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!
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 post – follow 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!
- Announcing Controversed: A November Workshop
- [Controversed] Week 2: Critical Voices
- [Controversed] Week 3: Critical Theories
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!