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Online Success Need Not Be Measured in Enemies

This guest post is by Margie Clayman of margieclayman.com.

One of my favorite Elvis Costello choruses goes like this:

“What’s so funny ‘bout peace, love, and understanding?”

I have always liked that song, but I never really thought I would live in a time where that question would resonate. I always thought, “Well, that was written when peace and love seemed hokey, perhaps, or maybe impossible. It was more than a rhetorical question when Elvis first sang it.”

And yet, as I sit here in the year 2011, I have to ask the same question. What is so funny ‘bout peace, love, and understanding? It sure seems like all three concepts are running into a PR crisis in the online world.

“You’re nice. That’s so boring.”

I have gotten picked on a bit over my year in the world of social media. Why? Because I’m nice. I’m lovey dovey. People have told me that it’s really boring listening to someone like me because I never ruffle any feathers.

To put it kindly, I think that’s a totally ridiculous sentiment.

Sure, you get a powerful response if you call someone out, bash someone, hurl insults, or say that someone is really stupid. There’s no question that ruffling feathers tends to be great for attention-grabbing and traffic spikes. So what?

If you want to entice people to read your blog posts, what about the concept of writing really good content? Really thought-provoking content? What about writing about something people aren’t writing a lot about? Like, I don’t know … like being nice, maybe? Why does excitement in the online world, or interest, have to be synonymous with cruelty or malicious intent? I’d rather be boring and nice than enjoy a modicum of success at the expense of others.

“If you don’t have haters, you’re doing something wrong.”

This is another phrase I’ve seen a lot in the online world over my year navigating the wild Internet waters, and I also think it’s utter nonsense. Why are we measuring success by how many people hate us? There is no other realm that I can think of in the human world where we measure success that way.

“Congratulations, Daisy. Everyone in your department hates you so we’re going to promote you now!” That just doesn’t happen. So why do we need to pull out haters instead of a yardstick when we talk about measuring online success? What is this need to have people attack us all about?

How do I measure my online success? I look at how many people say they enjoy my posts. I look at the solid relationships I have built. It’s not exactly a revolutionary concept, folks.

“Women can’t be successful because they can’t be narcissistic morons.”

My friend Sean McGinnis ran into a post that made this claim: that women may not find as much success in the world because women just can’t be egotistical or selfish enough.

First of all, let me tell you about some of the women I’ve encountered in my life. If you want to know about knife stabbing, in-it-for-herself, ruthless, downright cruel women, I could spin ya a yarn, sonny jim. That’s not an issue.

Second of all, what?!? Are we really saying that success rests on how much you make people want to throw up when they see you? I mean, that doesn’t sound like success to me. That sounds kind of like, I don’t know … crazy-sauce?

The glorification of “Ick!”

Next to the glorification of failure, I find the glorification of crassness or cruelty to be the most nauseating thing I’ve encountered on the Web. You should not be applauded for breaking your Censor button. You should not gain accolades because every other post has an f-bomb in it. Surely there is more to online success than being someone who invites comparisons to male and female genitalia? I mean, really. Can we aim a little higher?

Then again, maybe I’m just a boring nice person.

You tell me what this is all about.

Margie Clayman represents the third generation at her family’s marketing firm. She is the resident librarian at the Blog Library and is the resident blogger at www.margieclayman.com.

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Comments

  1. I don’t have any haters yet…lol. However on my other blog I do I think. Good post.

  2. “To put it kindly, I think that’s a totally ridiculous sentiment.”

    Careful, now! Easy! Better be careful laying down that kind of trash talk, people might think you’re on the attack, trying to make enemies ;)

    Your sentiment is spot-on, it really is. There are some that go for the controversy, and that works for them (I suppose) but there are many who prefer to play it a little nicer and they do really well for themselves, too.

    And about the women? There’s a woman in an industry I work in (I won’t name names) who has built a reputation for herself as being snobbish and conceited. She’s pretty successful so people do work with her, but nobody I know actually likes her. Everyone talks about her behind her back and she’s the object of much scorn. There’s another woman who has built a reputation as being charitable, kind, and personable. When her name comes up, it’s almost always in a positive way. People like her. She’s even *more* successful than the first woman.

    So, don’t anyone tell me that women can’t succeed unless they’re bitches. It’s not true – thankfully.

    • Haha! I actually had worded that a bit differently originally :)

      I am glad to hear you agree although I am sad you have met mean women. I’d like to think women can be successful and nice. That’s a whole different post though.

      Thanks for reading!

  3. Kay Elam says:

    “Nice” post and I completely agree. I think it is far more professional to have quality content than to raise controversy. I, too, have been accused of being too nice. I take it as a complement.

    As my grandmother used to say, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” I’m not sure she would have liked the prevailing philosophy today.

    Good job.

  4. Margie, this is one of those posts I wish I had written. I am guilty of being nice and have had people pull me aside and tell me I need to be more outspoken within my market to create some controversy so I really do appreciate this post. I work to keep my white hat clean and always will.

  5. Ryan Graham says:

    It is sad how much attention you get when you stir things up. I created a forum recently, which revolves around giving and receiving advice, and also making new friends. I’m starting to find out that in order to get any one interested at all, there needs to be a few arguments :(

    • That’s the problem, isn’t it? In order to become successful, or so it seems, you need to become malicious or insensitive. I’d rather be less successful but be able to sleep at night. That could just be me though. Thanks for reading! :)

  6. Erin Feldman says:

    I’m reminded of the saying, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” The idea of attracting flies is a little gross, but the principle’s sound. There’s nothing wrong with being nice. It tends to attract like-minded people, and those people tend to stick up for you when the trolls start to comment. I would much rather spend time with a nice person than with a narcissistic one, no matter how amazing that narcissistic person might be at whatever he or she does.

  7. Haters are everywhere. Sometime even good bloggers with good inputs got more haters than bloggers with much much more controversial issues.

  8. Boy do I agree with your sentiments.

    Luckily, I haven’t been subjected to too much vitriol in my time online, but I did delete my profile from a well known Social Media site recently because the local mafia just got too much. It wasn’t a nice place to be, so I left – deleting my profile as I did so.

    I absolutely, totally agree with your message.

    Cheers,

    Martin.

    • Sorry to hear that, Martin. Nice folks shouldn’t find themselves getting pressured out of places they want to be. It’s hard to fight against the tide sometimes though, huh? Like a salmon swimming upstream only to get eaten by the bear :)

  9. Stephanie says:

    You’re so right. I know controversy brings attention, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only way to go. That said, some people will find controversy in anything, which is why you get criticized for being too nice. You must be doing something wrong, so they point to that.

    • Yeah, it’s sort of a no-win situation. I guess if I wanted to I could say, “Oh yeah, well you’re too mean! So there! But I left fifth grade quite awhile go :) And I’m younger than a LOT of those folks….just sayin…;)

  10. Steve Rice says:

    Really enjoyed this post, Margie. I’m so thankful that I connected with you on G+. This was the first post in my Reader after the long holiday weekend (in the States) and I’m so glad it was what greeted me. What a great message to focus on while I “catch-up”.

  11. susan borst says:

    Nice post, Margie. One can be nice and still have a point-of-view (hence, not boring.) Male or female, nice guys can and do finish first.
    - PS – why so many haters in the blogger world?

  12. James Hussey says:

    You’re so nice. That’s so boring…

    (I’m only kidding.) Being *refreshingly kind* isn’t something to shake a stick at. You at least have this working for you, Margie, that kindness makes you unique. Sad to say, but don’t let the rudeness of others get you down.

    • Thanks Susan!

      Why so many haters. Well, for one thing, it gets you attention. People who have big followings may not respond to 1,000 retweets and nice words, but they’ll respond to that one person who calls them garbage. That gives that person immeasurable exposure, whether it’s on a blog site or on some other platform.

      I also think though that the word “Hater” is used in some scenarios where it’s really not appropriate. Sometimes people create “haters” by violently reacting against someone who just simply disagrees. You can create a lot of bad feeling that way.

  13. Hi Margie,
    I don’t feel the need to tarnish my image by being controversial. That can and may happen but I won’t do that just to get more eyes on my blog.

    I buy/do business with people that I like and all of them happen to be nice people.

  14. I don’t know about the rest, but I grew up in an environment that promotes success through the act of ‘hate’, dislike, and fear. Where I grew up, to be a successful individual (usually the employer) would provoke such negative traits onto their subordinates to ensure that they know their place in the ‘hierarchy’.

    I think such act is totally ridiculous and your post have supported my views even stronger.

    You don’t need haters to be at place and feel respected. When you accumulate haters, you are as close as being ‘alone’ in this world.

    You should continue being who you are :) even if it meant getting ridiculed for being nice. I am sure the rest of the world would appreciate what you have done – I know I would.

    • It’s definitely a leadership style, but I don’t think it’s the best way to get what you want out of people unless you just want attention. There are some who say that the only kind of press you get is good press, no matter what is being said. For me at least, that’s definitely not true. Thanks for the comment!

  15. Jay Monroe says:

    Margie–

    Thanks for writing such an excellent and insightful post. I have grown increasingly tired of the negativity that lives online. In fact, part of the reason I started my site was to be able to showcase stories of positivity and success.

    Thanks again!

  16. I also wondered about this. My goal is to motivate and inspire. I want discuss experiences and overcoming life’s obstacles in order to live your dreams. However, its only when I’m in a Twitter debate with some misinformed reader or I’m ranting about a crazy experience with a “hater”, that I truly see a difference in traffic. It sucks and I wish this wasn’t my reality, but it is. What do we do??

    • I don’t know what we can do about that other than to keep chipping away. Maybe if we can show that disagreement can be done with civility that would help. Maybe if we left room for disagreement instead of saying, “It’s this way, dummy,” that would help. It’s going to take some doing though, that’s for sure. Thanks for your comment!

  17. Samantha says:

    Haters? There’s enough of that in the world, we don’t need it in blogging. Controversial is good but I personally think that most of the time it’s envy and greed that causes hate in the blogosphere.

    • It is exactly that perception that makes it confusing to me that so many people pursue this path. To me, it seems like an operation to get more attention or to lament a lack of attention. That may not be the intent, but that’s how it certainly appears to me. Why would you want people to feel that way about you? Yuck!

  18. James Greg says:

    I think haters are more in presence, but they can make you or your work more popular. People like it when someones whims about something and this can make you even more popular. Haters are just gonna hate.

    • I think that’s why a lot of people go after haters, James. People like the attention that controversy brings. But if you are spouting off all the time, while your blog might soar in traffic, who is going to want to do business with you after awhile? I don’t want to entrust my brand to someone who seems nuts, ya know?

  19. Paul Foster says:

    Nice post Margie but definitely not boring!

    I generally agree with your view but I’ve found the greatest response to anything I’ve done has been constructive criticism, in either direction.

    When done well it starts a conversation and builds mutual respect between otherwise strangers.

    • I agree Paul. On my site I always leave the door open for people to say, “No, you’re totally wrong on this one.” If they do it respectfully and especially with well thought-out arguments, sometimes I’ll even change my opinions right there on my site. I am not done growing as a person. I’m definitely not perfect. If you can teach me something or I can teach you something, who loses? Nobody!

  20. This is so true. The internet is not the Jerry Springer show, although the media does love to focus on the bad stuff. Its ok to be controversial once in a way but its not ok to attack people or hurt their feelings. Do unto others works best for those who see their blogs as a business.

  21. Kat Caverly says:

    Boy did this post hit home for me. I have been unfollowed more than once because “you are too positive.” I giggle every time someone is willing to tell me that.

    I know that some believe that it isn’t possible to be as nice, or as friendly as you are Margie, but I can only feel sorry for them.

  22. Deb says:

    Controversy is not about ruffling feathers, although it often does. And I agree it’s often used to get more visitors. But there are some things that need to be said even if they upset people.

    I’ve recently done a controversial post. It’s a particular topic I come back to every now and then when I feel up to it, and while there is a spike in traffic I pretty much consider it a community service because I also get backlash. Sometimes when people are wrong it’s not just about opinions and feelings, sometimes it can really hurt or even kill. That sort of wrongness needs to be pointed out and not skirted around because we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.

    I suppose what I’m saying is that even niceness can be taken too far if it means we don’t challenge the things that need to be challenged. And yes I can see what you are doing here – I’m a bit hyped and defensive from psyching myself up for my controversial post.

    I completely agree with the rest of your post and that cruelty and general nastiness are detracting from blogging as a whole.

    • Hi Deb,

      I know it’s a nuanced argument and I think a lot of people feel like I’m saying we all have to agree. I definitely do not feel that way. How can any of us expand our horizons if we’re just echoing each other?

      What I can’t really stand are just gratuitous “So and so is a blah blah” posts or tweets. That really doesn’t serve anybody but your site’s traffic, right? There’s no public service you’re offering there, and if you think you are I think you’re fooling yourself. Pointing out controversial points of view – all for it. Saying someone is a dingbag to spike your traffic – not so much.

      Make sense?

      By the way, you piqued my interest. I’m going to have to see what you’re up to :)

  23. Hi Marige,

    Well said ;)

    Negative motivators drive negative results. People who seek to make enemies are rarely disappointed, for where your attention and energy goes, grows. You make plenty of enemies, start plenty of fights and forget that business is about people helping people, not fighting people.

    Want to fight? Start fighting by being crude and rude. Instead of using your precious energy to help people, you use it to fight people. Non-productive activity won’t get you too far.

    When the initial buzz fades most of these types crash and burn. Some might become popular but invariably attract some negative circumstances which precede a breakdown. You can only push the envelope for so long until you attract a karmic crap storm.

    Thanks for sharing your insight Margie!

    RB

    • Very well said, Ryan. What I find particularly odd is that a lot of the people who preach “More haters” are in business. It makes no sense to me on any kind of logical level. Are you winning business because people hate you? I sure doubt it unless you’re a professional wrestler or something!

  24. Deb says:

    Thanks for this. It is something that has been bothering me for some time. Nice = trite and trivial. Controversy, sarcasm, and criticism = exciting, interesting, and time-worthy.

    I may print this off and keep it on my desk as encouragement! You have voiced my own thoughts exactly. I wonder. What do you think is the answer? There definitely are many people out there who seem to prefer “snarkiness.”

    Thanks for starting my day with these thought engaging words! Deb

    • Hi Deb,

      Well thank you. Very happy to hear the post resonated with you in that way! That’s what we all hope for, right?

      As I said above, I think we just need to chip away at this philosophy. Encourage civil disagreements. Be open to corrections and light fun without flipping out. I mean, heck, sarcasm is my native tongue but man, I hate it when people get hurt just because I don’t recognize the tone in my “voice.” I can’t’ imagine going after people on purpose.

      I guess it’s about leading by quiet example, in the end, and hoping it catches on.

  25. Great post! It hurts my heart to see the uncivil, nasty, hurtful, hateful discourse in the world today. It is so much worse than in the past and I’ve been around a long enough time to observe!

  26. I agree with the post on the whole and–when it comes to negativity, personal attacks, and mean-spirited comments–I think we could generalize well beyond the Internet. It’s all on radio and TV as well as in print media.

    However, I’d make a distinction between being nasty and being controversial. I write about aging and–while I mostly take a positive stance–I often deal with the stereotyping and discrimination which people face as they grow older. Those things are part of the climate and the culture. I’d like to think that I do that intelligently without resorting to name-calling and hateful language.

  27. Theresa says:

    I like you Margie Clayman!

  28. It’s easy for me to agree with your position because I’ve also been accused of being too nice, perpetually promoting positivity, blah, blah. But what i find really scary is that I’m hearing more and more about the growing number of truly angry among us … I guess it goes with the current tumultuous times, but I’m hearing more concerns expressed about mean spirited comments and seeing bloggers now opting to approve every single comment rather than just the first couple of times you comment, and one blogger I read regularly has received death threats and has basically gone underground. I’ll gladly take being called “too nice” any day.

  29. Pat says:

    Margie…. good post. Interesting that by using the word “enemies” in your title, you got me to read! Good reverse psychology! I blog about and for women golfers / especially beginners… and we do have controversy sometimes over rules of the game, attitude adjustments, etc… I’m interested in gaining traffic and having people comment and I find controversy helps… discussing opposing viewpoints… problems with equipment or rules… but never trying to stir up and create enemies… that makes no sense to me.

    Thanks again for the thought provocation! :-)

  30. Keith Rhys says:

    Hi Margie,
    I guess the question here is: can you take a side without being “snarky” or mean? I think so. When I hear people tell us bloggers to “be controversial,” all I take from that is exactly what your post illustrates: one can create energy and interest when one takes a side. Heck, in this single post, you take sides on no less than four “controversial” issues! Some people are incapable of taking a side – and that can be “boring.” What’s more, taking a side is labeled by some as being a “hater” or “mean,” or . . . whatever
    Thanks for taking a side, Margie! Enjoyed it.
    Keith

  31. Brandon says:

    HA! Nice seeing you here, Margie!

    You know, the ‘nice’ thing is very hard to fake. People see right through it, and it cracks me up when they think there are really pulling it off. Being crass on the other hand, isn’t. I like to see people that are truly and consistently nice. I know I have defended your nice-ness in the past (which by the way, was one of the most ridiculous things I have had to do…) and I would do it again in a heart beat.

    Trust me, you will be much happier when all is said and done if the worst you’ve come off equates to dumping out someone’s sock drawer as opposed to knifing someone’s tires. Keep doing what you do, Margie.

  32. I just came off a blog that had as today’s post: “Don’t try to win over the haters. You’re not the JERK-WHISPERER!.”
    That was funny, I think, and relevant to your excellent post. Thanks!
    - Arie

  33. Tom Ewer says:

    There’s nothing wrong with being nice :)

    I think that there is a lot to gain from forming lots of friendly relationships with your ‘competition’. Life is too short to be cutthroat. Besides, it just doesn’t come naturally to me ;)

    Good article Margie!

  34. Bill Wren says:

    The question of “why” inevitably comes up. Why do so many people online feel the need to be rude, crude, nasty … just not nice? There are probably a lot of answers but I think it comes down to one: it’s easier. I wrote a post about movies a few years ago called, “How do you make a movie about nice people?” and came up with that as the reason why there are so few movies about nice people. (For example, The Terminal or Juno). Playing a bad guy is easier than playing a nice guy.

    Similarly, cranky posts are easy when all you’re willing to do is indulge in unthoughtful, kneejerk responses. Nice bloggers, for lack of a better term, usually have much more substance and thought behind them … aka, work.

  35. Chase Adams says:

    Imagine my excitement of stumbling onto problogger and finding “Margie Clayman” in the ranks. :)

    I do have a few thoughts about all of this:

    1. It’s easier to be mean, relentless and to ruffle feathers. Even if it’s true that we like nice, deep down inside there’s an unquenchable thirst for controversy. It’s why tabloids still sell, websites like People of Wal-Mart thrive, and the world has always has wars. It’s more common for us to sit on a bus and the first, raw thought of someone is generally a negative judgment over a positive one.

    2. Nice is a misnomer. You can’t help but think about sunflowers, rainbows and unicorns when considering the word nice. Pushover also comes to mind. I believe the word nice has lost any power, which is necessary to keep the snarks at bay. There will be times when we, with gentleness, kindness and grace, should make a stand for others, for what we hold true and for what we know is right…you know, Teddy Roosevelt style. :)

    3. I’m reminded of a scripture that, regardless of religious background, should permeate the daily lives of those with any influence (which is all of us):

    “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

    As always, stellar post, my friend.

  36. Blogging about your enemy, even if you say really bad things, only brings more attention and traffic to them. It’s best to ignore them and prove you’re better in other ways. Stomp your enemies silently with better content.