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When Bloggers Can’t Win

A recent commenter asked me, “If you are so confident in what you have written, why are you responding to each critical comment?”

The post in question was a controversial one with numerous commenters up in arms about what I had chosen to share. I considered my options. If I respond, people like her would think that I’m being defensive. If I don’t respond, someone will inevitably chime up and say that I’m acting high-and-mighty by ignoring helpful statements.

It was, as the title of this post suggests, a no-win situation.

That was one example. Here’s another.

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Last year, I sought to implement a blogging schedule. One of the topics I regularly wrote about was my faith. And it’s funny, because I never, in all my years of blogging — not even when I wrote for über-popular Weddingbee — received so much heartfelt, appreciative feedback. (And I still receive emails!)

Now, I know that not all my readers are Christian. And although I made it clear at the beginning of each post that they are more than welcome to ignore what I had written, some decided to read on. A portion of these non-believing readers spoke up to question and/or outright disagree with my points.

Which was totally fine. Besides, that isn’t the point of the story.

Because the positive feedback greatly outweighed the bad, I didn’t think too many people minded those posts. Only later, when I found this blog being discussed in an outside forum, did I discover that a great number of my readers (or at least the participants in this discussion made it seem so) hated it when I talked religion. Some said they were planning on, or had already unsubscribed for this reason.

What is a blogger to do in this situation?

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I want to give one last example.

I have a friend whose blog focuses on beauty and fashion. When she got pregnant, she decided to share the news with her readers…and soon her blog began to feature pregnancy and baby-related articles along with her usual stuff on clothes and makeup.

She ended up losing a lot of readers, the sole reason being that her life, and priorities in life had taken a shift. And it wasn’t like the main focus of her blog was no longer beauty and fashion. Sometimes, she would even merge her new interests with the new (e.g., maternity fashion).

The good news is that she gained some new followers as a result of the change. But her stats remain lower than her pre-baby days, and I know that this bothers her a bit because her blog means a lot to her.

Babies aren’t the only life-changing events in bloggers’ lives. New jobs, new living situations….heck, even new interests and hobbies are almost guaranteed to bring changes to a blog. And sadly, not every reader will like those changes.

Perhaps this is why large, niche blogs with multiple authors who can continue to contribute fresh content within the same niche tend to be more successful, with greater longevity?

But even those will have its detractors. Someone will not like author X. Another will find topic Y offensive. The site unveils a redesign and the comments section will light up with 153 people who like the new look, and 147 who believe it to be the ugliest thing they’ve seen on the web that day.

In other words, bloggers can’t win. At least not in the please-everybody sense.

I was going to say something about how people can be assholes online, and reference Mary-Louise Parker’s departure from acting due to said internet assholes, when I came across this little piece of gem while googling Ms. Parker:

If you put anything interesting or meaningful out into the world, people are going to criticize it — and you — because many human beings are bitter and small, and social media enables them to join up and be collectively horrible together, like a tsunami of dicks. It’s rough. But it’s only so rough as you allow it to be. 

It reminded me of this quote, attributed to Ed Sheeran: “I can’t tell you the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.”

Wise words, indeed.