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Beware the Blogger Rumor Mill

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When I first started working for BlogWorld, I was suddenly exposed to some of the top bloggers in their niches – along with the virtual assistants, guest posters, PR firms, and the other people who work alongside them and form strong opinions. I met self-proclaimed gossip queens and businessmen who claimed to be professionals, but loved to snark about people who weren’t within earshot. Somewhere along the way, people started to trust me, at least a little, with secrets and non-published opinions.

And that’s about the time that I began to find out just how twisted the blogger rumor mill can be.

Don’t get me wrong. I love to dish with people. I like being “in the know” and I like voicing my opinions of people and their sites, even if those opinions might not be quite PC enough for me to want to publish them. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with some off-the-record conversation – as long as you have a little perspective. Beware the blogger rumor mill – it can suck you in if you let it, if you aren’t careful to keep that perspective in tact.

Good Bloggers Sometimes Make Bad Impressions

The snarkiest and most hurtful comments aren’t about blogs – they’re about people. I’m pretty vocal about blogs I don’t like (at least, I don’t try to hide it), but there’s a difference between saying, “I don’t like your blog” and “I don’t like you.”

There are definitely bloggers that I don’t like…but I’ve learned to make these decisions based on my experiences with someone, rather than the experiences my friends have had with them. Good bloggers have a tendency to make bad impressions.

Point in case: Last year at BlogWorld, I heard someone talking about how much they didn’t like a certain blogger they met. They enjoyed her blog, but in person found her to be rude, arrogant, and self-centered. I very much respected the blogger who had formed this opinion, and even though it wasn’t a conscious decision, I started to think badly of this person myself. What a bad blogger. What a bad person.

Later, I was in a situation where this bad person and I were at the same place at the same time. As much as I wanted to dislike her…I didn’t. I couldn’t. She was a lot of fun! And she told me that the first first blogger, the blogger who had such a bad opinion of her originally was someone she found to be flighty and a bit shallow.

To this day, I’m not sure why these two bloggers didn’t hit it off, and it’s unlikely that I’ll ever find out, because I’m definitely not going to bring it up. It just highlights one of the most major problems of the blogger rumor mill – with so many strong personalities, there are going to be a lot of people who butt heads and who aren’t afraid to talk about it. And from there, things can quickly turn from “I think Blogger XYZ is a jerk” to “Blogger XYZ is a jerk.” We forget that opinions are not facts.

Make your own decisions. If somebody kicks your friend’s puppy, that might be grounds for disliking them, but good bloggers often make bad first impressions – and many people don’t stick around for a second. We’re a socially awkward bunch, us bloggers, with many of us suffering from social anxiety or simply feeling a little out of place when we’re meeting people in face-to-face situations instead of with the computer screen buffer. We travel a lot, so are often jet-lagged, sick, and grumpy. Take every opinion with a grain of salt and try to make your own decisions about people. More importantly, be the person who sticks around for the second impression.

You Don’t Know Me

The blogger rumor mill isn’t just twisted because of bad first impressions. In fact, as many of you are likely well aware, that’s actually a very minimal part of it. The blogger rumor mill is dangerous for the same reason that all rumor mills are dangerous – we’re playing a giant game of telephone, with few people actually being “in the know.”

I heard that it’s hard to work with So-And-So. I heard that What’s-His-Face is teaming up with That-Girl to release a new product – and they’re sleeping together on the side. I heard that Joe-Schmoe-Blogger doesn’t pay his child support. I heard that Blogger A is a horrible mother and Blogger B is a horrible spouse. I heard that you have no money. I heard that you have a horrible temper. I heard that you are a drunk. I heard…

But wait…I don’t know you. And you don’t know me.

Remember that.

See, we’re quick to judge other people based on what’s going on in their personal lives, but the fact of the matter is that everything told on a blog is told through a filter, and very few people know the true story. It isn’t a matter of lying to your readers – it’s just the nature of the written word. You can’t write down what is happening every second of your life, and for most bloggers, that wouldn’t be relevant anyway.

Food for thought: You don’t have to like what someone is doing in his or her personal life to take the advice on their website because they’re a smart blogger. At some point, you might be so morally opposed that you you don’t want to support someone, but if you’re going to make sure a strong stance, make sure you have your story straight. Remember, the further away you are from the true source, the more diluted and changed the story gets. Don’t make rash decisions if you don’t know actually know what is going on.

And more food for thought: some people aren’t above making up rumors about people they dislike. I’ve seen it happen. Go to the source if you want the true story.

Guilty by Association

More than anything, when it comes to the blogger rumor mill, I hope that you’ll learn to make decisions based on what another person says and does, not the company they keep. As a blogger, you’re going to like some people in your niche and you’re going to dislike some people in your niche. That’s just the way the world works. But if you start disliking bloggers based solely on the fact that they’re friends or partner up with bloggers that you dislike, it won’t be long before the cheese stands alone.

Dislike can spiral pretty quickly in this industry if your sole qualification is the other person’s network. You might not like my friends and I might not like yours, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t like one another. Try to form opinions based on a person’s own merit, not by their circle of friends. I’ll try to grant you that same respect.

The blogger rumor mill and Snarkyville are alive and well, and that’s not going to change. A lot of good can come from it too – good rumors (i.e. positive unconfirmed facts and opinions) can lead to buzz about someone’s products, which can eventually lead to sales. Just keep it all in perspective and don’t let it run your life. It’s easy to get sucked in, but hard to find your way out again.


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