My blog is an accident.
Not the kind of “I just got hit by a car, woke up in the hospital with no legs, and went onto crusade for more wheelchair access in public places” accident, rather it is more like the “Oops, I’m accidentally pregnant and I guess I did sort of want a kid, ok let’s keep it” accident.
[Side note – Now that I’m reading this again, that analogy seems kind of stupid. But I also couldn’t think of anything else.]
I think everyone starts a blog at one point in their life – popular starting points are during the first couple weeks of college, during study abroad, and directly after graduation as you figure out what you want to do in the “real world.” A couple friends and I started study abroad blogs in the weeks before we boarded flights to our respective countries for our weeks, semester, or year of study abroad.
Of course, all of us promised to update all the time with fantastic stories of our time abroad. So, naturally, none of us kept up with it for more than a month.
Except I had one distinct blogging advantage – Ryosuke. We were living apart (me in Tokyo; him an 11 hour bus ride away in Akita) and he loved to read my blog. So even though I wasn’t particularly interested in blogging, I loved him and I loved the “publicity.”
It was only later that I realized the “publicity” was all fake. Ish.
Ryosuke knew I checked my daily blog stats, so he used to sit by the computer watching “Game of Thrones” while refreshing my blog page several times a week so I would be excited about the one hundred page views I got that day. He was smart about it too – it wasn’t just the same post over and over again. He would cycle through them.
He also used fake screen names to leave super-supportive (grammatically incorrect) comments on new posts – because that’s what true love looks like.
I didn’t fully realize how many comments he left those first couple months until I learned how to check what IP address each comment comes from. I saw that several pages of comments came from the same IP address, put two and two together, and called Ryosuke that afternoon to laugh at him.
I’m not even joking. My husband left close to a hundred comments the first six months I was blogging. That’s what true love looks like.
Ryosuke also knew how narcissistic and competitive I was. All he had to drop was drop a couple “I bet you can totally beat everyone else at Ursinus College blogging” and I was hooked. In retrospect, blogging was rather therapeutic those first couple months as I struggled to “find myself” in Tokyo.
What I’m trying to say is that I never made a conscious decision to blog. And since I never made a conscious decision to continue blogging, I also never crossed the bridge of whether I should stop blogging.
Now that I have enough of a blog following to justify putting “blogger” in my LinkedIn byline, I’m running into all sorts of problems I never thought I would deal with. Hate mail, stalkers, people who want to have very specific and factual arguments online, trolls, and the stress of trying to keep my blog’s Google ranking keep me up at night, so to speak.
I get more views in one day than I did in my first 8 months of blogging, combined. In the last six months, I hit over half a million page views – and counting.
To some, this doesn’t seem like a lot. But I’m not used to being scrutinized. When I was in fifth grade I abandoned all hope of being the President of the United States because I realized the cost of being a household name. It is impossible to have an opinion that everyone agrees with; it is impossible to do anything without offending someone; it is impossible post something on the internet without pissing off both extremes.
I try to post about the train groping epidemic in Japan, and I get “All you f*cking feminists are the reason the US is failing,” “Women just make up these groping stories for attention” and “Japan is such a sick and disgusting country, why would you want to live there?”
I try to write about interracial dating, and I get “You’re only with an Asian man because you can’t handle a ‘real’ white man” and all sorts of horrible generalizations, racial slurs, and profanity about Asian men or how my white privilege allows me to cherry-pick the “best” men from any race.
I know so many talented bloggers who have given up because of hate mail.
And really, I get it. I’ve hidden my Facebook account and only use my Ursinus email on my blog, so I can deal with blog-related emails on my own time. Every time I see a new comment on my blog, I get a small spike of fear.
I’ve been dealing with anxiety a long time now – and some days I just can’t muster up the courage to leave the house. Ryosuke thinks it’s kind of cute (and really, he’s so supportive about everything), but when I was living in Tokyo, I went entire weekends without leaving my apartment. When I was at Ursinus College, I would sometimes lock my door and turn off my light when I heard friends coming, because I didn’t feel comfortable enough to be outside.
That’s just my life.
So you can imagine how I feel about hate mall, flame comments, and trolls.
I don’t even read the negative comments on my blog anymore. If I can tell it’s going to be bad, I skip over it (everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I am not obligated to read what they write). If I see profanity, personal attacks on other commenters, or inappropriate sexual comments, I delete without reading.
It’s just easier that way.
The worst came after the “8 Questions Interracial Couples are Tired of Hearing” post I wrote for Huffington Post. It went viral, amassing several million views… and weeks of emails psychoanalyzing what sexual, mental, and personal things were so wrong with me that I would stoop so low to marry an Asian man. Or angry Asian women who were upset I had “stolen” one of the “good ones.”
I have good days and I have bad days.
Blogging has given me the thicker skin I so desperately wanted.
All my life, I’ve craved acceptance. I couldn’t handle rejection – personal or professional. I never learned how to.
I cried when I got my first hate-mail. I cried when I got my first death threat. I cried when the first person told me Ryosuke could do so much better than a “crazy, American sexist b*tch [me].” I used to read every comment, even the negative ones, over and over again, looking for some kernel of truth. Were they right? Did they know something I didn’t? Through my writing, could they see something wrong with me everyone else was too polite to point out?
Eventually, I decided they didn’t know anything.
I haven’t cried in months, now. The punches just roll right off. I think.
I’ve come to realize that it is completely and 100% impossible to post something on the internet that everyone agrees with. A 50% approval rate is pretty remarkable – and I get one negative comment for every 10 – 20 good ones. I think that’s progress.
I’m not going to quit blogging.
This last week, I made a conscious decision to continue blogging. Sure, blogging eats up time, causes stress, and might one day prevent me from getting a job in the future. But it’s also fun.
And I’m not going to stop doing something I like, just because I’m afraid of what people might think (Thank God I finally got to that point. It only took living abroad, graduating college, being hospitalized on four continents, and getting married to realize it).
I love writing.
But I want everyone to know about the emotional cost of keeping a blog in this day and age. Words hurt, especially when they are used to attack someone who has laid their heart out.
Anonymity brings out the worst in people.
No matter what you do, what you post, or what you reply, people will be personally offended.
My only advice? Don’t feed the trolls. Don’t read personal attacks thinly disguised as a comment. Always forgive. Always forget.
Don’t let fear prevent you from doing something you love.
Add me on Google Plus: +Grace Buchele