The Other End (Of the Telescope)

Where does our responsibility as bloggers sit, with regards to one another?  Is it enough to be polite, to not insult or slam those whose blogs we visit?  Should we be honest above all else?  If a blogger that we like starts another venture, be it an online magazine or an etsy shop, or a real, brick and mortar store, should we support them in their endeavors, with clicks or cash or both?  Are we obliged to support them by putting a link to their other endeavors on our sidebar, if that will help them?  Does it depend on how well we feel we know them?  On if we feel like we can get behind what they’re selling?  On whether they come by and comment and seem like a real friend, or if they are just someone whose writing impresses us?

And what if they’re sick?  Or may be sick?  Is it our responsibility to be honest with them, there in the comments, and tell them, “Um, you may be in real live trouble here, you may need to seek help.  Your family, your husband and parents and siblings, all think you need some help.  Listen to them.”  Or is it enough for us to stop by and say, “I’m thinking of you.  Hang on.”  And what if what we say is, “F-them, they don’t know what they’re talking about, you’re fine.”  Are we then assisting in their denial that something may indeed be wrong?  Are we doing them a disservice then, and perhaps even harming them?

The thing is, I think that sometimes in the blogisphere, we mistakenly think that we truly know each other.  That we understand someone truly and wholly, based on what they present for the world to see.  And for some, that’s more true than for others.  Some people pretend to be something they are not, perhaps they pretend to be single and hot and female, while in reality they’re married men in an office park, living out some weird fantasy.  Call me naive, but I suspect that the majority of bloggers out there, at least the ones I have come across, pretty much present themselves as they are.  “This is me”, they say, “and I’d like to tell you my story, my side of things, the story of my life as I live it.”  But even with that, it’s still just their side of things.  It’s not true any more than it’s true that beets are yummy.  Beets are yummy to me, so to me, that statement is true.  But if you hate beets (like Ted and Maya do), then it’s a lie.  But my blog=my truth, not yours.  I think we’re all like that, to some extent or another.

A blogger friend of mine has been having a passel of trouble lately.  Real trouble, and more than her fair share. (Since when is life fair?  Never.) She has lost a lot, and is having trouble coping with those many and significant losses. She is not coping with it well. Perhaps as well as she is able, but really, she seems to be spiraling out of her own control, and she needs some help to get back where she wants to be in life. She has been very public and honest and forthright about her battles, and it’s been somewhat scary to watch. I do not know her in person. I have never met her. She writes the truth, but again, it’s her truth, no one else’s. She has never claimed that her truth was anyone else’s, just that it was hers. Really, truly, all hers. So another blogger mentioned on her blog that while the first blogger clearly needs help, the only comments she is seeing are ‘you go girl’ type comments, and not anything more constructive. While I have been worried about her, and think she may be in real trouble, and that she most certainly has a hard path ahead of her, my comments have stayed at the ‘I’m worried. Take care. I hope you can get back to O.K.’ variety. I kinda felt like she already had it coming at her from her husband, her parents, her siblings, the authorities, etc. That she needed to feel safe on her blog, like this was a place where she could come for support. If she didn’t already have all of those people talking to her, perhaps I might have said something along the lines of, “I think you need to get help. I care.” But I didn’t.

Would you? If you see someone in real honest to god trouble, someone you like, but don’t really know, how much should you say? Is it enough to tell them you care, or do you think that a blogger, one who claims to be a friend, should say more?  And if so, how to say it without chasing them off, if they’re already in a fragile state?

14 thoughts on “The Other End (Of the Telescope)

  1. I read many blogs and comment on few. Like you I don’t feel I know the situation well enough to comment. But every so often I will give a positive comment. As everyone can use a hug. H

  2. Tough call. Unlike some bloggers, I’ve not gone on meet-ups, and I don’t know more than a couple of bloggers in person. I would never presume to offer psychological advice through a forum like comments. I, therefore, feel like Heather: everyone can use some support and some positive uplift. I automatically assume that each blogger has real-life people in his or her life who see her every day; these people are far better qualified than I am to determine the needs of the writer.

  3. If your first impulse is to say “You need help” to someone you know only through reading his/her blog, I would let him/her know how you feel through an email (if available) instead of the comments section.

  4. Yeah, T, I thought of that, too. But by the time I got there she was posting about how she didn’t want to hear from anyone that she was crazy, that the emails telling her to get help in fact didn’t help. So she was hearing it from others. Sigh.

  5. We all seem to define our individual line between what we feel is personal and what we believe is intimate. A blog post that is purely informative and not personal is a post that is seldom read. A blog post that is deeply intimate is often hard not to read, even though it shouldn’t have been written. I feel uncomfortable about those later posts. It seems to me that someone who is willing to bare her troubled soul to people she knows on a certain level but has never met, needs to tread gently. This is a public medium, no matter how slim the chances are of someone finding your blog unless they know what they are looking for.

    Can you possibly tell this blogger that though you are concerned and sympathetic to her situation, you are not comfortable reading what she is writing and therefore will not be reading her blog for a while?

  6. Some of the people I’ve met through blogging, I actually have become friends with. If I know them that well, then yes, I will send a personal email or otherwise reach out.

    But you raise a valid point about how much we really know someone through blogging. It’s probably not much in most cases. I would like to think that if I were in trouble, I’d reach out to the people I need most, and that those people would be among my closest friends.

    But everyone is different, and some people are alone and isolated. We all get something different out of our blogging experiences. Different expectations.

    I’m afraid I’m not shedding much light on this. Once you delve into it, you realize how muddy it can be.

  7. Yea, I felt helpless in that situation…and partly because it was all ready seeming to be out of control and partly because I just don’t really know this person. I think I know my boundaries. I know what I’m willing to do for my friends, my acquaintances and those who don’t fall into either category. I know this, but it still makes me feel helpless and sad. I think we are just both very empathetic to the human race. A beautiful quality, that hurts.

  8. Good post. Good thought and discussion thread.

    The answers to this query will be as varied as the blogs and people that leave them; that is to say, they will be greatly diversified.

    My truth is this ~ I would be very honest, very forthright, and I would tell the person exactly what I thought, with the disclaimer that I am only one voice and perhaps not the right voice for them, but at least a concerned and caring person at the other end of the keyboard. One must be careful, however, because I believe that you are right in remembering that we don’t really have that personal connection with our blog buddies… only a prismatic view of what they want us to see and know about them.

    It’s an interesting subject, indeed.

    Scarlett & Viaggiatore

  9. That’s a tough question and one that can’t be answered in general. It depends. On how well you know and how much you like this person, on what exactly her problems are, on how much you are willing to invest in the relationship.
    If it’s a blog were you mostly just read along and occasionally comment, I would say keep out of her private business. Especially if she doesn’t specifically ask for help. Some people just need to vent on their blogs and only want people to “listen” and not give unsolicited advice.
    But if it is somebody you have gotten to know quite well through repeated private emails that go beyond what she’s writing about in her blog, then I see nothing wrong with emailing her and offering your help. At least that’s what I would do in the same situation. In that case it doesn’t really matter if I have never met that person in person. I feel an online friendship can be just as real and deep as an offline friendship. So if an online friend of mine is in trouble, it is the most natural thing for me to offer what help I can possibly give, even if I am half a world away.
    But whatever seems appropriate in each case: I wouldn’t offer help or talk about anything too personal in the comments section on the blog itself. That’s what email is for.

  10. J
    In reality I’m a married curmudgeon pretending to be a psychopath!!!!
    Just kiddin!!!LOL!

    You are so kind tryin’ to help everyone,and true to your blogs namesake, you do make us think!

    I would start with how long of a time period have you been blogging with this person? I’ve been following your blog since 2006 and consider you and your family to be quite stable.

    I’m uncomfortable with telling folks how to deal with their problems. I can only relate it to them if, I’ve had a similar problem and tell them how I dealt with it and if I thought I dealt with it right or not.

    I just try to throw a thing or two out there to give them a choice…so they will feel they made the decision….not me!

    I’m terrible at sharing my hurts and anguishes….guess,I don’t want to come off as weak or something? I just don’t blog when I’m really down and out! I would rather come on here and share the good stuff!

    But we’re all different and that’s what makes this venue so addictable.

    You are so good at putting your heart to words. I come here and read the anguish you went through with your mom and think……gosh I’ve felt like that before……or wow….she is so right on.
    I just don’t know how to put it to words, but reading your blog has helped me, and I know it will help me when the day comes that I have to deal with losing my parents?

    I trust your judgement. Send the gal an email, but give her choices and consequences, and try to make her feel it’s her decision!

    We all need help!

  11. I think some blogs are used to Vent. It is a great psychological tool toward healing. Words flow, feelings come out. Some people put some very personal stuff out there for all to see. They are just asking for a listening ear, or a reading eye in some cases.
    You have made comments of concern. All those comments have your email attached to it. If she or he felt the need to contact you then it will happen. If you want you can comment to her that you are available thru email to have a more private conversation.

  12. I think because the blogosphere is, by definition, a place where we don’t share physical space, it become a place that invites confidences.

    Because if we had to deal with each other face-to-face, we’d once again assume all the verbal and emotional strategies our species has developed over thousands of generations for dealing with each other … face to face.

    Re your blog friend who might or might not be spiraling out of control, I’d continue to be there for him/her. If your concern increases, I might, possibly, consider solutions, too.

    But I’d be careful about suggesting them. And might even do it by analogy. Someone once told me that so many children’s stories are about animals because, if you wrote about scary things happening to kids, you could freak them out.

    Similarly, if you were to write about someone else, whom you’d “heard of,” and the pitfalls they experienced, and how they surpassed them, you wouldn’t be invading this person’s space or face with your solution to their problem. (And let’s face it, there are a lot of people who want to give advice. It’s easy and free, and there’s a pay-off for the advice giver, who can feel the wiser for advising. Obviously, lots of people are genuinely concerned. They aren’t looking to feel superior. But those on the receiving end can’t always suss out another’s intent – and a lot of people don’t want advice.)

    So you could couch advice that way, and thus maintain a certain respectful “remove” from confronting, even within the blogosphere.

    And if you want even more remove, you could even concoct another fictitious identity, beyond the ones we all employ with each other here, and tactfully offer your story of how someone else solved a similar issue … if you thought there was a ghost a chance this person might pursue it.

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