Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Blogging Myth #6: Everyone Loves Controversy

Another week in my Blogging Myths series. In this series, we discuss the various misconceptions that surround blogging. If you're new and would like to start from the beginning, you can click here.

Myth #6: Everyone Loves Controversy (ie. Readers will love my take on controversial political, social, and religious topics!)

This is probably common sense for most readers and bloggers, but I never really know what to say when a blogger with a well-established niche veers off on a side road to discuss/prothselytize/rant passionately about something off-topic and then act surprised when readers react negatively.

In case you are curious as to what might constitute a controversial topic, I thought perhaps we could play a little game. You pick the blog post topics from this list which might be considered questionable:

A) On the 4th of July, I post a poem about America with a picture of the American flag.
B) My best friend is having surgery, so I ask my readers to say a little prayer for her.
C) T and I have decided to join a cult of zombie freedom fighters and I want to share my newfound knowledge of the Apocalypse with my readers.
D) I post my favorite recipe for chocolate chip cookies.
E) I believe that breast-feeding your children until they are 14 is the only healthy way to raise kids, and if you don't do that you are a lazy and horrible mother.
F) I don't think breast-feeding is at all a good idea, and if you breast-fed your children, then you are a crunchy granola hippie and I won't ever be your friend.
G) I love puppies.

If you chose C, E, and F as controversial topics, then you are well on your way to becoming a good blogger and I will give you 5 gold stars (These are, of course, hypothetical gold stars. I am way too lazy and poor to mail out all those stars).

With all the craziness in the world today, readers are using blogs as a nice escape from the stress of day to day life. Many blogs are popular b/c they are "a soft place to land," to quote Kimba. If your readers are used to safe topics like recipes/home decor/crafts/family pictures, chances are that posting something out of the blue will be a turn-off.

  • Steer clear of controversial topics unless you are prepared to deal with the response from your readers. 
The response could be loss of followers and/or subscribers, a backlash of angry comments, links to Facebook, etc.

  • "Any publicity is good publicity" ??
Maybe so. It's nice to have your name out there, but do you really want to be known as that blogger who wrote about ____ (insert topic here)? I personally prefer to be known as an upbeat personality with a good sense of humor who shares about home life and creative projects with her readers.

Unless you have billed your blog as a spot for rational discussion (or maybe even debate), chances are that posting something of a controversial nature will lead to some nasty comments. If you can handle the heat, then by all means, stay in the kitchen. If not, stick with what you know you're good at.

If you write a blog geared for current events, gossip, or reviews, then by all means...rock your opinions! A great example is My Favorite Hatemail, where bloggers have a chance to address ugly comments that are left on their blogs. Mandi and Viv made it clear that it's a blog for the "airing of the grievances" (to quote my dear Frank Costanza), so readers know they'll be reading some heated reactions.

I would never ever tell you to squelch your writing if you are truly passionate about a topic. The world would be a boring place if we all agreed with each other and thought the exact same thing. Just be mindful of your audience and be prepared to field questions, concerns, and even angry comments. 

One of the most profound pieces of advice I've come across in blogging came from my friend Julia in a recent Blogging and Beyond Interview:

"Write as if the whole world is reading."

I so wish I thought of that when I started this blog. I deleted several political-themed posts after gaining some readers, not because I am ashamed of the way I vote, but because I didn't want my blog to be a place to stir the pot. I'd rather focus on fun, creative stuff...not arguing over the debt ceiling.

Do you avoid controversy, or do you enjoy blogs that feature debate/heated topics?


  1. I tend to be non-controversial. . . but, honestly, I had started to wonder if maybe I ought to try to be more controversial. I had started thinking that maybe I ought to "stir the pot" to get people commenting. I'm grateful for this reminder that this is not really what I want my blog to be, and doing this would really just be resorting to attention-seeking behavior. With so very many blogs out there now, it's easy for me to think just in terms of what will drive traffic, but that's not REALLY what I want, is it? Thanks for the reminder!

    Now, here's a question for you. What do you think about the idea of writing for an extended period of time (say, 31 days) on a subject that's of particular interest to me, but is usually only one of the things I write about? I'm thinking about taking up Nester's 31-Day invitation, but I'm not sure if people want to read what I'd have to say 31 days straight if I'm only dealing with one topic. Hmmmm.

  2. Great point! While there are those out there that do not intentially try to "stir the pot", I have found a few who do. For some, "attention is attention, good or bad". However, they do not realize that it puts them in the most unflattering light. Partially, I think it's about the way things are worded. For instance, I wouldn't have a problem with a mom talking about how wonderful it is to be a stay at home mom, but don't bash the other side in the process!

  3. I love this post!
    I try to keep things 'in the middle' and steer clear of things that may cause scuffles.

    Although, a good debate over the best chocolate chip cookie recipe is always fun :)

  4. I do usually try to stay away from controversy. I've found that even though I have strong opinions about stuff, I would rather share my crafty, baking, picture taking side instead of constantly arguing or defending my views. I have to admit though, I do love to read a good controversial post every once in a while though:)

  5. I think(maybe I am wrong) that I generally stay in the warm, pleasant middle. Generally things I have strong opinions on apparently aren't shared by the vast majority...i.e. getting your eyebrows plucked at the flea market is one of my strong opinions (or maybe people who do that just don't read my blog...who knows???) but I don't blog for conflict. Very rarely have I received a nasty comment...one time I did and I addressed it so we moved on (of course, when I say "we" I mean I because it is MY blog!)

    Have a super day!!!

  6. I'm just here for the zombies...and the cookies ;)

    I agree with you Amanda! I have to say that as a reader I don't mind opinions, but if you repeatedly bash something I am passionate about then I will stop reading. I've pushed a few blogs out of my reader because of this.

  7. I do enjoy reading other people's opinions, but mostly because I am intensely curious about other people. It's interesting to me to learn about why people make the choices that they do. I don't like the quick judgement that often follows the sharing of opinions and family strategies. I prefer to assume that each person is doing the best they can in the situation they are in and to judge is way beyond my ken. I don't tend to post controversial issues because I too enjoy they "soft place to land"...I'll keep my debates to face-to-face interactions. I appreciate your thinking and reasoning in this post.

  8. I don't like to argue, so I try not to post anything controversail. Blogging is fun for me and I'd rather keep it light than try to stir the pot.

  9. Yeah, as a reader it weirds me out to see crafting and family stories and then one day a diatribe about how terrible certain religions are or going off on a politician because they didn't wear the American Flag pin that a Boy Scout gifted them while they were on the campaign trail. I mean, I don't think it is weird if that is the way a blog has always been, but when it pops up out of no where, I think it is definitely strange.

    That being said, I also think it is weird (and a bit sad actually) when a blog decides to completely change what it started as in order to gain readership and become "marketable". While I realize that some blogs are a j.o.b. and people want to grow them into serious income, the tiny blog about someone's family is just as fun to read as the huge decorating one, and I just hate to see the small family one start to change its content in order to be more like the decorating one, even though that really isn't what their strength is. They just told cute stories about their kiddos. Now they are posting massive tutorials about how to hang wallpaper. Every day.

    It's weird. Not everyone is going to be dooce.com or The Pioneer Woman. Not everyone can be no matter what they do. Sometimes it is ok to just be a small blog and stay that way.

  10. Darn, I was about to write about my new zombie cult! LOL! I actually think this is very true - most people have strong feelings about their politicial and religious beliefs, whatever they may be, and most people won't agree with *anyone* about all of them. Even when I talk about politics with close friends who vote the same way I do, there are some issues we disagree on.

  11. Just want to tell you that I'm loving this series Amanda! Thank you for all the good (and funny) advice!

  12. What a great post, Amanda! For the most part, I steer clear of controversy. (in real life and on my blog)
    Kinda like the extended family dinner table, unless you want to get into a heated debate, you may want to avoid hot/polar topics like politics, religion and money. (unless that is the focus of your blog)
    The only mildly controversial direction I've headed on my blog is when I share my opinions on some aspects of blogging. There usually is someone out there with a different opinion. In that case, I appreciate a healthy debate.

  13. I don't post things until I've worked it out with the offending/offended party first. That's just manners. I don't get a lot of comments so...maybe I'm just scary?


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