I cannot read your mind, but I try to. When I write blog entries I try to anticipate how my readers will react. I try to avoid writing words that will unintentionally piss people off. I try to counter-argue objections in advance. I try to avoid analogies that might swerve the conversation off topic. I think about the unexpected ways people reacted to entries in the past so I can avoid mistakes in the future.
I call it defensive blogging.
Still, I’m a long way from putting a sign on this blog saying, “Readings from PastaQueen, certified psychic.” Sometimes I post entries about vulnerable issues and I’m scared to check my email because I don’t know whether I’ll get a “Hell, yeah!” or a “Yeah, you’re going to hell.” Sometimes I read an old post and wonder why the hell I didn’t anticipate the ways people reacted. Here are some of the ways I try to blog defensively, and some of the reasons I’ve failed to block a punch.
Missing landmines because I focus on the whole field
Yesterday, I talked about setting three big goals a year, but I kept my third goal private because it’s personal. My brain must be flying on only one of two engines, because it didn’t occur to me that keeping my third goal a secret would drive people crazy. It was like saying, “Don’t look in this box.” Now everyone wants to know what’s in the freakin’ box. I wasn’t trying to be a tease; I just have to keep certain areas of my life private. I will say, it has nothing to do with finding a PastaKing. And even if it did, that would fall under the greater umbrella of goal #2, “Meeting new people.”
I was so focused on expressing my greater idea in the entry as a whole that I didn’t stop to think, “Hey, what if people want to know what goal #3 is?” Lately, I’ve been worried about my spelling because last week I got 3 e-mails pointing out 3 different typos. I don’t have an editor, people! Spellchecker doesn’t catch everything! That’s the problem with defensive blogging, you never know what you’ll have to defend yourself against. You can build a great moat only to be attacked by flying monkeys.
In my state fair entry, I joked that the carnies might deep-fry rats after hours. Originally I wrote that they might deep-fry cats after hours, but changed it because I didn’t want to get a comment from a crazy cat lady saying, “I can’t believe you would joke about deep-frying felines! I’m going to call the humane society on you!” I myself am a cat person, and I get queasy when my cat even pokes his head into the open microwave door. So, I changed “cat” to “rat” since I figured the rat-loving contingent of my audience was far smaller than the kitty lovers. Attack successfully avoided – unless the rat king is reading this.
Overlooking emotionally sensitive issues
When I was going on TV in May, I said that I hoped I wouldn’t get bumped for a terrorist attack that day, mentioning the Brooklyn Bridge specifically. Some people thought I was joking, but I was being serious. You never know what could happen. Some of my readers in New York found this emotionally jarring because they’d lived through the 9/11 attacks. I live in Indiana and I don’t personally know anyone who was harmed in those attacks, so that statement didn’t have as much of an emotional effect on me as it did on those who were there. I didn’t anticipate how much that flippant comment would upset some people. Otherwise, I would have made an analogy that was farther out there, like “I hope I don’t get bumped by Martians invading Manhattan.” No one has emotional sensitivity to Martians, right? Anyone? Do I have any Martian readers that I just pissed off? Marvin?
Using an example or analogy that steers things off course
In another entry, I was talking about the need to avoid unnecessary negative feedback from your environment. But instead of talking about that, the conversation got steered off course because I’d mentioned a specific incident with a specific commenter. Then, everyone went into my archives and tried to find the comment that I was talking about. Then no one was talking about surrounding yourself with positive influences, they were talking about who said what a week ago. Aaaagh! Now I try not to use analogies or examples that might distract from my main point. Except, of course, I just did because you are probably going to dig through my archives looking for that entry. (And no, I won’t link to the damn conversation. Find it yourself if you care so much.) I also forgot that the commenter was probably still reading my blog, so she got pissed off too, which was ok with me but something I’d failed to anticipate.
Just being wrong
I know you all will be devastated to hear this, but I’m not perfect. Sometimes I say something that is incorrect. For instance, I wrote about eating a passion fruit several weeks after I’d eaten the fruit, saying “I bit into it.” Then people started commenting telling me I should never bite into a passion fruit because its skin is hard. That’s when I remembered I had tried biting into it, and then realized I needed to cut it open. Only, I didn’t take any notes after eating the stupid thing, so I forgot to mention that. Instead of focusing on the entry, people started asking me what kind of dope I was for not being able to eat correctly.
Other times, I have simply been unclear in my writing and people have misunderstood what I was trying to say. These incidents are annoying because people think I’ve said something I wasn’t trying to say. It usually happens when I’ve thrown together a blog entry in 15 minutes before running off to work.
Still, I try
I’m sure I will post entries in the future that will not get the reactions I think they will. But I try to keep the bizarre and unexpected fallout to a minimum. I also try not to let defensive blogging lead to self-censorship. I doubt I can please everyone, nor do I think I should. Some people are assholes, and if they like me it reflects poorly on my character. I’m not against saying something controversial or stating my opinions if I believe in what I’m saying, but I don’t like to stir up shit for no reason.
I don’t like it when reactions to my entries head in weird or unnecessary directions, but I know I can’t control the conversations either. I also have to accept that I cannot place myself in the perspective of every single person who might ever stumble across my blog. I can’t anticipate how every person will react, and if I could there would be no point in having comments anyway. Comments let me hear other people’s perspectives, widening my worldview. Still, I try to blog smarter and better. Defensive blogging is part of that.
Now, give me a second to put on my helmet and insert my mouth guard and the commenting can begin.