Drama in the Blogosphere

One of the first blogs I read was Eat, Live, Run, written by Jenna.

Right off the bat, I loved her easy style and her photos, and appreciate how she balances healthy living with moderate indulgences.

As a recovering disordered eater, I really loved how she seemed to have a very healthy relationship with food and would often check out her blog (as well as Kath Eats Real Food) to see how healthy, fit women eat.

After being away for the weekend (more on that later; it was wonderful!!!) I finally caught up with my Google Reader and I have to say, my heart broke for Jenna when I caught wind of the posts she did this weekend.

You see, toward the end of this post,  Jenna admits that (for several reasons) though she’d been planning to do a 100-mile endurance bike ride for charity (with the proceeds benefiting cancer research), she will be doing the 60-mile race instead. Basically, she’s doing the same race, just different distance –– all proceeds still going to charity.

Now you’d think even an attempt at 60 miles would be lauded, but apparently because she’d solicited donations on her blog and spoken about the loaned bike, training sessions, etc., she got FLAMED to the nth degree for backing down.

Mind you, she’s not quitting entirely (hello, the girl is still riding an impressive 60 miles this coming weekend!) and all proceeds still go to cancer research … but a surprising number of readers blasted her for backing down, not giving her training her all, and basically not being transparent enough with her readers about her plan. (She’d apparently made the decision to do 60 vs 100 last month, but only shared that on her blog this weekend).

They also criticized her for so much else, but I was so disgusted reading it all that I won’t even go there (you can read the comments yourself).

In her follow-up post, “My Rebuttal,” she spoke eloquently and from the heart about just how those words stung … and it got me thinking. As bloggers, we really do put ourselves out there every day … perhaps moreso than any other form of expression.

We allow ourselves (our words/thoughts) to be mulled over, dissected … sometimes we bloggers  feel like we’re just humans sharing our lives/experiences … and that’s how we’re perceived by some readers. But to other readers, we’re just a face on the other side of the screen, an emotion-less entity … someone they can bitch at or about, rag on, be mean to as though it has no consequences.

I’ve been fortunate here on my blog (probably given the nature) that I’ve been criticized but not really ever torn to shreds. And I have to say, if I had to read some of the comments Jenna received … I don’t know that I’d be able to be so strong.

I think there are two lessons we can learn from her experience.

1) Transparency matters when money is involved. A lot of readers were deeply upset and felt betrayed that she’s known for a month that she’d “only” be riding 60 miles [insert sarcasm here] and was continuing to solicit donations for the assumed 100-mile ride. While I don’t think anyone should have been donating specifically for Jenna but rather for what awesome cause she was supporting (cancer research!) they felt she wasn’t being 100% honest with her readers … and whether she thinks she owes it to them or not, it did become an issue.

2) You need thick skin. Blogging isn’t a career for me, but rather a side passion, and I’ve been lucky to not get flamed too frequently. But Jenna (and many other bloggers in this realm) blog for a living. Just like at any job, you need thick skin … because you won’t be able to make all your clients/constituents/etc. happy all of the time. All you can do is do your best and keep giving it 100%. And if you feel like you can’t give it 100% (as she did about the 100-miler), then perhaps it’s time to start looking for something else (as she did, choosing the 60-miler and admitting biking was not her favorite thing to do).

Ultimately, each blogger creates his/her own space and can choose how to utilize it/what levels of transparency the blogger is comfortable with. But whether we like it or not, we are being judged and are being “watched” — so it’s just something to always keep in mind.

How about you? How do you handle personal criticism on your blog? If you don’t blog but are a frequent blog commenter (here or anywhere) do you

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17 thoughts on “Drama in the Blogosphere

  1. My favorite comment on Jenna’s blog still has to be that she was a bad cat owner. You can’t make that kind of crazy up.

    1. That one was silly and ludicrous but some of them were downright MEAN … the names she was called … it has to stem from jealousy but it’s just awful!

  2. This makes me so sad – here Jenna was attacked and she is trying to do something good. Some of those comments were just downright hateful!

    I guess this is why I don’t have a desire to be a “big” blogger – call me a wuss, but I really couldn’t handle the criticism! It’s one thing if it’s constructive, but people hide under an anonoymous name and think that gives them the right to fully attack people personally. Thick skin is definitely a requirement the more people you put yourselves out there for!

    1. I see your point, Holly … like you, I’d never want to get “that big” but I do think she could have handled things differently and had less drama ensue.

  3. I actually got caught up in that too, as a reader of Eat, Live, Run. I read it before bed on Saturday and I was actually pretty disturbed and had a hard time sleeping! I don’t even know Jenna, but I found it so odd that people are so free and mean with their words because they have the safety of the Internet to protect them. I could not handle that criticism. One reader did point out that her blog is her job and, with any job, come “performance reviews.” If people were truly upset about what happened, they have the right to say so (though I don’t see how personal attacks are helpful to anyone). I thought to myself that if I were her, I would be so tempted to cry and quit blogging. It really hurts my heart to see people be mean… but I guess that giving up would be letting them win. She is a great example of a healthy relationship toward food, and she’s SUPER fit. The fact that she would get criticism for a 60-mile bike ride is sort of ridiculous! I can’t remember the last time I got on a bike for more than 10 minutes! Anyway, she is doing a lot for charity, regardless, and the implication by the critics seems to be that they wouldn’t have donated if she said upfront that she was *only* doing 60 miles. SERIOUSLY? I guess having a public blog is risky in some ways. Gotta have that thick skin. I’ve been upset over far less upsetting comments on my own blog before. She is very strong and handles everything with grace. More power to her. I agree that most negativity stems from jealousy. She has such a good attitude, loving friends and family, an inner and outer beauty, a book deal, a life in CA… people are bound to lash out. Sad.

    1. Yup, so true Kim!! I wonder if she wishes she’d admitted sooner she was dropping down to the 60 miles vs 100 since that seems to be what got most people’s panties in a bunch.

  4. In this case I don’t think it’s so much a blogging issue as a “fame” issue. Like it or not, Jenna is a public figure! She gets a bazillion hits per day and as a result of her fame, I think people feel like they’re allowed to trash her. I’m not saying this is right, but it’s life! People feel a sense of entitlement to say whatever they want about those in the public eye, whether it’s Jessica Simpson or Barack Obama.

    For this very reason, I know that fame is NOT for me. I’m not tough enough!

  5. Wow, that’s terrible. It’s that kind of stuff that makes me fear actually getting a large readership one day. I have a hard enough time when I get the random one mean comment.

  6. I haven’t read that blog in forever so I don’t know this particular story. In general though I think blogging brings about a lot of criticism regardless of the purpose of your blog or whether it is your job.. people just like to be annonymously critical. If she feels what she is diong is right for her then she should keep it up. I dont know what the issue is: isnt she still giving the money to charity? I dont know why she decided to change her distance either, but maybe she doesn’t feel ready for 100K or something. Isn’t listening to your body a good thing? I am a firm believer in being able to change your mind, not sticking with something can be just as hard as sticking with it. the key is listening to your body, your needs, whatever. maybe she felt overstretched and WHO CARES. she is doign what she feels is right for her. she is giving the money to charity. man there are a lot of backseat drivers out there! some criticism is helpful though, i think if you are giong to put your life out there you have to be able to weed through the comments, learn from them, but not let ridiculous people get to you.

    1. Absolutely, Suzie. She is doing what’s right for her body and she is still donating to charity. I also think as bloggers we DO need to develop a tough skin. Unlike just having our boss give us a review, she has thousands of readers a day who share their feelings, completely unsolicited.

  7. I don’t think the issue here is anything besides honesty. If Jenna signed up for a 100-mile race, solicited donations, and received (a lot of) free gear in order to train and complete the race, she should have been honest. As soon as she made the decision to change her race, a humble post devoted to this decision should have been constructed and posted on her site.

    I do not support the personal attacks that some people made in her comments (nor do I downplay the race that she is still committed to), but I do believe that she had a genuine duty to inform everyone of the decision as soon as she made it. Honesty and transparency should have been more of a priority in my opinion.

    1. I totally agree. The spiteful comments were wrong but I can see where people were mad at her for witholding the information. I am sure she sensed there woudl be some anger and was put off posting about it until last minute.

  8. OK, I was wrong. She didn’t receive lessons or free gear. So what is everyone b!tch!ng about…just the fact that she solicited donations after she changed her mind about the distance? Just because they have a reason to be negative?

    Well…I stand corrected.

    1. I don’t disagree; she should have been more forth-coming when she changed her mind about the distance but still the money is going to charity and people have no right to be verbally abusive toward her. That’s what upset me.

  9. Jenna’s blog is one of the blogs that I read daily and I relate to her in a lot of ways. I have been reading her blog since she started it a couple years ago and I fully support her but…

    I agree with Elisabeth. I think the issue was that she was soliciting donations even after the fact that she had decided to change the distance, not the fact that she changed the distance. I also think that as someone in the public eye, one in which your readers are responsible for your income (and in this case they are), you do need to have some transparency.

    I don’t agree with the personal attacks against her because I think there is a way to disagree without being hostile and mean. But, I can see why people were upset. If I had been one of the people that had donated money AFTER she had changed her mind and not let the readers know, I would feel deceived. I think this whole thing could have been avoided had she just let everyone know she changed her mind. Her blog was her platform for raising thousands of dollars and it should have been her first platform when she changed her mind.

    I don’t think Jenna is a bad person, in fact, I think she is pretty awesome but I do think the whole thing should have been handled differently.

  10. i hadn’t followed that story, but it sounds harsh. i haven’t experienced any negative kickback on my blog from commenters. the only negativity i’ve actually felt has been from my family members who think i “tell too much.” 😉

    as a blogger, i recently singed the “blog with integrity” pledge and hope it will help keep me, well, blogging with integrity! (http://www.blogwithintegrity.com/)

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