They Hate Me! They Really Hate Me!

man hiding behind hate letter

The other week, I wrote a post for YourTango’s LoveMom blog, about my struggles with chronic depression and PMDD, and how it was affecting my decision to start a family. It was something that had been on my mind lately. I was worried about my hormones and postpartum depression, and about the strain I might place on my marriage. So when I wrote up my post, I really put it all out there, describing my ugliest moments and my worst fears. I was nervous about pressing the “publish” button, but I felt it was important to be honest. I thought that there would be people out there who could relate.

Then the hate comments began rolling in.

The worst of them are here at The Frisky (who posted an excerpt of my piece) but, just to give you a recap, most commenters felt that I was selfish for wanting to have children, and they also assured me that my husband would eventually leave me… no question.

I’ve received negative comments in the past. Some of them have been constructive and thought-provoking. Some of them have been slightly crazed. Some of them have even made me laugh (a commenter over at Nerve once called me a “metrosexual-loving illiterate”). The logical, sane part of me has long since come to understand that I can’t take comments personally… I have to grow a thicker skin… responding to illogic with logic is futile. But this was the most brutal and cruel attack I had ever experienced and — I’m not gonna lie — I wanted to go home early, curl up in bed, and cry. (Yeah, yeah… I’m a wuss.)

But then I remembered a Copyblogger post I had recently read: 20 Warning Signs That Your Content Sucks. Number seven? “You’ve never received hate mail.”

Jonathan Morrow writes, “If your content is good, you’ll always have a small but vocal group of people who think you’re wrong, rude, or inconsiderate. They are the righteous majority for moral authority, and nothing you can say will appease them. So don’t try. Their mockery and screams of outrage are merely signs that you’re headed in the right direction.”

So — considering the volume of super-mean comments I’ve been getting — I’m going to take this as a sign that I’m finally a bona fide success. Other signs that I’m on the right path? Positive feedback both online and at work. Comments that thank me for being so brave and honest, from people who are experiencing the same (or similar) thing. People approaching me for work, rather than the other way around.

How about you? What was it that made you feel you were finally on the road to success?

Related: The Vulnerability of Writers, Baring It All: Personal Essays Are Tough

Comments

  1. Jane Boursaw says:

    People on the Web can be so nasty. It’s like they think because there’s all that cyberspace between us and them, it gives them the right to write awful things, things (I hope) they’d never say to someone’s face.

    I guess it’s true that mean comments mean that we’re going in the right direction, because it means we’ve touched a nerve, brought out something that needs to be talked about, or are making people think about their own lives.

    Doesn’t make those comments any easier to take, though.

  2. Susan says:

    Totally been there with the nasty comments. But I went back and reread some of the comments and a lot of them are very positive and supportive It’s easy to lose sight of that when people are telling you your writing sucks or you’re to hell for being a flaming liberal or you shouldn’t reproduce, but as you mention, a lot of your readers could relate to your story and applauded you for being so honest. I haven’t performed a mathematical analysis, but I’m pretty sure that the number of these comments vastly outweigh the Nasty Nancy ones. Don’t let a few negative commenters overshadow the good ones. As my Dad would say, “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”

  3. I read that post when you wrote it and love love loved it. And damned, yes, your copy is so so so good. I hate that you got that hate mail, though. But I think that quote is very wise. People don’t respond when the writing or the topic are just meeh — they respond when you’ve really hit a nerve.

    I get a lot of hate mail too. I don’t like it. But I do like your idea about how to approach it and how to think of it as success!

  4. Christine says:

    A friend of mine who does PR for a nonprofit which is frequently in the media said that usually, people come out of the woodwork to comment with negative, not positive, feedback. So for every negative thing you’ve received, I’d bet there are vastly many more people who read your post and were nodding their heads, but simply didn’t comment. It’s hard, but yes, it’s important to develop a thick skin.

  5. This reminds me of that old adage that the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference. The fact that you’re sparking strong emotions — and getting so many comments at all — shows that you’re making an impact. So much preferable to radio silence out there in blogland!

  6. MarthaandMe says:

    I am constantly shocked at the nasty things people will say online – things they would never say to a person’s face.

  7. Sheryl says:

    Some people will take any opportunity they can to put someone else down, especially online, when they can *hide*. Knowing that you are moving them in some way means that your words are powerful. It’s hard not to take it personally, but when you look at it this way, it is so much easier to brush off.

  8. Alisa Bowman says:

    I’ve gone through this (as you probably already know). I do believe that brave, honest posting does seem to trigger the moral minority (or whatever you want to call those people) to spread their venom around. They remind me of sleeping snakes that are all coiled up in a corner. Suddenly they get poked with a stick that makes them question themselves or think deeply — or something — and they feel bad about themselves, so they strike and try to make you feel bad instead. I’ll never understand it, really. All I know is that venomous negative comments often say more about the commenter than they do about the post they refer to. I think you are brave. I admire you. I think your posts are refreshing to read.

    As for how I knew I was on the road to success, I think it was when I started setting personal goals and achieving them. Instead of just aiming for more $ — basically instead of just surviving — I decided to become something more, something different, something important, and I had the courage to become that writer.

    Although, being honest, I still have plenty of days when I don’t feel successful at all and I don’t know why any other writer would want advice from me. But I think we all have those, too, don’t we?

  9. You know what? You’re making a significant difference in people’s lives with your brave posts. The judgmental, thoughtless comments are simply sad commentaries on the people who write them. But, if you can handle the horrors of depression, you can shrug these off.

  10. Back in my magazine-editing days, we would remind ourselves that if we didn’t get hate mail, then our content was too “soft.” For me, it’s easier to believe that when the product is a team effort and everyone is equally in for the backlash. I do think it’s harder in a blogging world, where the meanest is so direct and often so personal.

    I admire people like you and Alisa (and so many others) who REALLY know why they write and who they are. That focus, that sense of self, I think really drives the biz decisions that lead to success.

    That’s where I need to improve. I’m on the path, but not quite there yet.

  11. Alexandra says:

    I have only experienced this in a minor way on my blog, probably because I post mostly “safe” topics, but I did dare recently to complain about elderly guests at my B&B and that made someone write a comment about my prejudice against the elderly. I replied that I had home-cared my parents for 10 years and was certainly not against the elderly, just elderly folks visiting B&Bs.

    I know this is nothing compared to what you went through. Your situation reminds me of a friend who had a lovely piece about bathing in the nude with her two young daughters published in the Boston Globe. She was overwhelmed by the hate comments it received. So silly. There was nothing crass or vulgar about what she wrote. At some point I think you’re right. You have to toughen your skin and not let it bother you.

    PS. Loved that quote from Jonathan Morrow.

  12. Lisa says:

    That’s the downside of the web. People will say horrible things they would never even think of saying to your face.

  13. Jen says:

    I think it’s quite a difficult and brave act to be honest about mental health issues. So many people deal with them that I don’t understand why there is still a stigma attached to it. And I’m sure many people were helped by your post.

    I read an article in a recent issues of Baltimore magazine about a Mom who blogs about her depression. Thought you might find it interesting. http://baltimoremagazine.net/article.asp?t=1&m=1&c=32&s=813&ai=95731

  14. Lyz says:

    It really is such a personal thing, the making of babies and depression. And people get so judgy about both. So its the perfect storm of internet judgyness. But you are right. If you aren’t getting hate mail, you aren’t doing the internet right. You are fabulous and your babies are lucky babies to have such a smart brave mom.

  15. Kristen says:

    It does seem in this click to publish/comment/like/dislike/tweet world that it’s so easy for people to write nasty comments.

  16. Your last paragraph says it all so well. That article that elicited the comments was brave and personal and some people can’t take reality that well.

  17. If you weren’t honest, I wouldn’t read your stuff.

  18. Lisa Romeo says:

    With regard to writing personal essays, if everyone agrees with what you’ve written and says nice things, you were probably censoring yourself. Carry on.

  19. I have to say that for the past couple of hours i have been hooked by the amazing articles on this site. Keep up the great work.

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