Sometimes I read other people’s blogs. Sometimes I leave comments on other people’s blogs. And sometimes that process goes terribly, terribly wrong.
I don’t want to alarm anyone, but every time you write a comment, you run the risk that someone will misinterpret it. While everyone is different, most of us go through the same five stages when faced with this kind of emotional trauma.
Stage 1: Denial
You notice that a blogger has replied to a comment you left on his blog — but instead of engaging in friendly banter as you’d expected, he seems to have interpreted your comment as a personal attack. Your immediate reaction is to assume there was some glitch and that his angry response was intended for someone else, but then you notice specific details that could only have been directed at you. You decide he must be hypersensitive. Or crazy. No sane person could possibly have thought you meant that.
Stage 2: Apology
At the end of the denial stage, you read your comment once again and are shocked to realize that it really could be interpreted to mean that. Easily. By a sane person. You’re hit with an intense wave of embarrassment, which you try to alleviate by shooting off a combination apology and explanation of what you really meant. This will fix everything, you tell yourself. He’ll read the explanation, understand what I really meant, and we’ll both laugh about it. You just need to check back later for the friendly response you’re sure is forthcoming.
Stage 3: Stalking
You check back later. No response, but maybe he hasn’t seen it yet. You reread your apology. You’re not sure it’s clear — after all, you wrote it kind of hastily. You write another comment expanding on the explanation. Then you wait a reasonable amount of time (say, 90 seconds or so) and check back again.
Still no response. You look at your apology and your apology clarification, and even though you meant them sincerely, you realize they could look like the comments of someone who was initially wrong but is now backpedaling. So you post another comment explaining that that’s not what you’re doing. That just makes it worse, because denying it makes you look even more guilty. You post a comment explaining that.
You decide all these comments are starting to make you look like a stalker. You post a comment explaining that you’re not stalking him and that you’ve never stalked anyone. Unfortunately, you can’t resist ending that one with “but there’s a first time for everything”. You post another comment explaining that the last bit was a joke.
You begin to regret leaving all these comments. You send the blogger a tweet apologizing for the first one and asking him to ignore all the others.
You send another tweet explaining that you meant he should ignore all your other comments, not anyone else’s.
You send another tweet explaining that you meant he should ignore all your other comments on this post, not the two previous posts of his you’ve commented on, and that you remain steadfast in your opinion that his children and pets are adorable in their matching purple sweaters and that his brownie recipe looks delicious but could probably be improved by adding a cup or two of chocolate chips along with the nuts. Technically, you have to break this into three tweets because of Twitter’s character limit.
You send another tweet explaining you’re not a stalker, because you just realized that if he follows your instructions and doesn’t read all the comments you left on his blog, he’ll miss that very important bit of information.
You send him a friend request on Facebook.
You add him to your “People I Am Definitely Not Stalking” circle on Google+.
You realize there’s probably nothing more you can say to him at this point, so you start asking friends to act as character references. No one seems particularly enthusiastic about the idea. You can’t imagine why.
Stage 4: Depression
All your tweets and friend requests and comments go unanswered. The blogger clearly doesn’t believe you. You feel like you’ve lost all credibility. You start to wonder how many other people you’ve offended without realizing it — after all, lots of people just ignore comments they think are offensive, so how would you know? You withdraw from the Internet and resort to speaking to people in person. You realize you’ve hit rock bottom when you find yourself buying the print version of a newspaper.
Stage 5: Acceptance
You begin to put the situation into perspective and return to the Internet. You’re filled with something that you try to convince yourself is a sense of inner peace, but it’s really just numbness. And then a thought comes to you, bringing with it a shining ray of hope: hey, this might be a good topic for a blog post.