Saturday, July 11, 2015

The problem with the Marthas of the world

"I want to rule the interwebz!"

Last week Roni posted a question-and-answer from an anonymous poster who called herself Martha. I thought Roni did a good job of thoughtfully answering, though maybe that she gave too nice of a response what was not, in my opinion, a nicely-asked question. The commenter painted my friends (and let's face it, me) in an ugly light, ignoring every positive thing we are and try to do to focus in on all of our worst flaws.

Some of my friends had fun with it for a little while going on about #marthawouldnotapprove until Roni asked them to stop, which was fine too. I didn't care much about them hurting "Martha's" feelings, but it wasn't helping to portray our group in a better light.

There is a Hans Christian Anderson story called "The Snow Queen" that starts with a wicked sprite:
One day he was in a very good humor, for he had made a mirror with the power of causing all that was good and beautiful when it was reflected therein, to look poor and mean; but that which was good-for-nothing and looked ugly was shown magnified and increased in ugliness. In this mirror the most beautiful landscapes looked like boiled spinach, and the best persons were turned into frights, or appeared to stand on their heads; their faces were so distorted that they were not to be recognised; and if anyone had a mole, you might be sure that it would be magnified and spread over both nose and mouth.
There are people who read blogs and feel very funny and clever because they can hold a mirror like this up to bloggers they dislike and make them look ridiculous. There are also people who get genuinely frustrated because they see people making choices that go against their stated goals, and express this frustration in away that comes across as harsh and not constructive.

I know that this is just a fact of life online, but it's sad that the honesty and vulnerability that makes blogs really helpful to read also leaves people open to attack. Some of my favorite bloggers have stopped posting much about their personal lives because they got so many mean comments that they just couldn't handle it, and that's a shame, because I loved their voices and their posts. Now they post about trivial things or not at all. An author I love, John Green, recently had an even worse experience, dealing with slanderous and unfounded accusations from anonymous jerks.

I don't have a great wrap-up for this post but I would definitely recommend that you let bloggers you love to read know that you support them with a comment or email now and then. We can't let the haters win.


  1. Beautifully said, Jen!

    1. Plus bonus comment coz I love your writing and so glad you're around 👍

    2. Thanks, Shauna, I'm a big fan of yours, too!

  2. ^BOTH of what Shauna said! You rock, Jen!!!

  3. As the old saying goes, "Haters gonna hate!" No matter what anyone says or does, I have to remember that I'm doing everything for ME. I think that all of us forget that at some point, but as long as we remember that, then the Marthas don't matter. This was an awesome post that was much needed. Thank you for writing this as well as for being in the blog world in general! Love you, girl!

    1. Thanks, Tracy! Loved getting to know you better through the scavenger hunt.

  4. The most helpful thing Roni wrote (for me to understand about Fitbloggin) was -

    "The goal of FitBloggin’ wasn’t to teach people how to live healthier. My goal was always for bloggers in the health, fitness and wellness space to learn how to use social media more effectively so they can continue to grow and inspire with their blogs."

    Because a lot of it (desserts, processed stuff, merchandising, etc that attendees write a lot about) never made any sense to me as I thought conference was promoting weight loss (exclusively).

    Some of the points Martha brought up are things I was totally confused about too, honestly. I think it was good she asked and Roni answered.

    1. I think she had some valid questions, but her tone was definitely dismissive and mean. I know that Roni's blog started out as a weight-loss blog but has definitely changed in focus.

    2. Really good point. I had not thought of it. I think that really added to my not understanding about Fitbloggin. (Because when I read Roni, she was the old Roni. I remember her fine tuning her WW points when she was settling into maintenance.) I was not thinking of it as a commercial thing. Did not take into account that she was on to other things.

  5. It really is sad when bloggers go quiet because someone, anyone, made them feel ashamed to be themselves.

    While Martha asked questions that I guess other people were wondering about, too (though I don't recall an endless SM feed of bloggers as hungry for money as they are for processed foods. And since when does a healthy lifestyle equal "no more dessert for you forever, not even on vacation"?-but I digress), her hostile tone, singling out individuals for mockery, does not convey real concern for health or even a vague interest in honest discourse.

    Roni is a class act, choosing not only do answer respectfully than she was addressed, but to do so publicly.

    1. If you mean my mention of desserts, I wasn't saying never. I was saying I have seen bloggers whose main writing of their Fitbloggin experience was desserts and candied type of alcoholic drinks. Which was confusing to me.

    2. I get hated mighty by abstaining from grains and sugars. My "normal" and "healthy" vacation means I abstain 24/7 for the rest of my life. I get bullied by people all the time for that- online and in real life. Food pushers, other bloggers. Those who would "die" if they could not eat at their favorite cupcakery- huge thing in SoCal- those cupcakes.

      Funny, I was killing myself ,literally, with cupcakes when I didn't abstain. For others, it kicks their ED up if they can't moderate, so a cupcake it is. That's okay for them. It's not okay for me moderate junk, ever!

      Interesting topic, Toledo!! I think stating your mission or goal - like Roni stating that her goal is essentially brand, social media, as an outcome rather than exclusively weight loss or weight maintenance. I get the impression she might state that she's an active HAES blogger. That's totally helpful to those reading the material.

      My own example: I had seen that Fitbloggin was very commercial and more brand blogging, so I went to PaleoFX 2015 instead. Yes, also commercial, but the people I met more closely match my goals and outcomes.

      I have unfollowed and walked away from moderation, brand blogs- food photos of cupcakes and cookies trigger me mightily. I still like the people as individuals, however, as a food addict in recovery, I have the responsibility to remain food sober if I expect my weight maintenance to be an outcome.

      Here's what I think: We can all stop allowing anonymous comments on our own blogs, stop commenting or reading on hater blogs, and finally, stop blogging with bloggers who are haters. We can also state our goals up front, so that other people looking for routine reading can not waste their time.

      I can't change what others think of me. I will get bullied by just writing this. Yep! 1-2 hater blogs may comment on my comments. I give zero cares about that! Good boundaries, good since of self esteem, thick skin. Must have all to blog publicly. A person trained in teaching (counselor, life coach, etc) can teach you if your family of origin did not. I got training at age 39 from a counselor. Very valuable!!!

      Here's to healthy, adulting- in real life and online too.
      Karen P.

    3. Vicky, I was referring to Martha's comments about desserts, not yours. You presented your point in a reasonable and non-judgemental way, sincerely questioning the relevance of such posts. Martha's whole approach was very different, if not outright combative.

    4. Karen, I think it's a shame that people would try to make you feel bad for finding a way of eating that works for you.

      I think Fitbloggin' is what you make it. There are the monetization sessions (I attended a few, but obviously this blog is not a money-making venture for me). There are lots of workouts. There are small group discussions. Mostly, people go to have fun with their friends, try some new things, and enjoy a great city.

      I do think we do our best to thank the sponsors for supporting the conference by sharing information on the products we really love. I was posting a lot of California avocado love on Instagram, but not to shill for free stuff, but because I was impressed at how well they treated us and how many different ways avocados could be incorporated into delicious foods.

      I have definitely held back from posting certain topics because I thought they might attract unhelpful or nasty comments. And I don't allow anonymous commenting, though there isn't much that can be done to stop the people who create fake profiles.

    5. Margo, I think you bring up a great point that the bloggers are also on vacation and trying some of the local foods is part of the fun. I didn't actually get out of the hotel as much this year except for the scavenger hunt.

    6. I was blasted all over the place for getting to goal and maintaining. I have also been blasted for getting along with my kids. I have been blasted for eating whole foods (which I started in pure laziness not to have to count which seems like it should then be understood/accepted in some weird way).

      I never wrote about any of it when it (the blasting) happened. And it was done by fairly normal bloggers. Not people you would expect. It happened a lot. (That is not why I went private.)

      It is a little surprising because I have written so much about my challenges that I would have thought I would be exempt, but I was not. After what I read about me, I can well imagine what Karen deals with regularly. And that is a shame because what Karen documents is incredibly valuable. She writes about the pure science of her body.

    7. I think it was Jen brought up the point that people can just create fake profiles if a blog does not allow anonymous comments. That is true. I suppose one person could create dozens. But they still ARE traceable. One blogger traced someone back to her work address where she logged on to write her comments. So really everyone should not allow anonymous because it is very enabling.

    8. Vickie, to be attacked for things that make you happy is very bizarre.

      I have only thought that you are very disciplined in a way that would be difficult for most people to follow. If I ever made you feel attacked, I apologize.

  6. Hi Jen --

    I was just thinking about this post while driving up to Detroit this morning (passing through Toledo, maybe that reminded me) and then I logged onto my email and your LostIt! post was in my inbox.

    I'd like to think that these kinds of personal attacks only happen online, but they happen in public too, all the time. The threshold beyond which one becomes a "public figure" who is no longer subject to the time of good manners you would display toward others has more or less disappeared. And too, there are critical people out there who will pick others apart even if it is rude and socially inappropriate, in public or online. The Internet only widens the circle of potential targets.

    I have found it hard to find the right balance when talking with other people about their diet and exercise regimens. So, I mostly avoid talking with people about either until they bring it up, but even then conversations feel fraught.

    I appreciate your efforts to be honest and civil in your blog, twitter feed, and other online pursuits. I wanted to thank you for continuing to post. I continue to follow you and a handful of other bloggers who keep things polite, positive, and purposeful. Please keep it up!


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07