May 21, 2009

Nattering Nablogs of Negativism

Image credit: Mike Licht

The fitness is cranky around here, but the people aren't. Or at least, the commenters aren't.

I love the comments on Cranky Fitness. Not only are the comments intelligent, but they make me think or they make me laugh. Sometimes both. And the comments are almost uniformly positive, which is not the case with all blogs. (Some blogs, you'd think they recruited their commenters from Rent-a-mob, complete with pitchforks and torches.)

So that's probably why I remember so clearly that we got one semi-negative comment a couple months ago. By the standards of most blogs it barely registered on the neg-o-meter, but it stands out in my memory because it was so rare.

And it got me thinking. (Yes, that does happen occasionally.) But don't panic!

For some reason, when I do this:
Photo: Euthman

People react thusly:

Image: Oddsock

So I'll keep this brief. Here's my thought: I don't see the point of leaving a negative comment on a blog.

If I read something that isn't as interesting as I thought it was going to be, I move on. I don't stop and tell the person that I don't like what they're writing. (Please believe me, the comment that started this train of thought wasn't all that terribly negative a comment. It just got me thinking.)

I have a little blog (Sheesh) that I use to track daily exercise. It's not wildly exciting to read, but I find it a useful way to guilt myself into exercising. About a year ago, someone left a comment to tell me that they had just wasted three minutes of their time reading one of my posts. I calculated that he or she also wasted an additional minute, or even two, to write that comment and send it in. Was it really worth their time? Why bother?

I follow the blog written by an expatriate Britisher now living in San Francisco. One day, someone wrote in to say, "Your blog is still boring." Somehow, I can't seem to forget that comment. I mean, someone came to her blog, read it, found it boring and went away. Fine so far. Why did they come back? And when they came back, why did they feel it necessary to tell the woman that they found her boring?

I can't imagine any scenario in which they thought this could be considered a helpful comment, or any way in which this could be construed as an attempt to start a constructive debate. The only conclusion I can reach is that it felt good on their part to express their contempt.

Why go to someone else's blog to do that? Seriously, this I don't get. You want to write about things that bother you, create your own blog. Fill it with all the things that irritate you. Maybe it will become popular and lots of people will flock to your blog to read about everything you hate. Hey, the man who wrote the blog Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About went on to write an entire book on the subject.

I mean, there are loads of things you can do:

And if all else fails, write a comedy sketch about how to irritate people:

Am I overreacting here? Why do people leave non-constructive negative comments on a blog? Is it fun? Does it ease the frustration of reading something that you didn't enjoy? Is there a secret society out there that goes around leaving negative comments in an attempt to destabilize modern society? What gives?

Apologies to William Safire for twisting his words to suit my title.


  1. Merry, let me first say that you are awesome and i follow you on this blog and on your Sheesh blog! Secondly, if i had an answer as to why some people feel compelled to leave negative comments I would probably have an answer as to why there are jerks out there, why it takes 5 seconds to consume 500 calories and an hour to burn them off, etc. I could surmise that such negativism (and the impetus to express it) has something to do with Penis Envy, daddy or mommy issues, being dropped at birth, being hungry and cranky, low IQ, cruel intentions, master plans to take over the world via pessimism, etc., but, alas, some actions defy logical explanations because they don't even deserve them. wow i really went off on a nonsensical tangent. must be the coffee? Anyway, to all the naysayers, I say - in the brilliant and poignant words of Cartman from South Park - "Screw you guys, I'm going home!"

  2. I have never understood that either. And these type of comments usually come from complete strangers, not the blog's loyal readers. It's like walking through your neighborhood and defecating on someone's doorstep because you don't like their window trim or Christmas wreath. What kind of a person does that?

    I wrote a very well-received post about my take on fat acceptance recently and some complete stranger left a comment saying "You've got to be jokng" - couldn't even spell correctly. I got mad, but then just deleted it! My blog = my rules!

    I'm a new visitor to your blog and love it!

  3. I'm actually reading a book right now that talks about this very sort of thing. It's called "Why We Hate Us", and it's mostly about (so far) how we're becoming a rude boorish culture, with few real social connections, and a lot of anonymous interactions. I think there are a lot of anygry, unhappy people who make themselves feel better by trying to make others feel worse, and it's very low risk if anonymous. I've been lucky not to have gotten any nasty comments so far, but I imagine I will eventually. Ugh, you should see the comments on our local paper's blog, if you want to see mean and ugly.

  4. That's true, these comments are usually written by someone called "Anonymous." Hey, maybe it's just one very busy person and not a world-wide conspiracy after all ;)

  5. I have no idea why people seem to want to spread misery, i mean seriously whats the point?? i'm pretty sure if someone was that mean to me in my blog i would get all defensive and then question myself and then ultimately reach for that packet of cookies, only to be opened in emergancys.... but this is an emergancy, i'm... i'm BORING! *sob*

  6. I agree why write a negative comment.

  7. Good grief this blog is going to the dogs!

    Nah, just teasing! I still love ya.

    Seriously there are some immature negative people who think it is big to make others feel small.

    At least we can choose to delete the comments on a blog, in real life one can't.

  8. You've made a very good point there. I agree. Why leave a negative comment, when no comment would suffice in such a situation?

    By the way, your blog is not at all boring. :)

  9. Unfortunately some people just aren't nice and will go out of their way to be offensive to others. It's sad really but that's life I guess. It takes all kinds. The important thing to remember is that it's more about them and their issues than what they are saying. I always wonder what's going on in people's lives or their history that make them the way they are. When you realise it's really not about you it's easier to let it go.

  10. (*insert negative comment here followed by snappy sentence about how Im just joking)

    People are so happy to lash out and be rude when cloaked by the anonymity of the net huh?

    Ive always wondered WHAT ON EARTH DO THEY FEEL after the press PUBLISH (or whatever) and know theyve left a YOU SUCK!!!! comment.

    a high?
    Is it better than CATS?

  11. We've been extraordinarily lucky here to have such a great bunch of commenters! Even when people disagree about issues, I've never met a group of people more respectful about expressing opinions.

    "Mainstream" media sites seem to be the worst about negative and juvenile comments. I don't know if there are more actual children on them, or if it's just adults with the social intelligence of toddlers, but the wider the audience the more likely you are to get the "you're a doody head" level discussions.

    It's particularly funny on political sites where you get people with advanced degrees and huge vocabularies who are still emotional toddlers and resort to playground name-calling as soon as anyone challenges them.

    But to go on someone's blog and not even disagree about anything, but just tell them they're boring to be mean? That seems really pathological!

  12. Because it's the internet and they can. They are the same people that would never dare tell someone to their face that they are ugly for fear of what would happen but don't mind posting nasty things on the internet because they grow huge pairs of balls when they think nobody knows who they are.

  13. I don't get it either, but I've encountered these people at my job and let me tell you, they DO go out of their way to tell me how much I/the system/the parking lot sucks. Shoot, at least on my blog I can delete the comment - haha, now that's my POWAH!

  14. Hmm...Maybe the negativity has to do with the recent economic climate or the uncertainty of the situation in the middle east...

    Nah, some people just try to make themselves feel better by making other people feel bad. The trick to this is not to let it bother you at all. In all actuality, these blithering idiots don't know you at all and can really have no power over how you feel unless you let them; so if you shake it off and ignore it, problem solved.

    Then again, maybe the schools have all let out and the negativity is coming from the angst ridden who cares teenagers who cant get summer jobs?

    No worries though, I adore your blog and read it daily for inspiration and laughter, so keep it coming.

  15. Merry, a very good post! You know, when I first started my blog, friends suggested I go to other blogs & post comments.. I did not. Then one friend suggested a certain place, not to be mentioned & the negative comments people put there really turned my off to even wanting to post on another blog site so I did not for months & months. Just at the beginning of this year, I started to post on a couple sites & then found more & more like yours & I am so glad I did! It is great to read positive comments & insightful thoughts! I know I am not right a lot of the time & people may disagree with my posts or my comments but constructive criticism is one thing & down right mean useless.

    THX again to you both for always funny yet very thought provoking posts!

  16. I liken the Internet to junior high. People who leave snarky comments have never examined their relationship to the world. It's all about THEM and how others make THEM feel.

    Or I could go with my standard excuse: there are a lot of stupid people out there.

  17. I've never really thought much about the people who leave negative comments. Just like the people who flip others off in traffic or blare their horns after exactly .00007 seconds after the light changes and you haven't slammed on the gas.

    Several years ago, when I was writing a pregnancy-blog, I got a really negative comment. (why are the people who leave seriously negative commentary always freaking illiterate? I mean, my god, learn 2 spell!!) He basically said that I was fat and miserable, I would always be fat and miserable and I would probably raise a child who was fat and miserable, and honestly, I should do the world a favor and just drown myself in bacon grease.

    I can't say that this particular bastion of hope and understanding was a major reason for my decision to change my lifestyle, but I can also not say that it wasn't an influence. Not so much that he (or she?) thought I was fat and miserable but the chance there that I might pass it along to my daughter.

    80 pounds later, I've gone from a size 24 jeans to a size 4 jeans.

    So, sometimes negative comments (even ones that are deleted later) can be helpful...

    I try to take everything for what it is.... information. I can use it for whatever purpose I need. Ignore it, follow it, try something else. I try not to drink the haterade, and I try not to dwell on negative stuff too much. Aside from that, what else can ya do?

    (By the way, the word verification for this comment is hydranate, which sounds like some new sports drink... meybe you should get inventing!)

  18. It could be worse.

    A few months back, at the suggestion of my therapist, I wrote about my sister on my blog. I stuck with stories that I can prove happened (meaning my therapist took notes while I talked to her, there are third parties who saw it, and/or e-mails I sent during the events).

    She found the post, printed it out, wrote a note on it calling me a liar and mailed it to my apartment. Oh, and left a nasty comment. Strangely enough, she hasn't actually spoken to me about it, despite us being in the same house for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.

  19. I honestly wouldn't worry about it. If you look at the BIG blogs, like Freakanomics, they get tons of negative, stupid comments. I think it is because they are big enough and, well, good enough, not to seem like amateurs, and therefore more like an institution, and some people just have to find fault, and express it, with every institution. This is stupid for many reasons, but really? It is their wasted energy. You know how awesome you are, so you can just shrug it off and focus on the gazillion non-stupid comments you have received.

  20. I'd have little problem with somebody disagreeing with the content of my blog post as long as they explained what and why. I've certainly not agreed with everything I've read over the years, and I don't always just walk away without expressing my take on things. But comments which resort to name-calling, or taking jabs at the blogger's intelligence just illustrates the commenter's lack of maturity and intelligence. Some folks just don't know how to handle disagreement with respect.

  21. my theory: people are nasty because their underwear is WAY WAY too tight , my husband's theory: people are nasty because they are not getting any...
    In either case, I love your blog and follow each new entry!

  22. dragonmamma/naomiMay 21, 2009 at 9:21 AM

    I am sooooo bored and miserable and pitiful, I just have to lash out and tell you how much you suck.....WAIT, WAIT, I can't do it! Sorry, sorry, I love you guys to pieces, please forgive me!

  23. i think negative comments (especially the ananymous ones) are their way of acting superior or somehow make them feel they have purpose in life.

  24. I agree with you 100%! I've never understood the need to spread negativity around. I'll never understand why someone feels its okay to insult a person or be rude to someone they've never met.
    Maybe some people are just miserable and feel a tad better when they try to make someone else feel just as bad.

    Negative comments and my sensitivity is the reason it took me so long to start a blog. So far no negative comments but I'm trying to prepare myself for when it happens.

  25. The anonymity of the Internet allows jerks to fulfill their pathetic potential! Sorry buddy!

  26. I can't be sure but suspect I may be related to many of these people (as any of my post holiday blog posts/rants will demonstrate). From first-hand experience I know people like this are generally desperately unhappy with their own lives, can only lift themselves up by tearing someone down and have way too little fiber in their diets.

    As the bumper sticker so aptly says, "Mean People S*ck". I couldn't agree more.

    Keep the Monty Python coming. I had fancied myself quite the Python aficionado but this clip was new to me. I'm still laughing!

  27. Well, so long as they're fulling their potential...

    For the most part, I've dodged the negative commenters, myself. That's why I could say this on Cranky Fitness without sounding whiny and wounded and taking-it-all-personally.

  28. Gigi! A fellow Python fan. Would that all the negativers could be that funny.

  29. I totally agree that it's people power-tripping on the anonymity of the internet. Same with people who post nasty comments on forums. But she who controls the delete/ignore button is the most powerful of all!

  30. Yeah, I feel depressed when I see some of the vitriol in various comments spots on the 'net and get all the-future-is-gonna-be-like-oryx-and-crake, just-like-it mournful. But honestly? After reading this post, I'm just all, "ooh, ooh, what was the negative comment?" Which is, like, horrible, because of course I believe the most powerful response to sh*tty stuff is usually just to ignore it and definitely not to repeat it.

  31. I agree with you. Someone left a nasty comment on my blog years ago and I still get cranky when I think about it. It was just spite with no real purpose. Unless I am debating something the author has said, I tend to just leave. People assume we are blogging for *them*...not always the case, especially for fitness blogs. I'm assuming if I bore someone they shouldn't waste more time leaving a negative comment.

    Constructive criticism or correction of errors though? THAT is good, in my mind. Nothing like healthy debate.

    PS- the word verification is RANT :)

  32. If I don't like a blog - I move on. I don't visit it. Why would you want to visit one you don't care for? I don't understand the logic there.

    I mean, what is your end goal when you post a nasty comment? It's one thing to not agree, but you don't ever need to act like an a**. That applies to blogs and everyday conversations.

    I don't know what's wrong with some people. They are just miserable and negative - and they feel the need to spread their lousy mood to everyone.

    Of course, on the one hand you could look at this sort of person and feel sorry for them - their life must be pretty terrible. If you have to resort to leaving mean, nasty comments that speaks volumes about who you are and what your life is like - and it isn't a pretty picture.

  33. Yup, people are pretty brave when they're anonymous and there are no consequences.
    I guess some folks just feel so powerless in their everyday lives that making other people feel miserable gives them a sense of that power. They just thrive on being a**holes. (I've noticed a similar phenomenon on the roads; some people drive like jerks because it gives them that sense of power. They tailgate, cut you off, flip you off, etc. and they feel as if they've "gotten one over" on you.) It's sad and pathetic. But just think; at least we are not them!
    I think it's also, unfortunately, part of our culture. The people who get the most attention are the ones who rant and rave, say horrible, nasty things, and generally act like spoiled children. They are rewarded for it.
    We're becoming a nation of bullies.

  34. Anonymous negative comments are the equivalent of lobbing stink bombs into an otherwise positive environment. Cyber punks is all. Just looking for attention.

  35. Great post, Merry!

    I've been fortunate on my blog to never have received a negative comment. And I hope I never do.

    I fail to understand why anyone would take the time to leave a nasty comment, unless it just fulfills some desire to spread unhappiness.

    My word verification, BTW, is anoni. Does that mean I should have posted anonymously?

  36. Admittedly, I just left a negative comment on someone's blog yesterday. They had reposted another blogger's recipe and picture as their own and it annoyed me so I told them so.
    I WANT to leave negative comments on a few people's blogs, mostly saying that I really enjoy their blog but since they rarely post anymore it's a waste of time to go there and be disappointed, but I don't because I assume a negative comment would exacerbate the problem.
    That doesn't really help you, but there you go.

  37. Irritating things to tell a vegan? Nah, I know you lovvvvvve us vegans! We invented the apple and other fine plant foods ;)

    Anyway, yes, that's why when you leave mean comments you get called a troll. 'Cause it's so mean and unncessary!

  38. I have no idea why people are like that. A blog I followed, the girl actually stopped blogging for a while because the person was so plainly rude and mean. I'm inclined to think that these people are so miserable that they need to spread the...not joy. The sad things are that blogs are a way to monitor progress, but also to relay deep feelings that you may not be able to talk about otherwise. It seems especially cruel that some people take this very intimate, vulnerable moment and post such hatred (usually in desguise and annonymously).

  39. Annabel said ... "master plans to take over the world"

    Nah. I know a few people planning to take over the world, and they're all quite nice and fairly well educated.

    But destructive people are usually insecure and looking for the adreneline rush that comes from feeling anger of the self-righteous variety. It's their drug of choice.

  40. Because they have tiny penises. Classic overcompensation.

  41. So cute of you to correctly credit William Safire.

    I can imagine leaving a negative remark if it were constructive criticism or correction or something like that. I recently got upset with a "depressed people need to just get over themselves" comment (in response to the recent cover story in the NYTimes magazine) and I left a comment in reply. In retrospect though, I probably shouldn't have. It was probably a waste of time.

    Then of course there's the political blogs, where the back and forth gets really intense! But debate is the whole point there...

    Just being snarky and nasty, though, shoot...

  42. Aw darn it! And I was coming back here to write the most negative comments I could think of. Such as ----"I don't like the sound of your voice."

    At least in the way I picture how it sounds. Ha hah.

    Seriously the internet is a place where there is good but and plenty of bad. (like many of the vids on You tube. Yikes! The comments are even worse!)People can sit around ALL day and give themselves momentary "feel goods" and then they have to do it again to relive it. Again and again. Like a mini hit on a crack pipe.

  43. Negative comments were something I had not anticipated having to deal with when I started blogging. At first there were a few that actually made me cry or scream but then I kinda got used to 'em. I had my own special troll for a while and now that he's gone I kinda miss him... Blogging at HuffPo also helped thicken up my skin too.

    Still, I don't understand why some people get a rush out of being anonymously mean to strangers.

  44. This is an awesome post, thanks for writing! I am always amused by the angry comments I receive. I don't receive many on my own blog but I do tend to receive them on some of the other blogs I contribute to - usually places where people are really passionate about one thing - being a vegetarian. I felt like my head was in a blender the day (heaven forbid) I posted that I think its cool that my local Starbucks is now selling bananas. If you don't want to eat a banana from Starbucks, totally cool, I don't really care?

    hahaha, but thanks! I love your post.

  45. My Mum always told us, "If you can't say something nice, then don't say it all all!". Nasty kids grow into rude adults. Cranky, we need to teach the kids not be negative and rude before they grow up!

  46. Okay, it probably says something about my only-child self-centeredness that I automatically assumed this post was written about a comment I made.

    Though, I am thinking really hard & can't think of an instance when Cranky Fitness ever rubbed me the wrong way- I love this blog!

    I have been known to leave harsh comments from time to time on other blogs. At the time I am writing, though, I don't feel mean-spirited, just impassioned about the topic, or shocked or horrified or critical. Sometimes words just come out the wrong way and you don't realize until after you hit "post".

    Though,whoever wrote "your blog is boring" needs to reconsider their writing skills and buy a thesaurus and maybe repeat fifth grade.

    Yeah, that was harsh. But it felt good :)

  47. The only thing worse than a negative comment on a blog is repeated negative comments about the same thing, all with different names attached, but all written by the same person. And the only thing worse than *that* is getting personally abusive emails on the same subject.

    I've noticed that negative commenters have three basic things in common:

    1. They're incredibly self-righteous. It's as though, if they don't like one thing about the blog, it turns into "bloggin: ur doin it rong". If something doesn't conform to their ideas of how things should be, they cut loose.

    2. They've got amazingly short attention spans. Nine times out of ten, really nasty comments come from people who've read only one post, or even part of only one post. They don't bother to learn the backstory or get used to the blogger's style.

    3. They're simply not all that bright. Never mind that little things like grammar and spelling escape them; they can't wrap their heads around irony, sarcasm, or whistling in the dark. Sometimes I wonder how those folks actually get on to the 'Net, let alone navigate to a particular page.

    I give negative comments exactly the amount of weight they deserve: none. Positive comments get slightly more weight. Constructive criticism I take seriously. You can't do any more than that and keep sane.


Thanks for commenting, Cranky Fitness readers are the BEST!

Subscribe to comments via RSS

(Note: Older Comment Threads Are Moderated)