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Resourceful Blogging: The Passive-Aggressive Commenter

I went to school with a girl I will call Jilly from pre-school all the way through high school graduation.  We were close friends off and on, playing together in the afternoons, attending the same sleepovers, occasionally participating in the same activities.  But there was a side of Jilly that I never liked that drove me to completely avoid her during our last couple years of school.  She played what I like to call the “No Offense But” game. If you’re not familiar with the game, it goes something like this.

“Hi Amy, how’s it goin’?  Hey, no offense *insert big smile*, but that sweater just doesn’t look good on you at all.”

There are many variations of this game including the sneaky kind, which removes the words No Offense But from the dialog entirely while keeping the same effect.  It might involve, “That’s really awesome that you would wear those shoes.  I could never try to pull of wearing something so out of style.”  And then there’s my personal favorite, “You are so courageous to wear a skirt that short with such strong legs.  Good for you.”

As bloggers we’re used to readers disagreeing with us from time to time.  Perhaps we have posted a recipe that didn’t turn out nearly as well in the reader’s home or we’ve written about a learning game that turns out to be a flop with their children.  At times some of us delve into politics or religion, which can bring up heated discussions in the comments section.  And every blogger is familiar with trolls, those people who swing by a blog with the sole purpose of leaving  a nasty and usually unrelated comment. I’ve had those – they like to tell me I’m a horrible mom and that my blog sucks – and I generally just delete the comment.  I value the opinions of my readers, but obviously intentional attacks from someone who is not a regular reader but rather a fire starter are not worthy of my nor my audience’s time.

But what do you do as a blogger when a regular reader returns again and again to leave passive-aggressive comments akin to the “No Offense But” game? The comment might start out just fine – “You’ve made some great points and clearly this parenting tip was carefully researched..” – but then it takes an ugly Jilly like turn.  Some will drop the passive entirely and head straight to aggressive – “…but I have to disagree with everything you said and just don’t know how stupid you’d have to be to believe all of that.”  Others will slide carefully into jabbing at you like a three year old wanting to play Candyland just one more time – “….and I bet that this would work in a lot of homes.  It didn’t work at ALL for us, but I bet that was my fault because I have a PhD in early childhood education so I’m probably just OVER educated causing YOUR advice to not work for us.”   Pick.  Pick.  Pick.  Jab.  Jab.  Jab.

So What Do You Do?

There are some bloggers that cringe at the idea of deleting comments because they want to keep the conversation open and natural on their blog. They don’t want to overreact and become too sensitive to their blogger’s comments.  They value the dialog above their personal feelings.  But then there are others who take a blogging version of Guy Kawasaki’s #UFM (un-follow me) Twitter philosophy – if you don’t like what I’m saying, feel free to go elsewhere.  The problem is that the passive-aggressive commenter isn’t as clear cut a case as a troll or a cyber-stalker. I asked other bloggers on Twitter to share their techniques when dealing with the snark, and I received a variety of responses.

– Guilt Free Deletion Policy

Some bloggers say that the situation is crystal clear: your blog, your prerogative.  If a comment packs more snark than a Weekend Update on SNL, simply don’t approve it or delete it from your site.  In fact, Carrie from Cadyville Coupon Clipper has a “will not engage with negativity” policy and for that reason deletes those types of comments.  J. Danielle from Media Strut has written more than once on the importance of comment moderation on your blog, going so far as to amusingly suggest that if you’ve got something nasty and off topic to say, you can feel free to start your own blog.  That’s some great advice.

– Kill ‘Em With Kindness

Other bloggers say go ahead and allow that comment to appear, but then reply with a sugary sweet response that will take the wind right out of their sails.  Miss Britt from Miss-Britt.com said that she stands by the kill ’em with kindness approach most of the time and that seems to work for her.  But don’t catch her on a bad day, and thinking about writing a flat out nasty comment?  It won’t appear on her blog.  Delete, delete, delete.

– Take It Off the Blog

What do you do if the same reader returns again and again leaving these back-handed compliments and confusing comments, indicating that maybe more is going on than meets the eye.  For some that means posting or deleting the comment, but most definitely emailing the reader.  I’ve personally gone so far as to call someone to clarify comments they were leaving, and it turned out that there was a complete misunderstanding regarding a giveaway on my site.

– Watch Them Unravel

One blogger on Twitter shared that unless a comment is flat our racist or obscene, it appears as is.  The reason?  Readers leaving intentionally annoying comments inevitably do themselves in with their nastiness or are taken care of by other readers who keep them in check and moderate the space or community they love.  There’s no need to take care of them when they’re on their way to taking care of themselves…

The bottom line?  It’s your blog and most of us have been out of high school and away from the Jillys of the world for years.  So what do you do when the no-offense-but girls come to call?

Comments

  1. 1

    I block them. Done!
    Hollee Temple recently posted..Surrendering to the Known- and to the Unknown

  2. 2

    So sorry you are dealing with this situation. Right now I am dealing with a genuine Cyber Stalker. This person has been threatening my husband (TechyDad) and me. We tried ignoring it, erasing harassing/threatening comments, and then we had to take it to a new level. Eventually threats forced us to write a post letting people know about the general situation in case this individual contacted them. Now, we are waiting to hear back from the authorities because I am quite scared of what has taken place since September.
    Beth @ TheAngelForever recently posted..My Keurig cure

    • 3

      Beth, I am VERY fortunate in that this almost never happens to me, but I see it happening on a ton of other sites and it’s so aggravating. I even see it on friend’s Facebook pages. Networked Blogs posts the latest post and suddenly there’s a snark fest.

      As for Cyber Stalking, I just saw a great story on TODAY where a young lady being harassed on FB went to the authorities and charges were filed. I was so happy to see that it was taken seriously! Good luck!

  3. 4

    Truthfully (and you might think I’m crazy), but I write up a nasty return, read it out loud and then delete it. I don’t want to play their game. I don’t even want them to know that they affected me in any way.

    But I still need to get it out and for some reason this works for me. It lets me release.
    Vera @ Lady and the Blog recently posted..Rocking Red Heels For Every Budget

    • 5

      Vera, I bet this would work when we’re mad at a friend, our boss, our husband. So much better than typing in anger and hitting enter! Great idea!

  4. 6

    I have hateful commenters that are family members. They’ve commented multiple times, written me nasty emails and even started “hate blogs” attacking my family and I. I had to get my lawyer and info sec husband involved once they began posting private and personal information about my daughter (who is 5). They even began contacting my regular commenters and sponsors, I had to turn off the option of linking back to people because of this. At this point, blogging has left my sails because my birth mother and cousin refuse to leave me alone.
    Katie recently posted..Wordless Wednesday- Photography talent by J Harlow!

  5. 7

    This rarely happens to me online, but I have had plenty of experience with it IRL. Somehow I seem to attract the Jillys. I silently shake my head and feel sorry for them. Either they are mean at heart or they are completely clueless as to how their words are coming out. I try not to take it to heart.
    Lolli @ Better in Bulk recently posted..Link Up Your Giveaways Here!

    • 8

      Lolli, I bet that a lot of times they are clueless. But there are some that have made it an art form. The Jilly in my young life could have medaled in it in the Olympics. LOL!

  6. 9

    I like Veras idea. Type out what you would say and then erase it. I do that sometimes. I personally think since it’s your blog your opinions and if this person can’t respect it then they don’t deserve to be commenting and their comment could have been completely acceptable until they threw in that bit about them being over educated causing your advice not go work for them. They could have left that bit out and everything would have been kosher. I am rambling now but really I think you should do what you feel is best whether it’s deleting, blocking, replying etc.
    Shana recently posted..Mothers know best- dont let anyone tell you otherwise

  7. 10

    Very good tips :) I don’t get many commenters these days as I was out of the blogosphere for a while, but now I’m crawling my way back into it :) I tend to be nice even when I disagree, just my style. But I know some people who hide behind the anonymity and just use it as a venting board.
    Erica recently posted..Cookbook Review – Food Network Store

  8. 11

    It’s crazy how bold people get when they get behind a computer. So sorry you have to deal with that. Thanks for the helpful post! My blog may not have a lot of readers yet, but honestly, I’ve been afraid to really promote it because I was afraid of the nasty comments I might get. I also blog about child care, but I do a lot of research, I don’t have children, and I don’t want people to assume I am not knowledgeable in child care just because I don’t have children.
    This post makes me feel better! Thanks!

  9. 12

    wait whats a comment? 😛
    DaDa Rocks! recently posted..XBox 360 &amp Kinect with 2 games giveaway!

  10. 16

    I seem to get negative comments on toy reviews for some reason. At first I didn’t know what to do, but in the end I decided to delete rather than get into it with them. They were pretty nasty, making it personal, and none of them had a public profile or way to contact them. I decided since they weren’t really being fair and accessible it was fine to delete. It hasn’t been too big of an issue, but I do find IRL “friends” like Jilly are more of an issue with me.
    Katie recently posted..Easy Childrens Fleece Gift Set

  11. 17

    I would have to go back to your other posts and try to see which comments you are referring to, but I have a question? Are they all really snarky or does it bother you because there’s a compliment and a dig in the same comment? The only reason I’m asking is because I am in a guidance and discipline for ECE class, and it is a technique we are taught when we have something “not so nice to say” to the parents. It’s called a compliment sandwich and involves saying something nice before we say what is wrong… then you’re supposed to follow it up with another positive.

    I wonder if your commenter is trying to do that, but just doesn’t have the finesse to keep it from coming across impolite???
    Diane recently posted..Early Childhood- Where was I

  12. 18

    My blog is small so I have not had to deal with this but I have seen an increase in these kinds of comments on twitter. It’s almost as if some people who go to twitter parties expect to get a prize like it is their right, and then complain when they don’t. The negative attitude is really annoying to me. Wish those people would just leave the partying to the happy people…lol! :)

  13. 19

    Hi I’m new here! I just wanted to pipe up and comment because I’ve tried two of the ways you’ve described with a situation I had. I had a real life Jilly that wanted to bash me and constantly blew it off (delete!) and had finally had enough and wanted that person exposed. I just have a very small family blog and most of my readers know me personally so I guess deep down I wanted them to see what was happening. I allowed the comment and wrote a little response post to it. Instant regret. I looked just like Jilly then. It wasn’t what I really wanted to do anyway but I had let it go so long that it just kinda blew up! :( When “jilly” wrote me a nasty email back, I knew the right thing to do then. I just let it be…. and ignored from then on. It stopped soon after!

    Great advice, none of which included my “flip out on the commenter” approach! It doesn’t work! That’s for sure!!!
    Lindsey @harpersvillehome recently posted..Getting in the Christmas Spirit

  14. 20

    I do like the “kill ’em w/ kindness” route especially when it’s on a blog where you have time to think before responding…not always so easy to do in person. I also agree that these types hang themselves in time.

    I have met my fair share of “Jilly’s”. I try to smile and say “I love you too!” They usually get the point…or run away! 😉

    Barbara
    @Goin2Carolina

  15. 21

    My current blogs are on password-protected sites so I don’t have to worry about postings from anonymous people. However, when I was posting on public sites, I tended to ignore anything mean that was said to/about me. Why? Because my personal opinion was that what happened on the Internet had no bearing on my real life (sticks & stones and all that jazz).

    Now, with that being said, there was a point in time where I feared the Internet had bled over to my real life. My family had been on the receiving end of phone calls that came at all hours of the day & night (mostly, night). After several months, I involved the police department. Thankfully, the outcome was that there was no connection between the Internet and what had been happening to my family. Still, it did sour my feelings toward the Internet because it was such a vast place to hide in.

    I’ve been on the Internet since before it was the Internet (the ’80s). I’ve seen all kinds of things. To this day, I’m glad the Internet allows people to be anonymous. For all the ugliness that happens, there are far more good things that happen. I try to remember that as I read the comment about how ugly I am or how funny my mother dresses me. 😉

  16. 22

    I am a passive aggressive commenter. More often than not I am trying to be funny or sometimes I just want to point out the positive and the negative way I see things. I have no intentions of being vicious but I have come across those people who are. I don’t get why people feel the need to be intentionally vicious so I don’t know what to do about them either. All I do know is I can’t keep quite just because someone doesn’t like what I have to say.

    • 23

      Hannah, you are brave and thank you for sharing with us! Have you gotten a negative response from other commenters when you’ve written something passive aggressive?

  17. 24
    april yedinak says:

    I don’t blog. I am a voracious blog reader. Haha! I have seen the drive-by snark on some blogs, but more often on comments posted on large news or entertainment websites. I am often disgusted with the way people will talk about or to one another. I have a name for this type of behavior, I call it the ‘Drive-thru Jerk’. When I was a teenager and worked fast food (a truly thankless job) people would speak to me through that little box so meanly and rudely, just because they couldn’t see me. I guess they forgot they had to drive around and face me in order to get their food. Most of the time these people were well behaved at the window. I imagine the same would apply in these situations. If these people had to sit across from you and look you in the face, most of them would not act this way. I believe in good debate and I don’t make things personal with people in cyberspace. I imagine as a blogger I would delete rotten comments simply because I wouldn’t want anyone else to be affected by their poisonous negativity.

  18. 25

    Sometimes it does seem as though the art of TRUE conversation is a dying one! It’s OK to disagree, it’s OK we can’t please everyone all of the time, it’s just not OK to be mean, hostile, nasty or verbally abusive. And no matter how aware of this you are, or how patient you are, someone will come along and get you so mad you lash out right back.

    My take is the same with all comments, whether good or bad, I ask myself first, what did I write that made them respond this way, if I’m sure I wasn’t the cause of the snark myself I have no problem letting it go through, sometimes it generates amazing conversation. But when the snarky snarkertons from snarktown are ignored, they to tend to go away faster.

    Delete or not post without guilt is smart, no fuel to the fire! :-)
    Tracy @ Ascending Butterfly recently posted..Yoplait Frozen Smoothies and Kitchen Aid 3 Speed Blender Giveaway! Ends 12-26

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