Please, Think Before You Speak

This isn’t necessarily related to finance, but I need to say it anyway.

After a little more than a year in the personal finance blogosphere, I’ve come to the realization that many personal finance bloggers (and readers) are extremely judgmental. I know that we all judge others at times, but some people take it to the extreme.

Some bloggers don’t share very much of their personal lives in their posts. And that’s fine - not everyone is comfortable writing about certain things on the internet. But some of us put a lot of ourselves out there for the world to see; the good, the bad, and the ugly. Because we need to share our stories. Because we feel like someone may benefit from hearing about what we’ve been through. Because we want to know we aren’t alone, and we want others to know that as well. And the worst thing that can happen to us is receiving a virtual slap in the face for taking that risk.

I could very easily lie to you all about the things I buy and the choices I make. None of you live in my house; you have no clue what I’m really doing or spending. But instead of portraying myself as perfect, I choose to present myself as I am, flaws and all, in hopes that you can learn from my mistakes. And it’s very hurtful when people use that as an opportunity to attack me, my son, or my life experiences.

I’ve heard people say, “Well, you shouldn’t post about it on a public blog if you don’t want to know what people think.” Maybe that’s true. However, the only people I hear saying that are the ones who want an excuse to berate or ridicule others for their situations.

There is a big difference between saying, “I disagree with you,” or, “Have you thought about doing this instead?” and saying, “You’re a total idiot and you have no business ____.” Whether that’s breathing or owning a computer or buying a bag of Doritos, or whatever else someone feels like going off about that day. The fact is, until I (or anyone else) ask you to provide financial support, it’s really none of your business. If you feel that strongly about it, find a different blog to read.

No matter how much someone shares on his or her blog, you have no way to know everything that person is dealing with. Your harsh, judgmental comment could come at a time when the person desperately needs encouragement, or when they’ve hit a wall and are looking for a sign that things will be okay. Your words could be the last straw for someone who is hanging by a thread. That self-righteous remark that made you feel important for five seconds could affect the recipient for life.

When you are cruel and thoughtless in your dealings with others, you risk destroying them. If that sounds silly or dramatic to you, I’m glad you’ve never been vulnerable enough to understand. But as someone who has been there AND someone who spent more than 7 years working with people who were, I’d like you to realize that your reality is not always the way life works for other people.

If you’re prone to judging others harshly, and not just in your own head, I encourage you to keep your comments to yourself. Words are powerful even when we tell ourselves they’re not. And we don’t always recognize when that power is enough to break someone.

This entry was posted in confessions, random by Andrea. Bookmark the permalink.

About Andrea

Andrea is a single parent trying to help others avoid the same financial mistakes she made in the past. Join in the discussion here on So Over Debt, or connect on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus.


Please, Think Before You Speak50 Comments

  1. tell them, girl! some people are so hurtful, for no reason whatsoever- if you're not going to offer up some kind of alternate solution, keep your dang mouth shut, and go read something else if you don't agree with the content on a blogger's site.  I commend you for putting yourself out there, and for all of the strides you have, and are making. screw everyone else's opinion, no one else's matters except for yours, and sometimes, your son's . 

  2. Exactly!  Blogging and blog reading is voluntary, so if you don't like the content, don't come back.  Well said :)

  3. So agreed, girl. Ganging up on somebody or belittling somebody that you've either never met or only have met briefly is ridiculous - you don't know their whole story and you don't know where they are coming from, all you know is what they are sharing with you. If you have a pathetic enough life to be so wrapped up in what an internet friend is doing, then you really, really need to get a new one. 

  4. "People who are brutally honest get more satisfaction out of the brutality than out of the honesty." - Richard Needham
    I'm amazed at how quickly some people can turn on you if they disagree with you about ONE thing. We're all different. If we don't see eye to eye on an issue, there's probably still a lot of common ground to share. 

  5. I noticed people being judgmental and especially "holier-than-thou" on frugal blogs and community. Examples…
    Spending 60 dollars a week to feed your family? Tsk tsk, *I* feed my family for 10!
    You buy clothes? I haven't bought anything in 3 years! 
    Or… a famous blogger who in a post dissed people who buy new appliances while she buys only second hand and wrote "enjoy them now, as they are your ball and chain". I found these words very harsh and judgmental but many readers disagreed…

  6. Is somebody being mean to our friend, Andrea?.. 
    Just tell us who.. We'll go after them!
    The personal nature of your blog, and how you open up your life and your world through your writing, is what makes your blog a "must read" for myself and many others..   
    Don't change a thing, and don't let the haters get you down.

  7. I totally love your blog for how real you are! I can relate to you and wouldn't want you to change your style for any negative nilly out there. Some people just love misery to join them.

  8. Readers, Andrea needs your support today.  Let's step up and do it!
    I see a lot of this kind of thing happening all over the internet.  I think that because it's people typing on a computer, somewhat anonymous and definitely faceless, and they forget to be mindful that there is a living breathing person typing on that keyboard on the other end.  Snarkiness has become the new sarcasm (yes, I just made that word up) and the resulting vitriol can be truly toxic.
    The nastiness is totally not cool - I don't care if you're a blogger, just commenting, etc.  You're absolutely correct in that a thoughtless word can be devastating if said to the wrong person at the wrong time.  We don't know what a person's tipping point might be - it is even more hazy in an online environment.
    I think that you will get a lot of messages of support today, because you are doing something very courageous and that strongly resonates with your readers, regardless of if they agree with everything you say or not.  I am not trying to sound trite but I can't avoid it - the snarks, haters, and nasties are small minded people.  No one is bullet proof, but you can't let snarky and hateful people tear you down because I promise you that for every one of those, there are at least 10 people that feel gratitude and appreciation for what you are doing.  We are just being too quiet about it and we should change that.  So I am going to say it right now:
    What you are doing as a person, blogger, and mother, there is a lot to respect there.  It is clear from your posts family and friends mean everything to you.  I can't figure out how you are able to juggle so many things at once because it is pretty clear to me that you have A LOT going on, and I know there are many things you have not mentioned to us yet.  I think you have a powerful story to tell because in talking about your experiences and lessons in finance you show that change and redemption are possible.  That is an inspiring message.  I think what you are doing is truly courageous - I don't think I have the fortitude to take the same chances you are.  But the rewards of success for you are huge, and I am really really really hoping you are able to pull it off.
    Sorry to be long winded - end of rant.

  9. I have enjoyed reading your blog because it has been honest. You tell us every little dirty detail about your struggles with debt and overspending and in my opinion I feel you share those things with us so we can better understand your situation and maybe so we can give you constructive criticism like, "been there, bought that, regretted it!" 
    It is easy to judge people you don't know, and it is even easier to voice that judgement over the internet. I support constructive criticism, everyone needs it, but being a turd about it doesn't really help anyone. I hope you continue to write openly, because there are more people who appreciate what you write - and truly find it helpful -  than the internet troll turds.

  10. I think many of us don't have enough courage to come out say this when necessary. There was a time I had to continuously change my blog name due to some stackers kept on harassing personally. It is unavoidable, but sometimes it helps when you come out say what is necessary. Great Job Andrea and I enjoy reading your blog every day. Keep up the good work

  11. I completely agree. I think financial bloggers especially can be overcritical because if you even admit to having a little bit of fun that cost *gasp* money, you're seen as not taking your finances seriously. Because apparently we're never allowed to have any fun with money we work hard for, only use it for saving, retirement or to pay off debt. Ugh, so over it.

  12. I expect trash talk from internet trollers who usually find something stupid or small to take issue with.  "YOU BOUGHT DORITOS YESTERDAY?  YOU'RE AN IDIOT!"  But what gets me is when OTHER BLOGGERS are being jerks.
    I am astounded that there are bloggers out there who think they're the salt of the Earth either in their personal lives or in the blogging realm.  I'm honestly floored at how other bloggers can throw stones as if there's a Bible when it comes to personal finance blogging.
    To a point we all expect some cr*p-talk, I know I get my share, but honestly, some of it is just insane.   Just know I support you and think you're friggin awesome.  People need to shut their faces with their negativity and judgment. 

  13. You know, I could see people leaving angry comments on a forum or blog if someone said something offensive like "Kicking babies is okay" or something racist or hateful…but beyond that?  If you don't like it, leave and move on. UGH.

  14. I don't believe anyone could have said that any better than you have. Everyone has feelings. A lot of us are trying. A lot of us are struggling. A lot of us make mistakes and have bad habits. All of us are human beings. All of us have a heart, and all of us have feelings.
    The ones who ridicule and berate may feel they don't or they may feel they are better or smarter and laugh to themselves about some situations but they need to remember that they could be that person.
    One word of encouragement can set someone on the right path. One word mocking them can trap them a whole forever. We may disagree on the ways and habits of some people, but at the end of the day, a word of encouragement, a small thank you or a congratulations on achieving even the most miniscule of task, can create a much brighter world for that one person and that will manifest itself onto the world at large, one person at a time.

  15. Wow - I'm really sorry you're dealing with this kind of crap over here.  I think I missed the nasty comment as I've been off the grid for a few days.  But don't let one bad apple spoil your motivation for opening up over here.  I'm know I'm not alone (seeing other comments to this post) in saying we really enjoy your honesty here.  Keep up the great work!  :)

  16. Give me his IP address and I'll send him Polish mafia to say "hello" (ok, maybe Polish mafia doesn't sound so serious but I'll find somebody else, don't worry). But seriously, don't change anything. If you were so perfect, sharing only perfect stories about your perfect life, perfect shopping deals and perfect motherhood, probably I wouldn't be here every day. And don't get me wrong: it's not like being happy because of your problems and feeling better knowing "somebody is in a much worse situation than I am". It's being happy because you showed me that even when not everything is perfect in our life, we can still find (or work on it) better solutions. And you're the greatest.

  17. I don't think this is about just shutting the haters down, though.  I think we should all make it a point to say something positive when we see/read something good.
    For example, a while back Andrea made a post about how more money doesn't make you smarter.  I thought it was an awesome post that really got me thinking about my own habits.  Since then I have made positive changes in my life based on the insights Andrea gave in her article.  Why didn't I comment on that at the time and say what a great post it was?  I am still not sure why I didn't.  But I am thinking that I really should have.
    Hating on haters and trolls just spreads negativity.  We do not improve ourselves or the blogging community by appealing to the lowest common denominator.  I think a much better way to shut out the snarks and nasties is to make it a point to make all feedback constructive rather than destructive, and to focus on saying 3-5 positive things for every negative one, and to call out the people hateful comments by saying their nastiness has no place here.

    •  @debgemologist I really like this idea. Andrea's post is so powerful and it reminds me that ALL of this stuff is voluntary. No one's forcing her to blog, she could easily make stuff up and yet she shares her mistakes and successes with all of us. That's wonderful and scary all at once. I'm so impressed with Andrea and probably don't tell her enough. Hers is one of the first blogs I read because I know she'll entertain me, inform me and educate me about something, financial or not. She compels the rest of us to write longer, deeper comments than we probably do anywhere else. She's a real person and while you don't have to share hard numbers to be a successful PF blogger, she does and she does it with no reservations. Sometimes she rocks (no CC debt!), sometimes she falters. Many of the haters/judgmental people in this sphere are mostly unwilling to share their own shortcomings and their own vulnerabilities, making it easier to attack others and pretend to be unassailable in their arguments and positions. Come on, give me a freakin' break. We're ALL imperfect, we ALL screw up and we ALL judge. I'm giving you a big hug, Andrea. And will continue to write positive comments here and everywhere and not worry about the destructive haters. You have built a true community within just one year of blogging.

    •  @debgemologist I worked in newspapers for 18 years. We used to say that people never called/wrote when you did something swell. But boy, if you wrote something they didn't like you'd certainly hear about it.
      Ditto with blogs. You may write the best thing you'll do all year and not hear a peep out of anyone.
      As for 3-5 positive things for every negative one, I'd caution against any formulaic responses. You can disagree with someone in a constructive way. You can even passionately disagree in a constructive way. But a policy of "every comment a love fest!" would make me wonder what the person really thinks but feels he cannot say lest other readers call him out as a big ol' meanie.
      Again, we can disagree without being disagreeable. Just as you are free to disagree with the comment I just left. It won't stop me from calling for a [[GROUP HUG!!!]]
      And Andrea: Don't let the trolls ruin your day. Denying them that ruins theirs. :-)
      Will I see you in Denver at FinCon12, do you think???

      • @Donna Freedman @debgemologist
        My statement was clumsy, and trying to make a point similar to yours. Any business owner will also tell you that no feedback from customers means happy customers, and the unhappy ones are the vociferous ones. I wasn't advocating a formulaic love fest exactly, but I was questioning why we can't make it a point to comment positively (which I think includes constructive criticism) rather the negative being all that drives us to comment.
        But there's nothing wrong with the occasional love fest either! :-)

  18. Somebody told me that "anonymity breeds animosity." I agree. People probably wouldn't get right in my face and call me "a farm animal who has had her head in the feed bag for too long" or say, "This author hates herself for being so fat and ugly." But they leave comments like that on my MSN Money articles.
    Sure, I get nice comments and constructive criticism as well. It's just that you remember the haters more vividly.
    I try to feel sorry for them. This may be the high spot in their life: Feeling invulnerable and invincible when they say assholic things and get away with them. They probably even think they're being devastatingly witty.
    Myself, I think we can disagree without being disagreeable. And I'm absolutely with you on the "You don't know what that person is going through day-to-day" idea.
    My daughter, who until recently was on disability, found a job she can do from home. (She's still sick, but her boss is incredibly accommodating hours-wise.) She is now the only person in a four-adult household who is working. When she writes openly and honestly about their continuing struggle with cooking vs. buying food, some readers take out after her about how wasteful they're being.
    Well, of COURSE in an idea world the three adults who aren't working would take charge of the meals. But it's not that simple. Two are also sick and on disability. The other is a depressed middle-aged man who after a few mostly jobless years is slowly realizing that he is probably retired (and basically living on the charity of his son and daughter-in-law).
    So before you judge someone about a bag of Doritos….dial it down. Maybe that one splurge a week takes the person's mind off the fact that after she's made rent, utilities, groceries and student loan payments she will have exactly $22 left until payday — and that she can look forward to this way of living for YEARS unless she can find a better job in her economically depressed area. If that were me, I'd want some Doritos now and then, too.

  19. Wow. That's exactly what's holding me back from adding in as much personal info as I'd like on my blog. I'm slowly adding it, but the potential for mean comments is scary. I'm so sorry that's happening to you. I hope those jerks find something better to do with their time.

  20. Andrea,
    As anyone can see from the other comments, there's a whole lot of people who support you in your decision to share your life on this blog. I would like to add my contribution and say I couldn't agree more with them. I'm a 21 year-old Brazilian girl who's just received her first paycheck, and when I got this job (a real job) I decided I couldn't make any more mistakes with money as I'd been doing lately, fortunately with very few consequences. Now it's real life, and I should do it right. I really changed in the last few months, and reading your blog was a good part of it. So - even if it's soon to say - I believe that if your main intention is sharing your mistakes to keep others from doing the same thing, I consider myself one of the people who have really benefited from that. And your message was specially touching for me exactly because you put yourself out there, made all of this very personal and wasn't afraid to share everything. Thank you for doing that.

  21. There are judgmental people everywhere, unfortunately, the anonymity of the internet can bring out the worst in folks, especially when bloggers write about "unpopular" or "unconventional" choices. I'm sorry you had to deal with that. I always appreciate your blog for its honesty and openess, and I hope you don't let the rude people change that.

  22. It makes me sad that other bloggers are sometimes just as rude and thoughtless as readers. Act with tact, and if you don't know what that means, I have a dictionary. 

  23. The thing is, I come to your blog to read it because of your honesty and uncanny ability to "put it all out there" in a down-to-Earth way that most can relate to.  I appreciate your perspective and situation even if I'm not in your shoes because I know how hard it can be.  When I read things like this, I wonder what those people would say to me after reading my posts about being homeless now that I'm in a comfortable spot financially. People shouldn't judge a book by its cover because if they do, they are missing out on the amazing content inside.
    Keep on keepin' on, Andrea. You're far more inspirational than you know 

  24. This is a beautiful post. I love the heartfelt sentiment you lay out here. I agree that people can be so harsh and judgmental. I often wonder if they would really say those things face to face, the things they write so easily. Maybe it has to do with the veil of anonymity, maybe it's just that they are terrible people. Especially for those of us who are trying to 'make it' blogging, I feel like the old saying stands, "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all."
    It's easy to look at a few words and decide that you know how best to fix a situation. As you pointed out, without knowing the whole story, there really is no way to do that, though. I always want to be an encouragement to others. Even if I disagree with someone, I can (or should) point that out in such a way that isn't hurtful to them.
    I love your story, your blog, your writing. Hope you're having a fantastic day today.

  25. It's difficult to know what anyone is really feeling unless you are in their shoes. I know we all use our blogs as an outlet to speak our minds and that's why I love reading blogs. They aren't edited and they are personal diaries of people that want to share their experiences. That's what I love about them and I really hope this doesn't change! Keep ya head up!

  26. I will confess that this topic is one of the things that held me back from starting a blog and why I still remain anonymous.  It's unfortunate that people think the negativity they write is harmless and not really going to hurt anyone, but they really have no idea.

  27. Its true that we should think twice before saying anything..Because once said cannot be deleted..
    THANK YOU for posting this! I’m glad I found your blog!!

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  30. Words are powerful even when we tell ourselves they are not. So true. It sucks that strangers can make us cry, especially when they go by "anon" but they can.

  31. I'm really amazed at how much you do put out there.  It's amazing how much is tied up in our finances.  I think if you could get someone's check book and debit card statements, you'd know an awful lot about them.  Thatnks for doing what you do to help others.

  32. Well said. I have been attacked a time or two, but now I just try to ignore. Haters are gonna hate, as they say. Besides, haters aren't the majority of blog readers. Having said that, Iknow how the negativity can sting, and I feel for you as one who has been there.

  33. Interesting post. This is one of the reasons I hesitate starting a blog. Privacy is becoming a luxury these days.

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