This guest post is by Gail Brenner, Ph.D. of A Flourishing Life.
It started innocently enough. Heartfelt comments, sharing a personal story, and a genuine interest in the topics I write about. But as the postings got longer, rambling, more personal, and more frequent—up to four a day in addition to emails—something had to give.
I was dealing with a commenter gone rogue.
Anyone who reads my blog, A Flourishing Life, knows that I take great care to respond to comments. I love interacting with my readers and cultivating a community in which everyone is welcome. Well, almost everyone, as I was soon to discover.
It becomes too much
The breaking point was when he asked me for a date—on my blog. He lives just over 200 miles from me and was willing to make the drive. I immediately blocked the comment and wrote him an email explaining that the purpose of comments is to discuss the subject matter of the post. He responded by letting me know that he removed my site from his favorites and requested that I delete all his comments from my blog.
There was no way I was going to go through all the comments from older posts as well as my responses to him, so I declined. Then, for some reason, he had a change of heart, and he was at it again—multiple, rambling comments per post.
It was getting out of hand. He stalked me when I commented on other people’s blogs and wrote me emails about these supposed relationships he was developing with other bloggers. I was ruminating during the day and losing sleep at night. “It’s just a blog,” I kept telling myself. But I needed to take action.
The steps I took
I contacted some of my blogging friends and asked for advice. Mary Jaksch of GoodlifeZen recommended I blacklist him. She wrote, “Please don’t feel bad about banning a commenter. Your blog is like your house—you decide who is welcome!”
Jonathan Wells of Advanced Life Skills agreed. Sibyl Chavis from Alternaview suggested a more moderate approach as did Sandra Lee of Always Well Within—even when he started commenting on their blogs. And Christopher Foster of The Happy Seeker was full of compassion for all concerned.
I had already set up my blog so that I could review his comments before approving them (more on the technical details below), and I decided to let nature take its course. A few days later, I simply could not bring myself to approve his comments any more. I had reached my edge, and I was finished with him.
But was he finished with me? 200 miles away is too close for comfort, and I didn’t know how unbalanced he could be. When he realized I had stopped posting his comments, he didn’t become angry, as I had predicted. Instead, he begged and pleaded. He expressed remorse and said he would be good from now on. He told me he loved me. He wrote daily for a while with diary entries about the activities of his life. Yes, these were all written as comments to my blog posts.
When I failed to respond, he made one last request. He asked me to say “yes” to one of his comments if I wanted him to leave, and he promised he would be gone forever. I figured I could give him that. So I posted his comment and my “yes,” but he didn’t keep up his end of the bargain. He posted 12 more comments over the next month before he left for good. That was mid-January, and I haven’t heard from him since. I mean it when I say I wish him well, but I am relieved that he is gone.
I still have 26 unposted comments from him sitting on the “comments” page on the back end of my blog. If I’m truthful, I’ve been holding them as evidence of his instability in case he showed up at my door and actually started stalking me. But I am close to being able to let them go.
What did I learn? I don’t think I could have prevented this situation, but others might have been much less tolerant than me. And I’m certain I would take action sooner next time. I can’t say enough about the support I received from fellow bloggers. It’s a true community of real people out there.
The technical details
WordPress gives us the capability to blacklist comments or moderate them before they are posted. On your dashboard, click on Settings, then Discussion. At the bottom of the page, type the email address in the appropriate box—for moderation or blacklisting. Click Save Changes, and you’re good to go.
If you are moderating, you will receive an email letting you know when a comment is available for your review, and you can choose what to do with it.
What if you blacklist? On WordPress, the comment ends up on the spam page. The blogger doesn’t receive an email about it, and the commenter doesn’t know he has been blacklisted. I have heard from others with different platforms that the commenter receives an email letting him know he has been blacklisted. If you go this route, I recommend testing it first so you know.
I’d love you to visit my blog and leave a comment, but please don’t go rogue on me. I may not be so forgiving next time.
Gail Brenner, Ph.D. is a psychologist who blogs at A Flourishing Life about untangling self-defeating habits and realizing happiness. Stay in touch by subscribing to her feed or by following her on Twitter at @aflourishinglif.