What I Learned on My Summer Vacation: Five Things GOMI Taught Me About Blogging

by Rachel on October 4, 2011 · 69 comments

How do we start blogging after four months without blogging about blogging? I think it’s time for a good, old-fashioned “What I Learned on My Summer Vacation” essay!

If there’s one topic on a lot of bloggers’ minds right now, it’s Get Off My Internets, a site that isn’t new, but is new to many healthy living bloggers. I was aware of GOMI for a little while, but I had no reason to read it, as it mainly focused on bloggers I didn’t know or read. But suddenly, blogs I do know and read started popping up in the GOMI forums. And then, as we like to say here at Hollaback, shit got bananas.

Like many other bloggers, I found myself the subject of a thread in the GOMI forums. They called me a raging slut — and not as a bad thing; as in, “Does anyone else miss the raging slut Rachel Wilkerson?” The question was put out there and people agreed; yes, they missed the raging slut. They said that now I was boring. And hipster.

Call me a raging slut all you want, but I do not like being accused of being a fucking hipster.

As I dealt with what was being said about me, I read all the other healthy living blog threads on GOMI. Every. Single. One. And then I used the forums and the chat feature to get to know Alice and the community there. And my education was enlightening.

Here are five things GOMI taught me about blogging.

1. If you think something is wrong with your blog…something probably is. What hurt about what was said about me in the forums was that everything was things I had been concerned about. I’ve struggled for the past year with the transition from single girl to girl with a serious boyfriend, mainly because I’ve worried for months that I’m turning off a big portion of my readers. I talked to a lot of friends and other bloggers about this and all of them encouraged me to let my blog’s direction change, so I went with it. But even as my readers encouraged my living in sin posts through tons of enthusiastic comments, I couldn’t help but feel like the girl who got a boyfriend and ditched all her friends. Reading GOMI was just confirmation of that.

Not all bloggers are self-aware, and you may say or do something that you don’t realize is offensive or just plain dumb…but I do believe if you’re self-conscious or your gut is telling you something is wrong with your blog or a post you’ve written, you need to listen. Hint: this probably doesn’t mean asking on Twitter where you will be told what you want to hear by your 6,000 enablers.

2. There are a lot of lurkers out there who are afraid to tell you what you need to hear. I was frustrated that all this stuff was being said in a forum when I try to make it clear that discussion and criticism have a place on my blog. On the other hand, I’m not surprised no one wants to tell a blogger she’s sucking — most bloggers don’t want to hear it, and even if they can stand it, we all know their batshit-crazy fanatical readers cannot. And the fact remains that bloggers aren’t listening. I’m not entirely sure how to solve the problem of bloggers reacting to criticism like Detective Stabler reacts to pedophiles on “Law & Order: SVU,” but I can tell you that if we as a community handled criticism with a little more grace, or just stopped and thought for a few minutes about how the things we put on our blog might appear and that maybe the negative comments have a point…and perhaps if we quit being lazy and made some changes…then there would be a lot less need for snarking.

3. A lot of “haters” like you — and are more like you — than you might think. As I read all the healthy living blog threads, I realized that so many of the comments were posted by people who are very involved in the healthy living blog community. Say what you will to help you ignore negative comments at all costs, but the fact is, not everyone who talks badly about your blog is a bunch of fat jealous cat ladies (seriously, who are these people who keep throwing that out there? And furthermore, what is wrong with being fat or owning cats??) — many are bloggers or longtime readers who have no where else to go to say the things that everyone is thinking.

I also noticed that a lot of the commenters there talked about how they used to like a blog. That’s a really big deal — they used to like you! It’s not that they decided one day, after feeding their cats and masturbating to romance novels, Hmmm….I think I’m going to go find a new blog to hate-follow. I PICK…YOU! No. It’s entirely likely that they went for a 15-mile run, wrote a blog post of their own, ate some Greek yogurt, and then sat down to read you, their favorite blogger…and were disappointed by what you posted. Even though it hurts, their criticism does matter.

4. How you respond to negative comments is almost as important as how you blog. I always sort of knew that how a blogger responds to criticism tells you a lot about her, but it became even more apparent in the GOMI forums. When I watched one of my favorite bloggers respond to the comments there with defensive PR-ish bullshit, I was so disappointed. Well, I thought. Now I have to stop loving your delicious recipes because you clearly do not know how to behave. It says a lot about a blogger when she has a lawyer send a cease-and-desist letter over a little snark. There’s a good chance your readers are reading GOMI; at the very least, you now know that other bloggers are. I can’t say that I know the best way to respond to a GOMI post about you, but I can say that I’m really proud of the discussions I had in the forums after I responded to my thread.

5. GOMI justifies the existence of Hollaback Health for me. The truth? Is that Hollaback was formed out of very similar conversations to the ones in the GOMI forums. Eventually, I was just like, You know? Maybe if a few of us have these strong feelings about terrible grammar mistakes and unhealthy/dangerous behavior or feeling like the blog world is made up of mean girls and cliques, maybe we aren’t the only ones…maybe I can do something about it. Even though I wasn’t exactly shocked by anything I read on GOMI, I did learn some things — and I learned that there is a lot more going on in the healthy living blog community than I realized! I work on Hollaback to the best of my ability, based on how I see things and how the other Hollaback bloggers see things. But I’m more certain now than ever before that Hollaback would do well to have more voices contributing or even just commenting.

As a rule, I don’t hate-follow, and although posts worth hating often find their way to me, this was a good reminder that the Hollaback bloggers can’t see everything — good or bad. So as a blogger and as the editor of Hollaback, I’m glad GOMI exists, because as brutal as the healthy living blog forums are sometimes, they are generally discussing things we all need to know, think about, improve, and change. (Sometimes — don’t get me wrong, I think that there are some threads that aren’t exactly trying to change the world.) I’m sure the conversations taking place in the GOMI forums will be the source of inspiration for Hollaback posts over the coming months.

So when I’m hanging out in the GOMI forums, I’m not there because I’m lonely/fat/jealous/ugly/[insert some other meaningless insult here]…it’s because, like I said months ago when I started Hollaback, I’m passionate about blogging and, like it or not, I’m part of this community now. I love blogging — talking about it, learning more about it, and hearing what other people think about it. I care about my blog. And — surprise, surprise! — I care about your blog too, grammar mistakes and all. And on my summer vacation, GOMI was a reminder to me that there is a lot of work to be done on my blog, on Hollaback, and in the healthy living blog community.

UPDATE: In the months after I published this post, the number of legit conversations taking place on GOMI shrank and the number of absolutely toxic conversations increased dramatically. While I did initially learn some important lessons by reading what was being said about me there, continuing to read what was being said about me and other bloggers (and continuing to attempt to have rational conversations with the community there) became incredibly unhealthy and damaging and I quit cold turkey in January 2012. 

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