As writers we all want more people to see what we write, right? If we have a book, we want more people to buy it, and if we blog we want more people to read it and comment, right?
Be careful. Last week I heard about two bloggers whose posts went viral.
The first case occurred a year ago, with over a million views and almost 1,500 comments. The writer touched a nerve. Some loved his post; others hated it. However, the attention his post received earned him the attention of publishers, and he turned his post into a book, which went on sale this month. Though the result was good, the path was rocky.
Another blogger had a post go viral earlier this month. Though I don’t know how many people read it, they left 644 comments—so far. Most agreed with her, but a few took exception. Of the comments I read, I saw two trends:
A few women, from the right, took issue with one line in her post, while many more (all of whom were men) attacked her from the left and derided her “narrow” point of view. I use the word narrow because I don’t want to repeat the name-calling they resorted to. Those who hated her words were often quite mean, and some attacked her personally.
Both bloggers were caught off guard by the response. Here’s what we can learn from their experiences:
Our Audience is Different Than Society as a Whole: For the most part, the people who regularly read our blogs like us and agree with our message. Their comments are almost always kind and if they disagree, they do so politely. We have formed a nice community; civility is the norm. However, this is not the case with everyone else, the folks who don’t know us and are swept into reading one post gone viral.
Our Words Will Offend Some People: We write because we want to touch readers. While we hope to inspire, encourage, guide, or entertain our audience, this can’t happen all the time. We will offend some people. It is inevitable. If we try to avoid causing offense, we end up with bland words that accomplish nothing.
People Can Be Mean Online: With the protection of distance and anonymity afforded online, otherwise nice people can de-evolve into spewing inhuman invective. I suspect in most cases their issues are not really with the blogger but are a response to their personal failings or deep hurts. Haters are often damaged, people.
Don’t Defend Ourselves: When attacked, we need to suffer in silence, not stoop to their level. Our friends will defend us when needed. We must be content with that.
Remember, we write for others to read our words, and we need to be prepared to handle the fallout when their reaction isn’t positive. If we persist in writing, it will happen sooner or later.