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