September 11, 2007

I read an immensely sad blog entry a while back—a series of them, actually, from an author whose life had been impacted by an unthinkable tragedy. I wasn’t familiar with the writer, I had just followed a link from someone else’s blog, which got me thinking: is it weird to do that, to link to people’s journals when they’re in the midst of a crisis?

I see it fairly often, where someone will link to another blogger with the plea that they need some good thoughts/prayers/support. I’m not sure I would want that, personally. Not that I can control (or would want to) who links to my website, but if I shared some devastating personal news I don’t think I’d want strangers being guided here, some just looking to fill their lunch break, some arriving to crane their neck at the bloody wreck in the road.

I suppose if the practice makes me uncomfortable, I could certainly choose not to follow these types of links—but I always do. Then I’m in the midst of someone else’s most vulnerable confessions, and me a total stranger, suddenly privy to it by virtue of an idle mouse click.

Google makes it easy enough to accidentally stumble upon any blog entry you can think of, and those of us who choose to discuss our personal lives online must be aware that anyone can read at any time, but still. I just don’t know about the practice of actively pointing the way to our friends’ unhappiness, regardless of good intent.

What do you guys think?


42 Responses to “Meta: blogging”

  1. WCD on September 11th, 2007 9:53 am

    It’s how I found you back in the day at diaryland, you know in the old days.
    How are you feeling? Good I hope?

  2. laughing mommy on September 11th, 2007 9:59 am

    If I had a personal tragedy and I wrote about it I think I might like an outpouring of love and support and prayers.

    On the other hand, if my personal tragedy was something that I consider personal (like my past miscarriages) I wouldn’t wany any attention and therefore wouldn’t write about it.

  3. stephanie brown on September 11th, 2007 9:59 am

    I’m not one to share bad news that is not my own. But I shared your good news and awesomely-fun-life with someone who used to be my bestest friend and she in turn actually shared it with Josh….so at least my sharing turns into something that benefits everyone (including you!) :)

  4. Jess on September 11th, 2007 10:06 am

    Some of my friends read my blog, but the majority of readers and commenters are people I don’t know. I’m aware of that and I write to that audience. I guess my assumption is that other people view their blogs the same way, and that if they’re posting on their blogs about personal problems, it’s because they’re trying to reach out to people who might understand, whether or not they know those people personally. And once someone reads your blog, especially if they become a regular reader/commenter, to me they begin to lose their “stranger” status.

    Still, I’m not sure that I would link to posts about my friends’ problems unless I knew that they specifically wanted me to. But I also wouldn’t take down a regular link in the sidebar to someone’s blog just because their current subject matter focused on personal problems. How’s that for a wishy-washy non-answer?

  5. Bitter Betty on September 11th, 2007 10:08 am

    Well, the obvious thing to say is if someone didn’t want people to know their personal business they wouldn’t write about it on the internet, so you have to expect strange eyes will see it.

    People can and do have empathy & sympathy for total strangers and if you look beyond the voyeuristic aspect of it I like to think that if someone is reading about my own serious shit they might be sending me some good vibes and thoughts or leaving a nice comment of encouragement (which I’ve done for others), and I firmly believe in the power of that.

    And believe me, I’m a cynical crab but I can tell you with all honesty that when I needed some prayers I know I got them and felt it. Even from cyberspace.

  6. honeybecke on September 11th, 2007 10:11 am

    Usually when I follow the links I always wish I hadn’t. Some of what I read still haunts me to this day. The tragedies are staggering and I really can’t handle even reading about them because I put myself or my family into the situation and then I end up being weepy and sad about it. It’s different than when I read a news story on CNN (who, by the way ALWAYS have sad stories about kids/babies argh! whats the deal?!?) because it’s not some arb news story but rather a person who blogs their whole life and I bet if you read back far enough into their archives you will find out if they love goat cheese, if they get wicked menstral cramps, what wacky quirks they have, what makes them laugh…etc, etc. On a news story you just don’t get that, so to me bloggers with tragedies are much more “real” to me.

    Yet still, I click on the links. Not as much as I used to, but still sometimes. Even though I don’t blog, I would think I would agree with you on having a slew of strangers come to gawk during a trying time. Sometimes when I read your comments on a particularly vulnerable entry I want to cringe, because they just don’t know. If they are new to your blog and they ask/say something stupid I get a little worked up because I am a little protective of you (me: stalker much? gah! hahah) because you are my favorite writer out there in blog world.
    ANyways, just my opinion hey?

    Oh my god this is way to long and I haven’t had coffee yet so forgive me for my sloppy mess.

  7. Tessie on September 11th, 2007 10:12 am

    I always follow those links too, because typically they are presented in some cryptic manner, such as “Please go give So-and-so some encouragement”, that piques my curiosity, like I might miss some IMPORTANT INTERNET NEWS ITEM if I fail to click the link.

    Still, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with linking, if someone has discussed her problem openly already.

  8. jen on September 11th, 2007 10:12 am

    i end up reading a lot of blogs like this. sometimes friending the person, often times not. this is how i began two blogs that i read almost daily. does it make me feel kind of bad? yes, for some reason. i can’t quite find the words i would like to use to describe how i feel when i do this. i’m not big into religion but i suppose my good thoughts can be helpful, right? that’s what i tell myself anyhow.

  9. imstell on September 11th, 2007 10:13 am

    I know I have had tragic blogs shared with me and shared them in return. Both because of the heartwrenching nature of the trial the writer was going thru and the grace, courage and rawness of emotion which she was exhibiting.

    In my personal experience, most of the commenters on these sites are not of the looky-loo variety. They are readers like you and I drawn by the magnetic pull of a mother/sister/wife in tremendous need of emotional support. We forward it on in hopes that eventually it will reach, as it usually does, a person with a common thread who can offer words of comfort or genuine understanding. That one person, or two or ten, who KNOW what & how our blogger is feeling.

    What a wonderful age we live in that the whole world is at our fingertips. The whole world can be our support group. I have forwarded these links before (although to a few select poeple only) and I certainly would not hesitate to again. It’s the very least I can do for the online community that rallied around me when I needed help the most.

  10. Eric's Mommy on September 11th, 2007 10:29 am

    That is a really tough subject and made me think.

    I have also done that, somehow been linked to a blog or story that is really tragic and sad.

    I’m not sure if I myself would post something tragic, I probably would now that I think about it hoping to get some comfort from others and to vent.

    I have also learned that the internet can be very helpful and you can find a lot of great stuff (like your blog) and it can also fill your head with crap and scare the hell out of you!

    I have learned to just stick with the things I read everyday, your blog, my sisters blog and of course the occasional cheesy celebrity gossip! Oh that and if I want to order something :)

  11. Niki P. on September 11th, 2007 10:33 am

    As a reader and non blogger I think if you post it you need to be ready to have any asshat stumble into your crisis. I like to think that people are basically good but…. some might take joy in your suffering.

    I love your journals, I love your writing style and I am honored to read your personal posts when you feel the need to share. I have cried with you, I have snorted coffee out of my nose thanks to you!! I would be saddened if you stopped your writing but I would completely understand.

  12. karamarie on September 11th, 2007 10:36 am

    I think the linking can be weird, but also positive. If I personally ever felt compelled to link to something tragic or sad on a personal blog, I’d need a really good reason–either to support, or to draw strength for similar experiences. And I’d try to get permission from the author first, if possible. It would be important, if I were on the other end and people were linking to my tragedy, that people would ask me if it was okay first. At least, I think it would.

  13. Brooke on September 11th, 2007 10:39 am

    I recently followed a link from your page to another blog and discovered a horrible tragedy unfolding in the life of the blogger (maybe the same one?). I read the post and I cried at my desk, because I can’t imagine how it would be to go through that. I didn’t leave a comment because I don’t read there regularly and I felt like I’d be a poseur if I did. But I said a little prayer for peace and healing and I looked at some of the heartfelt comments her regular readers were leaving and thought that she has a lot of support.

    I don’t think it’s awful to read it; it’s out there. If people want to keep their business personal, the internet is not the place for that, you know? That’s why I keep a personal journal where my really ugly self lives.

  14. Nona on September 11th, 2007 10:49 am

    Perhaps it’s good if only for the idea that it may help someone else. I know reading about Schuyler Hudson and her monster makes me appreciate children more. Some of the entries on other blogs, and links I have followed, have haunted me. And you can’t un-read it. But perhaps reading about someone who is going through the same thing, or has already been through it, can help. It’s sometimes good to know that the things you are thinking about after a tragedy are common, like survivor’s guilt or the feeling that you did something wrong if you miscarry for no reason. Reading about other women who had shared the heartbreak of anencephaly showed me that I wasn’t alone, it wasn’t my fault, and that I could be brave enough to try again. I hope that the kind of link you’re talking about could do the same for someone else-because without support in dark times, well, bad things can happen.

  15. Moderndayhermit on September 11th, 2007 11:08 am

    I year and a half ago my husband was in a very serious car accident that was very devastating. I wrote about it on my site and all though it was hugely personal and I had never exposed myself in such a public manner, the emails that came my way from perfect strangers wasn’t bothersome. It was somewhat freeing to post about it in a public forum.

    I am an Atheist, but I do wonder if good thoughts actually help and by link or by simple mention, I figure it isn’t that big of a deal.

  16. ali on September 11th, 2007 11:45 am

    I’ve found a few blogs this way and have found that the blogger often more than not becomes a comfort to others. Others that have either faced, or is facing the same situation. So I don’t know if I can say I wouldn’t share. You yourself have became an encourager to many due to what you have gone through and overcame. I am one of those people. So I guess I would have to say. It is up to you.

    Hope that made sense. :o)

  17. Sundry on September 11th, 2007 12:07 pm

    These are all such amazing comments and really remind me of how many positive, good things can come from blogging. There are so many good people out there, thank you for reminding me of that.

  18. Marilyn on September 11th, 2007 12:43 pm

    I’ve been on the receiving end of this sort of linking before and the outpouring of well wishes, kind prayers and general support has always far outweighed any creepy factor of people rubbernecking at my tragedy. Plus, I’ve gained some great, loyal readers from it as well. I guess support can taken at face value if you don’t mind where it has come from.

  19. Alyce on September 11th, 2007 12:45 pm

    I think it speaks very highly of you that you are even worried about the appearance of impropriety.

    I find that reading anyone’s blog (strangers’ blogs, especially) is a truly odd thing. No matter if they have happy news or sad. With those blogs I follow — good writers, all — I am emotionally involved and get a charge out of all of it.

    So-and-so got an awesome new job – cool beans! So-and-so lost her job – bummer, maybe I can offer job search assvice.

    It’s relating – even though it’s through a computer screen.

    I’d say that you should feel comfortable linking to any blog worth reading. It’s up to the link follower to click or not.

  20. lifexhistory on September 11th, 2007 12:50 pm

    I read often but rarely post; but I thought I might say something in response to the general blogging thing.

    Personally, I would put something up on my blog to process but wouldn’t necessarily want to be inundated with emails– that I would feel compelled to respond to at a difficult time. For that reason, I tend not to link to other people’s posts. But, that said, if it were a truly difficult time and through those links I managed to find one or two people who could help ease my troubles or guide me through the hard times, I would be very grateful. I suppose that leads to no real response.

    Perhaps you could ask the person before you linked? I think tragedy is something we all deal with in such different ways and that’s the only way to feel sure about the decision to link or not link.

  21. Kevin on September 11th, 2007 12:50 pm

    It’s how I found you.

  22. Shauna on September 11th, 2007 1:23 pm

    I always think it would be weird to post a comment on those types of entries. But, that said, the Internet can be a wonderful place, full of people who have experienced that exact heartbreak, and in moments like that, it is so wonderful to hear from people who have been there and can offer kind words and encouragement.

  23. biscuit on September 11th, 2007 1:36 pm

    I blog regularly + what I write, I expect + desire commentary + thoughts on both my positive stories + the more weepy personal kind. I have a better day when I get feedback from others, like a virtual pat on the back or hug. It helps me a lot since I’m living far away from home in a place I particularly cannot stand amongst an entire state full of assholes. I’m lonely, but blogging makes me feel connected + sane.

  24. Eliza on September 11th, 2007 1:49 pm

    I posted a few links recently to journals that have moved me down to the depths of my soul in the past few months. They are journals written by people to whom horribly sad and difficult things have happened. I wasn’t sure what to say when I linked to them or if I even should, but I felt like they were out there and could maybe somehow touch or help other people like they have me, and they seemed to be already very widely read, so I did it. And I felt a little strange about it, but then each of the authors posted unbelievably kind comments on the entry where I linked to them, and it made it all feel okay. One of them even thanked me for sending her to the other. So — I guess I’m of the mind that it’s okay to link to things that have broken your heart if it’s not outing anyone who wishes to write for a (relatively) private audience and if you do so with respect and good intentions.

  25. Ashley on September 11th, 2007 2:45 pm

    I figure if you are writing in an open/public forum, then it shouldn’t matter. People who are airing their tragedies and sadness by blogging are looking for support, otherwise they would make it private, no? It goes the same for hot button topics, you have to be open to debate and criticism if you want to air your issues publicly. I never get the “if you don’t like what I am saying then don’t post” people, what’s the difference from typing it on the open internet and yelling your thoughts on a street corner. It’s an invitation to discuss.

  26. lizshaw on September 11th, 2007 3:20 pm

    Having gone through and blogged my own shitstorm lately I have to say that my experience has been nothing but supportive and encouraging. The internet has allowed me to reach out and find some pretty awesome people. The good contact has far outweighed the bad. Sometimes when I am just so down and out, finding a really thoughtful comment has made it a little bit easier for me to pick up and go on.

  27. Melissa on September 11th, 2007 4:53 pm

    Good question – I didn’t have time to read other comments so excuse me if I’m repeating something. I understand how you might feel, reading about someone’s personal tragedy and feeling like you are getting too personal since you don’t know them.

    But I suspect that many bloggers who are writing about these awful circumstances are venting but also are reaching out for support and for some people who can relate to their situation. Maybe they feel that reading, like listening, is just as supportive. And those that read and participate essentially relieve some pain or anxiety for the blogger in personal crisis.

    You are a good person so you can’t help but ask if it’s right. I personally think it’s okay to tell others about a person who needs support or to refer to a blog that has moved you in the way I suspect this particular one has.

    You have written some very personal entries in the past and I’ve noticed that your comments surge for those entries. I imagine it feels good to get the overwhelming support…I don’t know but that’s my guess. :)

  28. Swistle on September 11th, 2007 5:49 pm

    Ooooo, thinky. I often link to other people’s good news (pregnancies, babies), and even then I do wonder if the traffic will be welcome. Generally I come down on the side of yes. In the case of tragedy, I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about it and I still don’t know.

    I wouldn’t link to some general tragedy: someone I didn’t know, not even through blogging. I don’t click those kinds of links, either, because what is the point? I also worry about things turning out not to be true.

  29. McWriter on September 11th, 2007 5:56 pm

    I think we relate better to each other in times of trial than over the course of happy successes. We seem to share a universal way of understanding joy, but become bumbling and foggy when trying to relate to others (and frighteningly, to ourselves) in the face of tragedy and despair.

    I am a writer and I’ve had my fair share of emotional curve balls thrown at me, and I find I’m at my creative peak (on the page) at times when looking someone in the face and verbally articulating my fear, pain, and anxiety seem near-impossible.

    As a reader, this is when people are most interesting, most honest, and most REAL. If blog reading is the only outlet for people who are struggling, and viewing the inner-most feelings of others is the only connection they have to themselves, then I say, so be it.

    It’s lovely, I think, how in 2007 we can communicate at the speed of emotion and connect with people we otherwise never would have known. It’s not neck-craning; it’s understanding, empathizing and growing.

  30. Anonymous on September 11th, 2007 6:42 pm

    i guess its how you look at it,

    i can see where you are coming from but i guess i feel like if i wrote it and posted it in a blog, id have to expect a few neck crainers,

    but i will tell you from my blogging experience, far more people are there with the “gosh, im so sorry” and ever once in awhile you get a “you know, i know where you are with that, i was there too, a few years ago, and gosh, i felt so alone, and i want you to know that you arent, there are a lot of people like us, in this situation, and i know that you too can make it, and one day, you’re going to be doing this very thing, commenting on another blog, or holding someone’s hand, thats been there too’

    thats what you share it for anyway right, not in fear of people who are nosey, but in search of someone who cares, whos been there and can tell you, believe it or not, you’ll learn to breathe again, without reminding yourself to do it, and one day, one day you’ll walk across the room without that ridiculous heart pain that says yo, remember what happened to you, and one day, you’ll do those things you thought were gone forever, and you’ll do them because of what happened to you, not inspite of it, things will be again, maybe not okay, but they will be. life does not stop here…

  31. Amber on September 11th, 2007 9:31 pm

    RE: Linking to strangers journals during personal times/tragedy…

    Although we’ve never met/talked/written, I read your blog regulary. I stumbled upon PippaSaid while googling RU486 for an article I was writing for my college newspaper and I clicked on your link…I think it was because you just had Riley?? You’re observations made me relive my own sons baby days (he’s 9 now) and I couldn’t get enough!
    Being a parent can be equally the greatest and worst part of my day/life and consciously choosing to laugh about things that go wrong can be hard sometimes. Your ability to inevitably see the humor in parenthood is incredibly refreshing. I truly admire the fact that you put yourself out there. It’s a kind of vulnerability that I wish I had the confidence to have. I hope you gain as much from it as I take from it. ~Amber

  32. Bunny on September 12th, 2007 3:03 am

    I see what you mean. I think about it as kind of a call going out that someone needs support, maybe you can offer something such as a reassuring comment. And also, sometimes you find the best and most raw writing during these events. I linked over to sweet|salty just after Liam and Ben were born and was captivated by Kate’s writing. So, I don’t think it’s too voyeuristic to click over when something big is going on, that’s just what gets your attention.

  33. Jem on September 12th, 2007 5:12 am

    I think the main reason people link is so that other people can comment with their support, and while I agree with you in a way, I think most people truly do think those comments help.

  34. Becky on September 12th, 2007 6:21 am

    I really never thought about it that way, but I see your point.

    My personal experience has been that being linked to a blog about someone’s personal tragedy helped me find a cause to support. It was three years ago that I first read about baby Allie Scott’s battle with Leukemia. Like many others who were directly to her mother’s journal, I was inspired to try to do something to help. After a few years of doing little fundraisers and participating in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night walk, I’m now doing something much bigger and working with Team in Training to train for a 112 mile cycling event to raise funds for LLS. I’m totally not trying to pat myself on the back here, but I do think it’s amazing the way so many people were directed to that website in one way or another and were able to come together to make a big difference. To date, the Friends of Allie (now using the name Friends of Heroes, apparently) have raised over $800,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

    I know at times things got a little weird and overwhelming for the Scott family, but I certainly hope that the positives outweighed the negatives for them. I hope that more than anything, they felt that they were loved and supported through what had to have been a nightmare situation.

  35. ktjrdn on September 12th, 2007 6:26 am

    I met one of my good friends when I psoted something personal, and another friend told her to email me because she’d been through the same thing.

  36. Jean on September 12th, 2007 6:34 am

    Love and attention in the midst of a crisis is always welcome in my blogger-mind.

  37. biodtl on September 12th, 2007 7:45 am

    A few years ago, I wrote a lot about my husband’s devaststing accident and subsequent experieinces with a nursing home, wheelchair and his recovery. If anyone had linked to it, it wouldn’t have bothered me. I would have appreciated the comments/support. If I felt it was private, I wouldn’t have written it at all.

  38. Anonymous on September 12th, 2007 8:39 am


    I still have the gariffe magnets I purchased forever ago, for allie scott on my frig, I still check in there from time to time, what an awesome thing you’ve done for that beautiful baby. I have tears in my eyes now thinking about the fight she gave and the battle she lost. God bless you

  39. Josh on September 12th, 2007 9:23 am

    Crisis is interesting. I’m not going out of my way to read about a normal boring life. I want entertainment. And personal tragedy is interesting. Sharing personal pain is a normal human urge, boosted by the anonymity of the internet. And likewise, wanting to hear about other peoples issues is fairly normal. Don’t fight it, just enjoy the ride.

    Of course you might not want to listen ot me, morality and compassion aren’t my forte.

  40. DDM(Sonia) on September 12th, 2007 10:48 am

    I am in the middle of personal trauma. I miscarried a baby in May, lost a very dear friend in an accident in early August, got a positive pregnancy test the day before his funeral, lost the pregnancy on the 23rd of last month which is incidently my birthday and my son broke a bone in his foot that same day. If my blog weren’t now private, I would welcome people sending folks to my site to offer support. Support is support in my eyes, whether it is from strangers or not. Also, if my blog wasn’t private, I’d be careful not to share stuff that I didn’t want people to know about, I guess?

    Did I even answer the question?

  41. Heather B. on September 12th, 2007 6:53 pm

    If someone chooses to write about their personal tragedy and then someone else – usually well meaning, of course – chooses to link to it and say “Hey, this person really needs some support” then I don’t think that’s a bad thing. And as others have said if one puts it out there then it’s technically the world’s for the taking. Usually in these circumstances a reader of the blogger who is need of support, does it because they want to find some way to help that can only be done virtually.

    Once it’s out there, it’s out and people can do with it as they wish. It can be good, it can be bad.

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