I have always enjoyed writing. As a child and teenager, I used to spend my days with pen in hand, writing letters, essays and stories. Then as I moved into the workplace I continued to write as part of my job and then as an undergraduate. Writing has always been a part of my life and now as a blogger it serves me well in helping to cope with the challenges I face.
But sometimes when you write and you get criticised, it can be hurtful particularly when you are feeling low. This is what happened to me recently. A critical comment appeared on my blog; it was insensitive and not only upset me but some of my readers. I know many of you will say that I need to ignore it and move on and of course you are right, I will, but there are a few things that I would like to say to those who think it’s OK to criticise people in this way.
If you read my blog and you don’t like me, or what I write, then that is OK. I really don’t mind but what I do mind is when people voice that dislike in comments on my blog. You can always read another blog, one that is more positive perhaps but you need to know that this blog is not one of those ‘feel good’ blogs. I write honestly. I write how it is for me and my family and it just so happens that at the moment life is difficult for us. With two children out of school and no easy prospect of getting them back, I am feeling tired, depressed even, and vulnerable.
So when I read comments that were critical of me and my blog, I couldn’t help but feel as though I’d been attacked. Like a lot of bloggers, my blog is my personal space to express myself in writing. It is a way of making sense of the situation I am in and getting support from the special needs community. It is also, of course, a way of spreading awareness of raising special needs children and the things I am learning as an autism mum. My blog may even help others in a similar situation and if it does then that is great.
People may say, why write online and expose yourself to online criticism but I argue that the benefits of blogging far outweigh the occasional negativity. Blogging is engaging; it links you into online communities that can offer real and valuable support. Blogging is also democratising and it allows you to be part of topical conversations and whilst many of us may not individually have the power to change the political status quo, we do have the opportunity to spread awareness of key issues.
But behind that blog is a person, a human being with thoughts and feelings and a life that may not be totally reflected in their writing. No matter how powerful or passionate a piece of writing is, the writer may not mirror that strength. They may be suffering a mental illness or a physical ailment or they may be going through a challenging time in their lives when they are feeling stressed and vulnerable. It is easy to assume that the writer is as strong as their words and can tolerate some criticism but sometimes they can’t. And even if they can, is it right to be so critical and personal? Comments can add to a discussion if they are constructive and supportive (and I hasten to add most of my comments are) but when they are insensitive and judgemental they have the potential to upset the community around that blog.
And that is what happened here and it made me realise I have a responsibility towards my readers some of whom may be feeling as vulnerable as me. I owe it to my community to encourage a network of friendship and support and for that reason I have made the decision to better manage the personal and critical comments that occasionally arrive on this blog.
But for those of you who do comment constructively and positively both on here and on twitter, I just want to say a massive ‘thankyou’. I value what you say and you’ve helped me more than you realise and I’m sure you’ve helped others too when they read this blog.