just think, “Ew…gross…what a nasty scar. Cover that up!”
And if you are commenting on someone else’s journey, take the author’s fragility into account and be delicate. This isn’t to say you can’t begin a deeper conversation or ask questions, but think about what you’re typing before you hit “enter.”
In addition to writing here for Torque, I also contribute parenting stories to Kveller.com. Some tales have been a bit lighter (about lullabies or new mom TMI ) while others were far more difficult to write, like admitting that I fell down the stairs while holding my then 4 ½ month old daughter. Or how I suffer from panic attacks when I leave my house with my child because I know she will scream her head off in the car. The comments on the blog posts have been, for the most part, supportive and helpful.
However, when a blurb and link to the blog about my mommy cabin fever posted on the magazine’s Facebook page, criticism started pouring in. Was there more criticism on the Facebook page because it wasn’t posted by me, the author of the article? Did people think, “the author won’t read this, so I can say what I want?” You can find the article here. The comment that hurt the most was this one (note: “CIO” means “cry it out”):
Here I was, pouring my heart out. Divulging my fears, my concerns, my insecurities as a mom because I had a feeling (and as I said, “secret hope”) that I was not alone in this state of panic. And instead of getting the support or even the constructive feedback I hoped for, I was being chastised for the one mention where I said when sleep training my daughter, I let her cry.
I made the choice to let my daughter cry it out to get her more sleep…(yes, I get more sleep as a side bonus), but I just can’t put her (and myself) through that in the car. I can’t sit there and look back at her little face as her eyes well with tears and her cheeks get all red and sweaty. I can’t do it. Well, I suppose the right words are I won’t do it. No matter how well I think I plan it out… that she’ll nap in the car, or I feed her right before she gets in, that she can’t possibly be hungry… she cries. A lot.
No one seemed to have an issue when I mentioned that in order to combat being alone in the car with my daughter, I contemplated seeking out a hitchhiker to entertain my baby. But following a doctor’s instructions to teach my daughter to self-soothe…that was a serious mistake she hoped people wold learn from.
I did feel the need to respond to the “haters.” Even though doing so made me feel foolish for not being able to just brush it off. While part of me wanted to go into attack mode, I chose a middle ground between fight and flight:
After I said what I needed to say there were other commenters, strangers who “had my back,” and came to my defense. Which honestly… felt pretty awesome. Here was one of my favorites:
And so, there was a silver-lining to the critical comments cloud. I was vindicated.
When discussing hot button issues
When discussing a more “controversial” topic, feel free to ask questions while mentioning that you are not looking for judgment on your choice, but just assistance in accomplishing your goal. It’s sad that we sometimes need to state this, but it usually keeps the trolls at bay.
If you are on a local forum looking for a recommendation for a Baptist church, you don’t want people telling you that anyone who is Baptist is stereotype, stereotype, stereotype… you just want to know if you can find a church close to your house to take your family.
People can be ruthless.
On the sports front, ESPN recently closed down all of their forums. Upon doing some research it seems that the message boards were getting out of hand with a troll infestation and the moderators couldn’t keep up. I am a fan (lowercase f) of sports… but I am not a Fan of sports. I realize that fan is short for FANATIC… but the spectrum can go from “I wear a team hat” to, “I murdered the best player on the team and now wear his ass like a hat.” It still cracks me up when fans talk about a game and say, “WE really should have done X, Y, Z.” As if they donned the uniform and took the field, court, ice, etc. But rabid sports fan be crazy.
So much so, that when a fan is respectful on a message board it can get the attention of the organization. A friend of mine, on two separate occasions, met the former social media producer and fan development coordinator for his favorite hockey team.
The producer immediately knew my friend by his twitter handle and said that he was one of his favorite commentators and was always happy to see him add something intelligent to the conversation. And the coordinator said that a recent online dialogue my friend was involved with lead to an all-day discussion in the team’s office.
Who wants to blend in with the rest of the crazies? Be considerate and respectful and get noticed by your favorite team! (Note: getting noticed by your favorite team not guaranteed)
With all we have access to these days, we’ll never be able to completely keep the peanut gallery quiet. Anyone remember when the “Howdy Doody” show was on TV in the ’40s and the section reserved for the children was dubbed the peanut gallery? Well, all it takes is a little respect and consideration to keep the internet’s peanut gallery from completely acting like children.
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