Every so often I see a scenario play out that I find rather disappointing.
It works like this: someone posts a topic to their blog that is critical or controversial. This person can either be a community member, commentator, employee or otherwise; it doesn’t matter who the person is. Then what happens is a series of comments are posted to that blog entry from readers that are critical of the post, thus challenging the author on their views. The author then either deletes the blog entry or disables the comments based on the feedback. In other words, a viewpoint is shared, an invitation for comment is provided, but that invitation is then revoked when the author of the blog post is dissatisfied with the response from their readers.
I have seen this happen countless times over the years and I don’t like this.
I believe we should all be accountable for our words. Our words have the ability to inspire, to entertain, to challenge, but to also hurt. Actions have consequences, and so do words.
As such, when I see someone openly share their thoughts on their blog and invite their readers to provide comments, I see that as a wonderful demonstration of accountability and engagement; debate is a beautiful thing when executed with politeness and respect. To then close that door, seemingly because people disagree with you, is in my mind the equivalent of walking out of a room in the middle of a debate. The excuse when folks are criticized of this behavior is typically “it is my blog and I can run it how I like“.
This is true: it is your blog, and you can run it how you like, but the true measure of a person is not just in what they say, but also in the conversation and discourse that follows.
Now, there are two very important caveats to my view here. Firstly, abusive, threatening, or otherwise offensive content is a perfect candidate for removal and the commentator for banning. We should never tolerate this. Secondly, I can understand the removal of a blog post if there is a legal requirement to do so. In the majority of cases where I have seen posts removed or comments disabled though, it has been for neither of these reasons.
Speaking personally, I have never, ever, switched off comments on my blog posts or deleted posts. Even when the Internet has seemingly come to get me, or when the press pick up on something and are critical, or when I have made a mistake and felt embarrassed at the outcome…I have never switched off comments and never deleted a blog post. This is because I feel I should be and I am accountable for my words.
For me, this is an ethical issue; in the same way I won’t go and re-write or edit a blog post if I get criticism for it (outside of minor grammatical/spelling fixes). My posts are a time-capsule of my thinking at that point in my life. For me to go and edit them would be me re-writing history. A blog is not a regularly updated record of your views (like a book), it is chronological diary of your views and progression as a person. Consequently, my blog is filled with moments from my past that don’t reflect my views, experience, or ideas of today. Some of those posts are even embarrassing. But you know what, those posts stay unchanged, and I am proud that I have never compromised on this accountability.
So with this in mind, I have a simple suggestion for those of you who run blogs: either switch your comments off entirely or always leave them on, but don’t turn them off when you don’t like the reaction from your readers. Polite and respectful debate helps us grow as human beings, helps us evolve our ideas and perspectives, and makes us better people. Let history be our record, not our edited version of history.