The Five Stages of Realizing You’ve Written a Poorly-Worded Blog Comment

Sometimes I read other people’s blogs. Sometimes I leave comments on other people’s blogs. And sometimes that process goes terribly, terribly wrong.

Self portrait (assuming that, in a previous life, I was Edvard Munch and imagined this is what I'd look like today).

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.

80 thoughts on “The Five Stages of Realizing You’ve Written a Poorly-Worded Blog Comment

  1. Yes, it is so annoying, that people feel stalked – and one is only trying to show a little care – I call that ungrateful. *LOL* Thank God, I’m none of those – meaning you can stalk me anytime ;)

  2. The one drawback to WordPress is that we cannot retract or delete our own comments. Been there, done that. Except for the tweet-stalking part. Although I may or may not have parked my car outside her house. Once.

  3. Hey! I’m new here and came via the Good Greatsby (who I may or may not be comment-stalking). Don’t be alarmed if I check back 2 or 2000 times to see how you’ve responded to this comment. I just want to make a good, non-stalkerish first impression. :)

      1. The caption contest over there is the worst. Every time I type in a caption, I think of a better wording for it three seconds after I hit “send”.

        1. It is the worst, Laura! Especially when I leave typos (which really aren’t typos, I just don’t know how to write properly sometimes) Damn that Greatsby. Always being so clever and funny and always running away when I try to steal his blog ideas…it’s very stressful.

  4. Laura, I try to comment often, but not appear to stalk anyone. Not that I am stalking anyone, but I don’t think I comment enough to actually fall into the stalking category. Which I wouldn’t be doing if I did anyway.

      1. I actually used to use that painting in my classes as a prompt to elicit a poem or a journal response from students.

        I don’t recall any of them ever writing that that was their self portrait, however…

      1. Funny you should mention that since I spent a great deal of today’s workday contemplating becoming one of those 11 o’clock news “tragedy in the workplace” stories. Luckily the Xanax kicked in and I didn’t bludgeon anyone with my stapler.

        Does this disqualify me for the job?

        1. Failing to follow through on your bludgeoning plan does seem to indicate a lack of initiative. It doesn’t exactly disqualify you, but it certainly doesn’t help.

  5. That was so well put. I’ve often wished that I could retract a comment that I had penned too hastily or hadn’t spell-checked sufficiently, or that indicated somehow that I hadn’t read everyone else’s earlier comments! Inadvertently upsetting someone is an awful, awful feeling…

  6. I’ve deleted all your previous comments on my posts and just left the bit where you say “there’s a first time for everything”.

    It’s an entirely inappropriate response to the actual post, but that’s what you get for stalking me. Or not stalking me. i can’t make up my mind which I’d prefer.

  7. You can’t actually be a stalker if you think that you might be one, right? So only if you don’t think you’re a stalker can you possibly be one. Unless you only consider thinking you’re a stalker so that you won’t actually be thought of one.

  8. Great post. I only occasionally leave offensive comments. Usually alcohol is involved.

    However, I did have an odd reaction to my post, “Hey, Doc,” which happened to be FP’d. In that piece, I was talking about medicine and medical tests. I jokingly said:” I think all these tests is a Russian (Iranian?) plot to get Americans to wipe themselves out with radioactive dyes so that they — The Russian/Iranians — can take over our country and get up there on the CT Scan machine themselves.”

    One commenter said that she was Russian and she “unliked” me because of the comment I had made (really tongue-in-cheek). I felt like I was back in grammar school. She wouldn’t have chosen me for the baseball team. Sniff, sniff….

    1. The most insulting comment I’ve gotten on this blog was something like “I tried to like this, but nothing happened”. It was from someone who’d been supportive in the past, so I assumed she was trying to be helpful by letting me know that post wasn’t up to my usual standard. It turns out she just meant there was a problem with the “like” button.

    2. I saw that comment, Elyse. Yikes. If there’s one thing you can count on in this crazy mixed-up blogging world, it’s that there will always be people out there who will never get what ‘tongue-in-cheek’ means. I’ve learned that the hard way with some of the negative comments I’ve received in the past.

      1. It was terribly sad. Thrust back to junior high gym. I am crying into my coffee. I will watch your back and fight anyone who is mean to you. You’re welcome.

        1. I just read that, and — wow. Some people just don’t get humor at all. I saw her less as the girl who won’t choose you for baseball and more as the teacher who is Very Disappointed in you. She was nice enough to give you some well-intentioned (but bad) medical advice before lecturing you.

      2. I know what tongue in cheek means. We learned in 5th grade if you do that with a boy, that’s where babies come from. Baby got back (not sure what THAT means, but it seemed to fit in the whole “back” discussion here.)

  9. Post mistakes: Referring to a blogger by the wrong name. How can that happen when the name is written on the screen? I managed to screw it up twice. Apologized and everything. No reply. I got tired of stalking and finally forgave myself.

    1. What a strange thing to hold a grudge over. Actually, I guess it depends on the circumstances. If someone called me Lisa or Linda or Susan or Joan, I’d believe it was a simple mistake, but if they called me Poopy Face, I might be a little more skeptical.

  10. I don’t think I’ve accidentally offended anyone yet – normally if I’m offensive, it’s on purpose – but I make little typos here and there that haunt me for far longer than they should.

    Like in my last comment on your blog when I incorrectly pluralized my comment and said “begrudging fashions” and sounded a little ESL – which would be fine if I wasn’t completely uni-lingual and have no other language source in my life, and didn’t pride myself on my grammar. Which I shouldn’t, since my writing style relies heavily on hyphens and sentence fragments.

    Like actually – it totally does.

  11. Hi. got room for one more stalker? Well, I guess I don’t really qualify as a stalker since this is my first comment ever on your blog site. It would take at least two, right?

    Hi, got room for one more stalker? There, now I’m official.

    Funny post and dead on regarding those “I’d give anything to have not hit that post comment button” moments.

    In fact, since this is a pretty cheesy comment I probably won’t post it……dammit…..hit that button by mistake again!

  12. Hi again. I’m the one who just posted that comment by mistake (Hey, I might be pretty good at this stalker thing).

    Sorry, I hope you didn’t misunderstand anything I was trying to say.

    Let me just say: I know that you believe you understand what you think I wrote, but I’m not sure you realize that what you read is not what I meant.

    Have a good day.

  13. Hahaha…
    I can’t relate to this post at all.
    (That was sarcasm. Like… seriously. For reals. Because I do this all the time. And I’d hate to find myself right back at stage one. Again. Already.)

  14. You are so hilarious! I’ve gone back and rewritten posts that had been incorrectly miscorrected by spellcheck – these things happen and bloggers should hang on to the benefit of the doubt. No where do you see more conversations starting with, “What I meant was” than on the world wide webs. It’s a pit of miscommunication and hurt feelings. Like marriages, I guess.

    1. I’ve embarrassed myself on Facebook, but I have a very friends list that pretty much just includes people I know in real life, so I don’t get misunderstood there very often.

  15. I am banned for life from a forum, no joke. After a very long (bad) day I came home to find that the same people were posting the same WRONG advice that I’d argued against for a week. So I corrected them. And mentioned that until they’ve actually taken a science class, perhaps they shouldn’t act like they know anything about, you know, science. I went back two minutes later to apologize…but I was already banned.


    I’ve learned to play nicer. And to share my toys.

  16. I’m sorry, Laura. I just find it incredibly difficult to believe that you would ever say something that could be misconstrued to be rude. You’re like the sweetest blogger I know!

    (Now, the subsequent stalking? I believe that shit.)

    Also, I’m the reigning queen of unintentional bitchiness. People apparently don’t get my sarcasm. Especially my own mother.

    1. Maybe you should hire a sarcasm translator to facilitate communications with your mother. I’m sure that, being queen and all, you can afford it.

  17. Awesome Laura (by the way that is not a sarcastic awesome but a friendly one)

    BTW I suffer from nosiness, I can be very very slow on the uptake did not get why “Holly” on your comment re: Bloggess re: Apparell Ella Graham’s little sister.

  18. I’m visiting via Bloggess. Holly…that’s funny. Thanks for this post. It was just what I needed. Btw, if Bloggess Graham has another kid she could name her Polly….
    I am not obsessed w/ Bloggess or anything like that, not stalking, just commenting. Oh boy, Here we go…This would fall under when you start using other people’s blogs to proclaim your innocence

  19. I think that may have happened today actually! I made a comment in my post about “middle aged mommies” loving Pinterest and I think I started a little holy war amongst,…middle aged mommies.

  20. I stalk The Bloggess. Now I have discovered this blog, I will stalk you too. Very funny post, I go through all of these stages on a regular basis, in everyday life as well as on blog comments & social networks…I just have this knack of upsetting people & putting my foot in it..Shame it isn’t a talent I can market……………. P.S. I am a middle aged cat lady.

    1. I kind of feel like this post gives me immunity from any embarrassment resulting from anything I say or write. That effect will probably wear off in a few days, though.

  21. Hi,
    I have come over also from Greatsby blog, so I guess I am also stalking in a way. :D
    I have often left a comment and then realized that it could be taken in a totally different way, I think sometimes the Aussie humor just doesn’t translate well. :lol:

  22. A few nights ago I left a comment on someone’s blog and it got moderated out by the blogger who emailed me in the middle of the night and said it was not really to the point. At first I was disappointed but thought, that’s ok, I’ll rewrite it in the morning and try to be more clear. Then I tried to go back to sleep. But I remembered what I wrote and it was kind of exactly on topic so wtf? So there I was, lying here sad because some guy I never met hates me and for some reason that upsets me. But I finally realised I’d never sleep again until I got up and replied to his email. So I checked it and guess what – there WAS NO EMAIL from the blogger at all. I even went to his blog and saw my comment there. I dreamed the whole thing!

    Surely there’s something wrong with me?

    (Please don’t delete my comment – it turns out I’m very sensitive about this sort of thing)

  23. I think all of us, at one point or another, have committed this “misdemeanor.” I cured myself by refusing to be a comment stalker. Once I post the comment, unless I get a reply in my WordPress quite annoying “notifications” bright orange button, I tend to forget about it. Until I enter that moon phase where I feel the compulsion to investigate any reaction I may have provoked and the vicious cycle begins. :)

  24. Hi Laura, this post was hilarious. We’ve all been there — but if we’re here now commenting, then we’ve overcome the mortification. (Hooray!) Sometimes I have to remind myself, blogging is supposed to be fun! And you tapped right into the funny. :)

  25. Same thing happened to me once. (the first step, anyway) I had just put out a post on whether or not the Notre Dame mascot should be allowed in a culture that gets rid of all the American Indian mascots. I mentioned it on a blog I follow. The guy responded by calling it “right wing crap.” then we got into a whole big fight over whether the Irish are a race. Some other guy got involved, though I’m still not sure what side he was on.

    The worst part was that it all happened on his blog.

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