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[Controversed] Week 4: Managing Criticism

If you have been following the Controversed project since the start of the month, thank you (!!), and congratulations for making it to the final week! For those who are new to this, congratulations for joining just at the right time to welcome a very special first-time guest on this blog, Irina from I Drink and Watch Anime!

Obviously, anyone who follows this blog is following Irina already. (If you aren’t yet, take your time, we’ll still be here!) Irina is one of the most prolific anibloggers I know on WordPress, as well as one of the most active voices in this community. Naturally, her blog is home to some highly vibrant comment sections!

Irina: Oh wow, I’m going to refer back to this post whenever people complain I am never on twitter or discord! 

For anyone who wants to learn her secrets, be sure to check out her previous posts on reading and writing blog comments (Pt. 1 and Pt. 2).

To many of us who are uncomfortable with writing about more controversial topics, negative reception is likely the greatest deterrent. Yes, I’ve used “criticism” in the most neutral sense of the word in the past three weeks, and yes, that still applies to this week! Criticism as a direct response to your work can take so many forms, and seeing your name or your blog’s name cited in a serious discussion of any matter can be pretty unnerving.

After three weeks of discussing how to critique others’ works and your own works, let’s finally turn the focus to others’ critiques of your work!

Conversation with Irina

So glad to have you here this week, Irina! How are you doing?

Irina: I’m good and thrilled to be here. I hope you’re doing good as well Moya. It sure got cold quickly. I hope you didn’t catch anything!

It’s very cold yet somehow not snowing, and that makes me upset. Glad to hear you’re doing well though!

Now then, let us dive into it! Q: What are your comments generally like?

Irina: You know I do have wonderful readers so most of my comments are either very supportive (Thank you Scott and Raist, you guys are like walking talking prozac but way more pleasant!) or really interesting and informative. I think Dawnstorm has taught me more about anime than decades of watching it could.  

Irina: I also get people that mostly comment in order to promote their own blogs. They don’t tend to comment much though as it’s not super effective.

Irina: However, I do get occasional people mad at women and/or anything they perceive as feminist, politically correct or pro social justice statements. For some reason every so often I will get a reader that will comment on every post with some type of misogyny or anti so and so rhetoric even if it doesn’t really have anything to do with the post.
And of course whenever I post anything that could be considered controversial, which is very rare, I will suddenly get new readers I have never seen before to set me straight!

Yikes, sounds like you’ve been through…a few disasters! Yeah, follow for follow comments are usually as good as spam. I’ve never gotten persistently aggressive comments myself, but I can imagine them being a pain, albeit a somewhat entertaining one. Do you usually just ignore those?

Irina: I give follow for follow peeps a chance if they have blogs that interest me. I find that although follow for follow definitely works and is really the quickest way to “grow” a blog on WordPress, it takes a huge amount of upkeep and I have never seen anyone that uses it as their main strategy last much more than a year. 
I figure at some point you just don’t physically have time to write, great postfollow my blog, thousands of times each day….

Thankfully C&P is a thing.

Q: How often do you check your comments, and do you tend to respond to them right away?

Irina: About once a day and I usually do. Unless I need some time to collect my thoughts. 

Makes sense! I tend to procrastinate with my comments and reply to them in batches, unless there’s anything urgent that I need to address. 

People on this platform are generally nice, perhaps suspiciously nice! Q: But let’s talk about comments that aren’t sunshine and rainbows, be it through WordPress, email, or social media. Do they come up from time to time?

Irina: Oh yeah. I have had some threats in fact through my contact page and I have deleted I think maybe 3 comments in the history of my blog because they were directly insulting and threatening my readers. Otherwise I have gotten some less supportive comments but I leave them on. 

BIG yikes to the threats. Not cool!! Comment deletion sounds like a last resort, but some situations do call for it.

Irina: My rule of thumb is don’t go after the readers.

Irina: I think someone once said that I was faking my personality which was a baffling statement. I’m still not entirely sure what it means or even if it was an insult, a neutral statement or a compliment but it stuck with me. 

You have such a lovely personality! If you’re faking it, please teach me how to do it too.

Irina: You clearly don’t need anyone’s help to be an absolute delight!

Aww…you’re too kind.

It is pretty hard to miss the tone or context of something in text, or to miss or misread a few lines. Q: What do you do when something you said is misappropriated?

Irina: I try to correct it. My mother tongue is typo so I really can’t blame readers for misunderstanding me. And sometimes I simply find that I don’t have the words to express what I actually mean so the end result gets confusing at best.

Irina: I can usually clarify but when I find I can’t quite put it into words, I simply say that I’m not sure how to explain myself and move on.

Life is short; you gotta move on when you gotta. That said, this is really hard to do, for me anyway! When I post things on my blog, I often feel like I’m supposed to be an authority in what I write, so when I’m asked to clarify something that I may not be equipped with the knowledge to clarify, I might actually spend time looking things up. It’s a bit of a bluff, now you know! That said, admitting that you don’t know something is a severely underappreciated method that I’d like to get more comfortable with myself.

Irina: OK, this is absolutely no joke. I posted my little reply about clarifying posts above and Moya gave her own thoughts and now I feel like I should clarify mine… For realz

Irina: When I talked about misinterpreting posts, I was mostly thinking about the abstract takeaways, like my own thoughts and impressions on a show for instance. Putting already not very defined feelings into words is something I find challenging and occasionally impossible. And I will give up after a while.

Irina: However, when it comes to general information or relaying someone else’s words, then I will clarify until I’m blue in the face. Whenever I use scientific papers or articles in a post, if I realize I haven’t summarized them well, I will go into detail. I am not above essentially rewriting the entire thing to make sure the readers understand all the bases I’m using.

I guess I jumped to that conclusion because research is usually my solution to anything that I can’t explain. But thank you for the elaboration!

Q: So, what do you do when you accidentally end up in a heated exchange?

Irina: I have no problem debating, defending or attacking points but if ever I even think of attacking an individual I take a step back right away. It doesn’t happen much though. I have no issues with heated debates and generally try to turn them into conversations. I find the other party will most often get tired of how boring I am and just peace out.

Asking people to explain or expand on their points is a power move. Does it ever work?

Irina: Maybe 1% of the time…

Q: Have you ever read a critical comment that turned out to make sense, or that stimulated you in a positive way? 

Irina: Yes. I use to use the term “you” in a general sense. As in: You know when you forget to brush your teeth…. The You and Your in that sentence doesn’t in fact mean the specific reader but a general someone. I have had readers react aggressively to posts because they felt personally targeted by that and since then I have made it a point to use “one” instead. You know when one forgets to brush their teeth. 

Irina: I forget sometimes. I also think it’s less fun to write that way but it’s worth it if it will actually make people feel better. Or less bad I guess…

That’s a fair tip. I use “you” a lot in blog posts just to create the feeling of a more personal interaction, but yes, in sensitive topics (like teeth hygiene), perhaps the usage can be avoided.

We’ve been talking about the negatives a lot. Q: What’s constructive criticism to you?

Irina: Oh I get corrected on mistakes I’ve made in posts or on context I’ve missed all the time. But most people don’t call me an idiot or anything. They’ll just helpfully point out that X reacted that way because of Y in the early episodes. Which is usually followed by me going ooooooohhhh well that makes sense now! 

Irina: Sometimes I correct my posts but most of the time I just leave it in the comments. It’s often pretty funny and it gives anyone reading the posts and comments a better feel for the flow of the conversation. It also warns new readers to adjust their expectations!

Your readers got your back! I guess whether the criticism you receive is constructive is relatively intuitive. If it explains itself and proposes solutions, it’s a welcome thing!

Alright, thank you so much for your time! Q: Any final words of advice for the readers?

Irina: Comments are basically a conversation with a person. So that’s how I approach it. I pretend a real life person just told me to my face everything I read in the post and I comment what I would answer them. 

Irina: What about you Moya? Any advice. I could use some.

That’s an interesting way to look at it! If someone offers me good or bad criticism in real life, I’m more likely to just say “thanks” and/or “sorry” and smile it off without managing to follow-up. It being in blog comment form allows for a much richer response that is more – or less – filtered, depending on who you are and how you look at it. But that’s a whole new question of how your blogging and real life personalities differ, which is an exciting topic perhaps best saved for another day.

Well, I love comments, and my biggest weakness when it comes to opinions that contradict my own is wanting to agree with them. Alternatively, I find myself defaulting to the response “yes, you’re right, but…”, which can be helpful, but also shouldn’t be something you start typing before you’ve considered their point. #Controversed is a project that also gives myself a push to be bold with my ideas, and to understand and seriously learn about others’ opinions in honest debates.

Long answer short, I do love a good conversation, but I like to think of tougher blog comments as exchanges of ideas. The less social stakes I see in them, the more productive these exchanges can be!

That was fun, so thank you, Irina!

Week 4 Prompts

  • Do you have a blog/video comment horror story? If you get a chance to interact with the same commenter again, would it go differently?
  • How do you manage your comment sections, and how would you describe your comment-writing voice?
  • Everyone gets worn out by controversial debates online. How do you fight the fatigue?

As always, to participate in this week’s discussion, choose one or more prompts to talk about, link to this post, and use the hashtag #Controversed if you’re on Twitter. It is also not too late to join Jon Spencer’s Discord Server, where Controversed is taking place as a month-long event, if you’re interested in having live discussions and making friends!

I am super amazed by the bloggers who have managed to keep up with this workshop on a weekly basis, namely Jon Spencer, K at the Movies, and MagicConan14 (at the time of writing this post). You rock, very much! A note to anyone who is participating or wants to participate: it’s totally okay if you don’t write a post for each week. I’ll be glad to feature any number of Controversed posts from you, including responses to prompts from earlier weeks!

Finally, a reminder that all Controversed posts need to be submitted before noon of Sunday, November 29 to be featured in the Controversed Showcase at the end of the month.

Thanking you for reading this post, and I look forward to hosting the showcase!

25 thoughts on “[Controversed] Week 4: Managing Criticism

  1. Lol..well, this is the first time I get called a walking, talking prozac, but I had to really laugh at it😂😂 I agree with Scott by the way😊
    I love comments, and I think that anyone who takes the time to even give a comment, deserves an answer. I once followed a blog about movies that was run by someone who never answered comments, much less gave them a like. I think that’s incredibly disrespectful. If you don’t want people commenting on your posts, or if you don’t plan on responding to them, that’s fine….but then don’t give people the chance to comment on a post in the first place 😊 (well, that’s my opinion on it anyway😅)
    I think the heaviest post (and the one that also got the most amount of comments) was my rant post for the Star Wars movie The Last Jedi. It was a first for me to do a rant post (and in hindsight I regret it) but it also was a very interesting experience as that post got over a 100 comments something that since then never happened again😊 I got people that agreed, people that didn’t agree…but in the end it all comes down to one thing: respect. I always respect people that have a difference of opinion, as long as they don’t force their opinions on me. I love going into conversations like that, and it often makes for a very cool discussion. It can get out of hand when people get really angry. I must say I have never had that happen here: it’s disgusting when you see what happens for instance on Youtube.
    This community though is the best 😊 This was a very good post, and I want to thank both you and Irina for taking the time to write this! 😊

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yeah, not getting a response to something you take a long time typing can feel pretty bad. I like to give people benefit of the doubt that they maybe don’t check comments or don’t have anything significant to add, but replying to comments really does build nice relationships with your readers.

      I do love this community too! With YouTube, there’s much greater anonymity than when you write for your blog under the same name that you use to comment on others’ posts. Perhaps that’s where the toxicity comes from.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I mostly get lovely comments from lovely people! I do sleep bad when I get a bad one.. so I guess that means I did not enough of those yet to toughen up. I am really amazed at how Irina manages to handle it all.

    I would probably be “less nice” to people who take something super personally when I write in the generic “you guys” format. I will be honest with everyone.. if you honestly piss me off I will let you know that you pissed me off! I will discuss something during the day I got the comment but after that it’s done.. if we don’t see eye to eye the comment gets deleted.. but usually I have resolved my beef with people by then.

    I will treat people online how I will treat them offline, I won’t sugarcoat things just because people can’t read subtext. If I hate your favourite anime then I hate your favourite anime..that doesn’t make me wrong.. I know how I feel.. but just because I say something doesn’t mean I am absolutely right.. just for me personally I am! I also put this on several spots on my website and it hasn’t gotten me in trouble yet! We should not pretend we are all made out of glass. Plus if I cry over a mean comment.. I cleaned my tearducts! Thats a positive!

    I try to be nice in my comments to other people! Seeing this whole blogo-group as a community. A blog of Irinia may inspire me and I will let her know that she did inspire me and a idea of Scott that I might adapt I will say.. great idea guy I might do something similar. I also tend to be a bit flakey given some of the weirder responses out there but that is just me.. in the end I think a blogger just has to be themselves.. if that offends people or causes debate we should not really adapt.. maybe you can gain an insight or two but if blogs were pudding.. and a comment said “I don’t like Pudding” and the other says “I don’t like Cherry Flan” we’d all be Vanilla.. so in a way I think critismn is validation that you are unique.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re interview was lovely, Irina! 😊 As a new blogger, your presence and posts have inspired me to be more ambitious with my writing! Thank you, Moya and Irina! Both of you are great to follow!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I shouldn’t be, but I’m kind of astounded anime blogs can even attract the kind of people who make nasty comments and send bloggers threats. Maybe it’s because the aniblogging community has become my happy place.

    I have had some nasty comments back when I was running like 12 blogs on subjects from vegetarianism to kinky sex stories, but there was also a great deal of blog comment spam going on back then (around 2000) and I eventually just shut off all comments. Period. But it was a different time and I had different reasons for blogging then. I did have some really nice commenters on the birding blog, that led me to eventually set us up a forum that was a nice little community for a while. Personally I don’t deal well with nasty comments on my articles. I get all obsessive and up all night. I still remember in detail a horrendous fight over some artwork I posted on a forum. It’s just a part of my crazy brain. I’m better, but it’s better if I just avoid it all 😛 I mean, I certainly think it over carefully and respond in what I believe is a respectful manner – but in the background I’m grinding my teeth and yanking my hair out and using bad language.

    I’m really glad you decided to interview Irina. She is a real blogger idol, as in someone who is very good at what they do and provides an admirable example of how it should be done. As such, she’s the perfect interview on this subject. As expected, she is the sound of reason and good advice. Kudos, also for the excellent questions asked. This is a very informative article that ought to be required reading for anyone starting any type of blog who wants to know how to deal with comments that are…controversial 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 12 blogs. 😮 I’m very impressed. Yeah, wouldn’t blame you for getting hung up over the kinds of toxic comments I’ve seen floating around.

      Thank you for appreciating this post! And I know, right? As soon as I decided on the topic of the week, I knew it had to be Irina!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Over 20 years on the Internet and I still can’t wrap my mind around the fact that some people really just surf around looking for an opportunity to be mean. Nah, I can’t wrap my head around it IRL either.

        Liked by 1 person

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