Friday, March 16, 2012

Online Comment Sections ARE a Joke

This morning, I found the following article on CNN:
Have online comment sections become 'a joke'?

In the early days of the Internet, there was hope that the unprecedented tool for global communication would lead to thoughtful sharing and discussion on its most popular sites.

A decade and a half later, the very idea is laughable, says Gawker Media founder Nick Denton.

I can't argue with Denton's position one bit.  Over the years that I've blogged, I've been on the receiving end of many nasty remarks.  Here's a quote from the above-mentioned article, that I found especially interesting:

[Denton] said that commenting on his own sites (which he's seen make reporters cry) has gotten so bad that he doesn't engage.

"I don't like going into the comments. ... For every two comments that are interesting -- even if they're critical, you want to engage with them -- there will be eight that are off-topic or just toxic," he said.

Toxic.  Yeah, I'll buy that. I've gotten plenty of toxic comments over the years.

Here are a few quotes from anonymous comments that I've opted not to publish:
  • I truly believe Danielle had a lot of potential, but you are the worst thing that has happened to her.
  • You are SUCH a liar!
  • You are a negative, horrible person. You know it. Deny it all you want, but you know, deep down, that it is true.
  • You make me sick.
  • I hope you do get charged. No one deserves it more.
When I first started blogging, I kept my comments wide open.  Anyone could comment, and they would be published immediately.  It wasn't too long after I started that I began to get comment spam, so I enabled a captcha, which made it a little harder for blatant garbage to end up on my blog.  Eventually, I picked up my first troll, and then another, so I opted to enable comment moderation.  I've switched back and forth between allowing and disallowing anonymous comments, but I haven't entirely decided which I prefer.  Allowing anonymous remarks seems to invite more people to comment in general, but it does tend to increase the number that are purely insulting.

I've also had comments (which I haven't posted) from people complaining of my excessive "censorship" of the remarks I allow to appear on my blog.  Sorry to those of you griping, but I'm not going to allow my blog to be your public space to bash me.

In case anyone has forgotten, not all blogs or online communities are intended to be an area for public discourse and debate.  In my case, my blog isn't an open invitation for people to call me names or criticize my decisions.  I don't expect everyone to agree with me, but if they are disrespectful or insulting, I likely won't publish their comments.

When it comes to my blog, it isn't a democracy.  It's a benign dictatorship.  Like it, or lump it.  If you are rude, disrespectful, insulting, harassing, or threatening, I'm not going to publish your remarks. In fact, I might not even read them.  Lots of anonymous comments I briefly skim and don't even bother to read in their entirety.

So if my blog isn't really open to public debate and discourse, then why am I blogging?

I am blogging for one reason and one reason only: I'm telling my family's story as a cautionary tale to others. 

Adoption professionals would like people to believe that every adoption ends with a "happily ever after."  They often don't tell families of the real truths involved.  Often, caseworkers have very sick children on their caseloads, and it is in the state's best interest to get those children into adoptive homes as quickly as possible.  Even if these kids go out with adoption assistance packages attached to them, the cost to the state is still far less than it would be if a child stayed in foster care.

The adoption of older kids is simply a cost-saving measure for the state.  They save money because they don't have to pay out so much for child's care, and they get delicious incentive dollars from the Federal government for making sure all these poor, homeless kids go to great families.

Oh, and let's not forget that the Feds also send money to the state for the kids who are in foster care, as well.

So there's a lot of money involved in the system.  There's money that provides incentives to take kids away from families, and there's more money that provides incentives for social services to give those removed kids to new families.  In order to keep this massive child-moving machine in business, there has to be both a supply of so-called "needy" children, and a ready supply of helping families willing to take them.

Social workers aren't necessarily going to be honest.  They might lie about the kids they place in your care, they might lie about their histories, their families, or even the financial, emotional, medical and dental help you will receive.  Sure, there are some honest people out there, but there are enough incentives (try "get these kids placed if you want to keep your job") in the system that make it difficult for honest, motivated and hard-working people to stay that way.

So why do I manage to get so much criticism?  Because I've probably been far too honest about how damaging and frustrating this experience has been for all of us.  As a result, I've given people plenty of reasons to hate me:
  • Adult adoptees and former foster kids hate me because I am critical of my child's behavior
  • Adoption professionals and social workers hate me because I am critical of their lies and a dysfunctional system that needlessly injures everyone that comes in contact with it
  • Do-gooders who believe that my story couldn't possibly be true, or that every child's ugly, out-of-control, or mentally-ill behavior can be fixed by the right family, parenting techniques, therapy or magic intervention
  • People with rose-colored glasses who believe that unconditional love conquers all.

I don't believe, for one second, that I'm the only foster/adoptive parent out here in the blogosphere who has received ugly comments from trolls.  I also don't believe that I'm the only blogger who has been harassed by stalkers from the Internet.  I do think I am one of the few who has continued to tell my story, despite criticism, name-calling and real-world harassment, because I believe the story is important.

People need to know what they could be in for if they decide to become foster or adoptive parents.  There are too many training classes and too many social workers who are willing to obfuscate the real truth.  I know even the scariest of our training classes was a complete soft-sell of what might happen.  We were never taught how to deal with a kid who routinely raged to the point where we needed to call police, nor we were we told that if we had to call the cops, that they would respond with indifference.

The truth about the foster care system needs to be out there.  People need to understand that kids are unnecessarily being removed from their families and shuffled around through a system that damages them further.  Yes, there are some children who really need to be in the system for their own protection, but I think that number is far smaller than the number of kids who actually end up in care.  People need to understand that the kids who are in care now are far sicker than they were even 20 years ago. 

So it doesn't matter if you, my dear reader, think I'm the devil incarnate, a saint, or somewhere in-between.  It doesn't matter if you think I'm the best or the worst parent in the world.  What matters is that the myth that adoption always equals "happily ever after" is finally busted.

Our family isn't the only post-adoptive family who is suffering. There our countless families, across this great nation of ours, who are suffering the indignities brought on by a combination of sick kids, and a lack of post-adoption support.  Most of these families suffer in silence, while a few end up on the national news because a disturbed child murdered someone, or a distraught and desperate couple ended up relinquishing their kid in a horrible and dramatic way.

Families adopt children because they want to do the right thing.  Sometimes, they find out too late that the adoption wasn't the right thing to do, but the system gives them no option, short of abandoning their child and facing charges, to undo those mistakes.  Well-meaning families who end up in over their heads shouldn't be judged as bad people, as they are now by the system.  They deserve support, respite and help.

Instead, they get only criticism and blame until their child does something really terrible, and everyone cries, "why didn't someone do something?"

I'd argue, in almost every single case that hits the national news, that someone did try to do something.  The problem is that the something done wasn't enough to get a very sick and dangerous child hospitalized before he could do something terrible.

Going back to my original theme for today's post, which is that online comment sections are a joke, the truth is that the Internet emboldens people to say really horrible, critical things that they would never dare say to your face.  It's easy to make an uncaring, ugly, or insulting remark, because it's unlikely you'll face any social consequences for doing so.  If you tell a friend, a neighbor, or a co-worker something hateful, something will happen.  If you leave a nasty remark on someone's blog, you might walk away hoping you hurt someone's feelings, but even if you do, it's not like they can strike back at you.  You are just a random person coming from a random IP address out there in the universe.  Not many people are going to spend the time and effort to trace your IP and contact your hosting provider to complain about your behavior.

So yes, Mr. Denton is right.  Most online comment sections ARE a joke.  I keep mine open because I still get a few comments that are supportive, interesting and sometimes thought-provoking.  It's those remarks I treasure.

All the rest, I just push into my spam folder.


  1. Thank you very much on this interesting post about blogs and online forums as well as adoption.

    Your post gave me the occasion to think about several questions.

    Why is it that some blogposts elicite critical reactions in me, while others provoke supportive reactions.

    I found that the strongest correlation is: loving posts provoke loving reactions, angry pots mostly provoke critical reactions.

    I think that the main problem is that the commentators really can't see the situation as a whole. Often, the authors are pushed and pushed and pushed, robbed of their last nerves, and then thay write an article in an attempt to calm down and gain perspective. The post often sounds quite angry. The reader did not see tha whole scene, he is not in the situation, so the basic reaction is: "Why are you so angry?" or "You ought not to be so angry" and this, of course, does not go over well with the author. The author will be completely right in pointing out that the commenatator does not know what he is talking about.

    As far as adoption/fostering is concerned, I get the impression, from reading various blogs, that there are good reasons and bad reasons to adopt traumatised children. Good will and the whish to adopt a child is definitely not enough. I think adopting/fostering a traumatised child needs some thourough preparation and a lot of support. In this regard, I completely agree with you that it is not a good idea for the system to talk naive would-be-parents into adopting traumatised children, without showing the issues clearly and without sufficient support.

    I get the impression that there are some parents of traumatised children who are actually doing quite well. They mostly have professional background in psychology, education, early childhood education and a support network they deem adequate.

  2. Oh goodness! Who would bother to read the intricate details of your life only to critisize! It's part of the reason I do not blog though would love to tell my story.
    Traumatized children are incredibly difficult to deal with and I find myself sounding anal and controlling to normals, EXCEPT that staying on top of my disorganized children's comments, moods, facial expressions, etc., is the only way that we gain/teach some self-regulation, accountablilty, and obtain "peace" or some reasonable facimile thereof. THEY ARE NOT NORMAL KIDS- and we sound a little off as we try to care for them no matter how perfect our approach is!
    God bless and thanks for not closing your blog in spite of the hateful comments. I couldn't comment otherwise.

  3. Thank you so much for continuing to blog. I read a lot of blogs, but yours is one of the ones that I find very helpful, insightful, and often, most like my own situation, so even when you don't have a solution or suggestion that works for me, it still helps me to know I'm not alone.

    I blog about my life with my kids who are a lot like Danielle, but have been lucky to have never gotten the attention of a troll. I'd like to think I could continue to blog, but in reality I would probably run and hide and start a new private blog. I admire your strength.

    Of course there are ways in which you are not like me. And of course there will be times we are different in how we handle behaviors and situations. Because of course our children, situations, life, and current level of *poo* going on are different. BUT, I would NEVER dare criticize you for how you handle your life. I might occasionally give you suggestions, but I know I couldn't know all of your situation so my suggestions could be totally off base.

    I try to believe that social workers are honestly trying to work within a broken system, and they are not knowingly putting horribly broken and traumatized children into hands that could never be prepared enough to accept them. This is what happens, but I honestly can't imagine a situation that would work better... that can legitimately be run by a bureacracy. Our kids don't fit in boxes so the system has no idea how to handle them. I think the kids are getting worse because the broken system perpetuates itself. We're working harder to keep the traumatized mentally ill people out of institutions... so they can breed and traumatize future generations. I sometimes think the only hope of breaking the cycle is to parent my grandchildren the "right way."

  4. My husband's daughter was taken from her mother in 2010. He's the non-offending parent and was in the process of suing for paternity when this happened. We still don't have custody and now the foster parents are taking us to court over her. CPS is allowing it. *headdesk*

    This is a child WHO HAS A HOME. A safe home. A father who CPS declared didn't need a service agreement and who has been, from day 1, telling them that he wanted to bring her home. It boggles my mind when I think of the thousands of dollars that have been spent on this case when there are other children who need it more.


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