Lessons Learned From 4 Years of Animal Person
I've officially been blogging for four years (1,329 posts and 5,441 comments) today, and as I (re)ponder whether I will continue, I'd like to present some lessons I've learned about blogging, veganism, people, "the movement," language and . . . I'll also take requests.
Today I'll address blogging.
If you want to facilitate change in the hearts, minds and actions of others, you should know your audience. Now, you might be intentionally seeking a certain audience and therefore writing in a style specifically designed for it. That audience and style might be very logical. It might be full of rage. Just know that the way you present yourself largely dictates who is going to visit your blog. Your blog is like a mirror for you and it will attract like-minded people, for the most part.
You'll get visitors who are open to changing if you make your blog or site welcoming to them.
And you'll get unwanted visitors, as well . . .
There are people who have nothing better to do than visit the blogs of people they disagree with for the sole purpose of annoying them. My advice? Ignore them.
I've never been one to turn away from confrontation. I can be quick and nasty with comebacks, and I can also dismantle any troll's rants. And for a solid two years I did that. But I don't anymore because nothing good can come of it. I've learned my lesson. I'm not going to change their mind and they're not commenting with the intention of adding something of value to the conversation, so what's the purpose? To demonstrate how well I can school them? The interminable back-and-forth on some blogs that will never, ever change one person's mind and appears to be a competition of mean-spiritedness boggles my mind. More important, it makes me stay away from sites where this occurs because it disrespects a cause deserving of serious discussion.
Comment moderation is good.
There's nothing wrong with moderating comments and not accepting those that don't add value or are hostile or abusive. Your blog is your space and the First Amendment doesn't apply. There's nothing wrong with demanding civil discourse, either. Your comment sections are an extension of you; they say something about you. Not allowing comments also says something about you.
There are pros and cons of being actively involved in your comments.
I like to encourage discussion among readers (or at least I did way back when I had a lot of them and I was blogging daily!). And my experience was that when I chimed in the conversation changed (and sometimes stopped as if I had the answers). I like to learn from my audience and the only way that can happen is if I step back after my two cents (the post) and encourage everyone else to toss in their two cents. Too much of me in the comments wasn't a great idea for Animal Person, in my opinion.
It's difficult to not preach to the choir.
Here's one area where I failed miserably. For at least a year, all I did was preach to the choir, and often in the form of ranting. That might feel good initially, like when you wrote that letter to the person who betrayed the nonprofit you worked so hard to support by ("allegedly") using tens of thousands of dollars of donor funds for her personal use (who said that?). But you didn't mail that letter or call the press, because when your anger is out there for the world to see you just might regret it. Throwing a tantrum–even a well-crafted and justified one–can damage your credibility.
And that brings me to . . .
Vegans have a bad reputation.
Who knows how or when it started, but vegans have a reputation of being difficult, self-righteous, judgmental people. We're "extreme," we're "fanatical," and we're misanthropes.
We can spend time deconstructing those words (and I've spent more time than I'd like to admit), thereby demonstrating that those who use them are in fact not being accurate because all we're doing is aligning our actions with our beliefs, but I wonder what good too much of that does. I used to take every opportunity that crossed my path to explain–at length–the inaccuracy, inconsistency and lack of logic in such accusations, but I grew tired of doing that and didn't see how it could be productive.
I understand wanting to defend against unjust accusations, but I'd simply caution against doing so every time. Pick your battles. If someone's not interested in a reasonable discussion or adding value, what are the odds that they'll change anything they believe or do after you've systematically decimated their accusations or position?
Part of our mission as vegans should be to work to normalize veganism. And though I understand the appeal of "Why Be Normal?" and I spent years with a buzz cut and dressed head-to-toe in black, as a 43-year old soon-to-be adoptive mom, I now appreciate the idea of "normal" more than ever. I like it when someone I recently met doesn't know I'm a vegan and is surprised when she finds out because I don't "seem like a vegan" (and that's a compliment).
I want people to see my family as "normal." We just happen to be vegans. We have no investment in being the weird people in town.
Stay tuned for more lessons from four years of blogging at Animal Person!