[Think Aloud] – #16 – Freedom of Speech in the Book Blogging Community

Think Aloud explores book-related discussions encompassing reading, writing, blogging, and perhaps newsworthy content. The focus is to push the boundaries, stretch the mind, and encourage dialogue within this community. Let’s all think out loud.

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Table Topic:
Freedom of Speech in the
Book Blogging Community

Abstract:

Niche blogging communities suffer speech freedom as social dissonance dictates subjective thinking.


I was asked by Mishma @ Chasing Faerytales to contribute to a dialogue regarding freedom of speech in the book blogging community. Below is my bit to share with you. Here’s the link to the compilation post on Mishma’s blog: Book Blogging and Speech Freedom: A Collab Post.

The post also features other awesome individuals involved in the conversation, including: Cait @ The Paper Fury, Hazel @ Stay BookishNara @ Looking for the PanaceaRachel @ A Perfection Called Books, and Nufaiza @ Say It With Books.


Thoughts:

Gather around for some real talk. This is probably the most personal ramble to date. The opinions expressed are my own.

Let’s begin with a story:

A while back, I left a comment on a meme post and was put on blast by its author, their friends (emphasis on plural), and was sub-tweeted that I was:  “putting down another blogger” and it was “wrong of me to judge how they choose to blog” (among other comments). Now was that really my intent? I didn’t think so. I even asked other bloggers to review the comment and they thought my choice of words could have been misconstrued. (Of course, they could have been biased.) Either way, I replied back and apologized for not wording my thoughts “correctly” (?) with no reply to follow. I left it alone after that.

I’m sure this issue has seen another day in the blogosphere but it calls for attention the ease of misinterpretation; how even a slight nuance in wording can change the tone or message. More importantly, however, is how quick the wildfire of judgment can spread in determining the degree of defence needed to counter the feeling of being attacked. Fact: it is much easier for extremes to be amplified if it holds a negative connotation as opposed to one that gives praise. Why? Because no one enjoys shit being disturbed when it’s happening to them.

This raises an important question: should you ever feel afraid to comment with opinions that [willingly or unwillingly] go against the grain of the message?

I would hope that regular readers to my blog (so, you!) know that I encourage criticizing and being criticized as to inspire debate. Yet as much as I put myself into the content, I maintain my thoughts at an arms-length distance which I feel some bloggers don’t. This isn’t to say that the essence of personality is lost but that it acts like a barrier giving me the opportunity to step-back and transparently ask “Okay, this individual agrees/disagrees with me. Why is that?” Note that it isn’t wrong to feel emotionally attached to your thoughts—it is by and large an extension of you—but realize that there’s a difference in your person being attacked and having your opinions criticized.

When you sign up to be part of any publicized social community, you’re opening the possibility to be put under the microscope of scrutiny. What you do with these opinions is completely up to you but I find it disingenuous to be a blogger who acts on freedom of speech through book reviewing, discussions, memes, and what-have-you only to dismiss interpretations of that other than your own. To reiterate: you do not have to agree with alternative ways of thinking but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be open to give them thought. This wholly applies to readers as well. I just don’t think you can have it both ways.

But what if you can’t even get to the point of opening that voice?

There may be times when you have something to say but fear the dissonance of your voice in a collective channel of unfamiliar noise. I hear you. It’s tough to throw your opinion out there especially when it’s of the unpopular variety. It’s even tougher to digest that there are those who will police your thoughts, often dismissing it as a lesser voice for reasons of “credibility”; ultimately marginalizing the person behind the thought.

And that to me is completely bananas.

This manifestation of blogger egoism begins when you receive your very first statistical up-vote; be it a follow or a view, and inflates into something toxic. It’s inescapable and something all bloggers face: a self-fulfilling quantifiable truth of popularity equating to credibility (and otherwise, authority). However, it can be extremely counter-intuitive when this balance of power governs the need to “do-right” onto others to inform or suggest corrective ways to think or proceed in the blogging community. Know that I am not short-selling bloggers helping other bloggers as less than what it is because tips are always appreciated but it becomes an issue when popularity justifies the standard to which readers ought to perceive a thought.

That to belong means you should follow the hype.

That to enjoy blogging means you should model yourself after other successes.

That to have a voice means you should rarely think for yourself.

Bloggers seem to have this almost-invincibility complex where they rarely see themselves at fault under the veil of a “critical opinion (and I say that with the utmost use of air quotes). With conflicting interests in perception, it often derails from being about the substance and can be considered more an attack on the individual making that opinion. This isn’t a pessimist’s view in saying that the community is laden with toxicity but rather in the face of polarizing thoughts, equanimity doesn’t seem to be the go-to trait. I will say that there is no feeling similar to the satisfaction of being right or affirmed. However, there is rarely anything discrete in this community. We are students and teachers, and we are on this wildly interpretive journey together—me on this side of the screen, you on the other.

So take everything you read here and anywhere else with a grain of salt. It does not matter if you are a newbie, a seasoned pro, or just a passing thinker; trust in your voice—in “you doing you”—and take every positive and negative in stride and own the experience in a way that best helps you sleep at night. There is no cookie-cutter way to be yourself and you should never feel marginalized into thinking otherwise.

Be a blogger, be you, and be true; the rest [I hope] will surely follow.


Afterthought Prompts:

1) Have you ever dealt with negative comments during your time of blogging? What was it about and how did it spawn? How did you manage the conflict? (Only share if you’re willing)

2) What is your opinion on blogger elitism and authority?

3) What are some barriers to bloggers fully voicing their opinions? Tips to overcome these obstacles (if any)?

Cheers,
Joey

connect: afterthoughtAn // twitter  |  anotherafterthought // goodreads

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Post Inspiration:

I was ecstatic when Mishma asked me to collaborate with a bunch of stellar bloggers to talk through my thoughts on this topic (thank you again, Mishmash–my nickname for you, if you’re willing). Most of these think alouds have seldom been a serious topic for me to delve into so it was a nice change of scenery in that regard.

You don’t have to agree with the comments made above. My only hope is that you accept them for what it is and carry on.

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28 thoughts on “[Think Aloud] – #16 – Freedom of Speech in the Book Blogging Community”

  1. I thankfully haven’t had any negative blogging experiences, so I can’t give much commentary on that. But just like in “real” life, there will always be people who will try to stop you from voicing your opinions and fully expressing yourself, because they’re either offended or are afraid of you going against the grain, I guess. It’s just up to you to decide who you’d rather be…

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    1. Situationally, I would never wish a negative experience on anyone. Although you can really never expect it to arise sometimes, I guess it’s good to have that mental awareness that it could happen anytime and it really is up to you to decide the person you want to be in how you handle it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t gotten in any comment wars myself, but I’ve seen some around. I think any time you state your opinion in a public setting, you’re inviting others to do the same. And being in control of your own site, you can always delete any comments you find offensive.

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    1. That’s true! Although even deleting comments comes with its problems; kind of like sweeping the problem under the rug without truly addressing it. Not to mention that if they’re expecting a reply and you delete the post, it’s possible that it makes you (the post remover) appear ignorant to listening to alternative ways of thinking…? Well, I’m just playing devil’s advocate here haha–negativity is such a fickle thing!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I actually haven’t experienced any negativity towards my comments yet, and I’ve certainly never been attacked by a hoard of bloggers for voicing my thoughts. But I have seen it happen a lot. I find the wars more common in the comment sections under articles and youtube videos than blogging platforms though. As for the blogger elitism… I don’t have much of stance on it. For me, the more traffic on my blog makes me feel more pressured to try to make more quality stuff (and to check and double check spelling/grammar mistakes. It doesn’t stop me from overlooking some of them anyway though). But anyway, I can’t think of a clear-cut solution, other than, yes, “Be a blogger, be you, and be true; the rest [I hope] will surely follow.” Nice, thought-provoking post, Joey!

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    1. It’s interesting how so many of us grow accustomed to being bystanders to these conflicts. (Although I’m not saying that you should/shouldn’t engage an issue that may/may not concern you.)

      But yeah, I can see what you mean with flame wars in bigger platforms like YouTube. The greater the sample size, the more potential for thought dissonance I guess!

      It does sound stressful doesn’t it to continually hold your content to a higher standard based on your audience. That’s so masochistic of us bloggers/booklr-ers/booktubers to have to live by. It makes sense but don’t we already feel enough pressure to try to become better content creators without the need for influences to push us into insanity. But then again, I’m a pretty lazy blogger and I blog for me (most of the time) so I guess my opinion is kind of invalid. Like everyone who schedules their posts so effortlessly to keep content up? Yeah, no, I can’t do it LOL.

      And I’m glad there was a quote that could resonate with you even if it was super cheesy!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Same. I agree about blogging for oneself. (It’s good for the soul. Jk, I mean, in some ways it’s both stressful and liberating.)
        Blogger commitment is another thing I struggle with. I think I started a total of 5 blogs before I was able to make this one. All of them only had a couple of posts though. Back then, I always gave up blogging because I found myself better as a contributor where I could do a guest post every once and a while. That way there was no commitment and someone was always proofing your posts for you. …Sorry, kind of got off topic with that.
        Anyway, yes, I really enjoy your Think Aloud posts. After reading them, I can’t help but think that your goal is to get Freshly Pressed one day. 😉

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  4. I haven’t experience anything like this either in comments directed at me or people attacking my comments and opinions.
    I completely agree that we should have the freedom of voicing our own opinions. Sometimes I think people can easily take someone’s opinion the wrong way because of the way it’s worded. But I think also that as much as we need to make sure we voice out opinions in a way that does not sound like an attack, we need to clear our minds and read the opinion, and really dig into what their opinion is. I think we as people can tend to personalize someone’s comment and then that’s when it gets to us and makes us feel like we are being attacked.
    We are all humans with all getting degrees of opinions and I passionately agree that we should have full control and freedom over our thoughts.
    The blogger superiority/authority thing I think is something that can be a problem too when you start to get ‘popular’. Yes, sometimes it can get to your head. That’s something I don’t like, because in the end, we are all the same – humans with a voice. Those who are popular are those with a voice heard and known by a larger audience. I don’t think that just because those popular blogs are thinking and doing things in certain ways means that everyone else has to feel that they need to follow.
    I LOVED this topic so very much!

    Like

    1. Snap judgments on the Internet are what make dramas spread incredibly quickly I think. It’s like: “Josie, I hate you for crossing over to the BookTube side” >> AS IF PEOPLE HAVE MAGICAL POWERS TO READ SARCASM ON THE INTERNET. That’s the tough part about reading words–there’s so many nuances that you can read it in that skews the meaning. Those words alone, without some like “>:(!” emoji after it can make it sound so serious. (Not to mention if profanity was incorporated–yikes!)

      I think the one thing that can be offputting is when someone gets to the point in their blogging/booktubing/booklr-ing where they’re overwhelmed with comments and don’t even respond anymore. Or they might only respond to their clique. I’m torn about this, actually. Half of me thinks it’s fine because it’s who you gravitate towards and it’s awesome that they’ve formed close relationships with certain people. But there’s also so many missed opportunities I guess that kinda makes me feel bad for those who try to put the effort in getting to know these “famous” individuals. It’s like the community you’ve built for yourself has just become a number, you know? Granted, I’m not saying they should reply to every single person (because there isn’t enough time in the world for that) but I guess to actually try to connect with those “numbers” who really got you to where you are? I don’t know. This is getting unnecessarily ranty now LOL.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes! Besides being ranty, I totally agree and want to rant along with you! I would reply with a bigger comment but I am one minute late for class! But yes I totally agree.

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  5. Thanks for posting this, Joey. Although your brain sometimes overwhelms me (clearly I need to brush up on my vocabulary..LOL), I appreciate your honesty and putting yourself out there. The line that hits home the most with me is ‘That to belong means you should follow the hype.’ This was me in the beginning. I was reading and reviewing what I thought everyone wanted to see, what was the most popular right now. And I learned quickly that it didn’t gain more followers or comments any more than when I read what I want and post about what I want. In fact, now that I’ve adopted more of a ‘my blog, do what I want’ attitude, my followers have increased (not that that is my purpose because I don’t care about that stuff…I just happened to notice this recently). I am who I am, take it or leave it. I’m not blogging to impress anyone – I’m blogging because I enjoy it, and reading. And the community/friendships I’ve made a long the way.

    I honestly have never encountered a negative comment on my blog, nor have I seen one on another blog. I really avoid confrontation, but I do agree that everyone is entitled to their opinions and you should take it with a grain of salt. Not everyone is going to have the same beliefs and like the same things. Case and point – I love NA and you loath it with a passion. LOL. But hey, we still be friends! That’s the great thing about being ourselves. It’s OKAY and we can still all get along!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is not I who overwhelms but those who inspire me that overwhelms. No, seriously, those two topics last week with [unforgivable quote] and [masculine scents] would not have been possible without you or rachel #blessed.

      I’m glad I could strip everything down and still sound somewhat insightful/profound/”me” in what is written. I’m not all satire and bad jokes–I promise LOL.

      With regards to following the hype, I think half of my Top Ten Lists (especially when it’s seasonal TBR) is basically me buying into what becomes popular. Like, freaking RED QUEEN instabuy was because of hype. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I love dystopian books as much as the next kid but hoooly cow when was it released? I bought it that month I think or the next month over…and I never buy books full price unless it’s of an instabuy author. The hype bug pulled a fast one on me!

      There’s definitely a subtle genuineness when you talk with passionate conviction. (Like, that [unforgivable quote] post was done at like 12:15am after I couldn’t sleep cause of that damn brain of mine.) Likewise, when you speak of your NA-ness (WHICH BY THE WAY I DO NOT LOATHE–IT JUST DOESN’T SPEAK TO ME YET BECAUSE I FIND SO MANY FAULTS WITH MOST OF THEM LOL) and swoons and what have you, it speaks a lot more when you can feel their enjoyment coming through and not forced by association to hype or fitting in.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Haha, I am always open to nicknames:)
    Thanks a lot for contributing to the post Joey! I am so amazed by people’s opinions on the issue!

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  7. I want a clapping hands emoji in here.

    This is one of the best things I think you’ve ever written, and I plan to come back to word vomit all over these comments when I get some free time, this one might take a while. Bravo! R x

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  8. Oh! And I’ve only had one kind of negative comment, where someone took my 2.5/5 star review of a book to heart, and decided there was something wrong with me and how I read it instead of the book. LOL. I didn’t mind though, just replied politely while internally seething. R x

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  9. Wow.

    I am painfully new, as you know.
    But right now, the point of blogging is really just to contribute because I love books, and discussing/ranting/arguing.
    It would be cool if we could be unaffected by the comments; and see it in an objective light. I’ll have to get used to that if I post about controversial issues.

    I’ve been looking for this type of content for a while. thank you!

    Like

    1. Objectivity is often the first thing people seem to exude a likeness to but also the first thing that gets thrown out the window if they’re put into a position to become defensive. The blogosphere is a completely different beast than speaking in person; which is why choice of wording is easily misunderstood.

      There are so many outlets that reiterate “everyone’s voice matters” and for it to become reiterated in someones mind that “yes, my voice matters” is also easily skewed into forgetting about the others that matter as well. become skewed to forget about the “others”.

      That’s just my thoughts to from what I’ve seen of drama and the like. Do what you will with it.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I agree with you, Joey. In the end, whenever you publish something or release it into a public domain, you open it up for other people to read, discuss, criticize, print out and shred, etc. There is definitely a difference between liking someone and agreeing with their opinion, and while it might be a difficult difference to negotiate at first, it is something all writers must do – no piece of writing will be loved by literally everyone, that is just fact (and blogging is included). One thing I really appreciate about your blog – even though I have read only a bit of it – is that you are honest in your pursuit of opening up dialogue about topics that might create discomfort, which is important. I have had some of my posts attacked and torn into shreds, and I have had my writing rejected, all of which has built me into a stronger and more resilient person. Looking forward to more of your posts!

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    1. THESE KIND WORDS ARE OVERWHELMING, THOMAS.

      To speak to your point about the transparency of opinion, it does feel as though sometimes people forget that the thoughts of another can be valued as well (as much as their own). That’s what bothers me the most.

      I think there’s a time and place to put emotion into what you put out online, but for most, they all seemed to be linked together. (Maybe I’m just heartless though, I don’t know.)

      But yeah, every time I’ve been criticized (constructively or otherwise) for thinking one way, I really enjoy the engagement it creates to build a body of conversation that nuances alternative ways of thinking (even if the other party doesn’t feel the same).

      Like

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