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As a blogger, I write about brands, topics, and styles that don't always appeal to everyone. Heck, nothing I write EVER appeals to everyone; it's impossible to please all the people all of the time. But you can believe at periods of time over the past 17 years of blogging I have really tried to please everyone but still have encountered critics. And that's fine, it has helped me become a more discerning shopper and reviewer. Constructive criticism has made me a better writer and blogger.
But over the past few years, I've seen a tone change in comments. They're critical but not constructive and I find them concerning. Not just because I have to read them, but because they are telling of how we are feeling and interacting with the world around us.
More and more, I see comments that could be considered Cloud Yelling, inspired by Grampa Simpson from The Simpsons. It's a personal rant, and it's a doozy. It's a venting of frustrations, it's a telling it how it is, it's keeping it real, but it's serving zero purpose because along with the personal rant there is no why.
I discussed the power of the why when I talked about the term flattering. Just like the word flattering, if your personal rant doesn't include the why, it serves no benefit.
We're in a time where everything seems… wrong. There is a lot to be angry about, and with the internet, we all have soapboxes we can hop on to share our frustrations. However, if you vent a frustration without the why, your rant disappears into the metaverse. No one cares.
With a little tailoring of critical criticism, you not only get out your frustration, you may benefit others at the same time. And we all could use a little support from one another right now.
I've been blogging for almost 20 years, I'm a social media influencer, I have a newsletter. I also am an avid consumer of other blogs, social media platforms, and newsletters. With this experience, I am going to share some of the most popular personal rants, and ways to adjust them to increase your power and chance in finding a benefit to your frustration.
First, Let's Discuss Volume of Comments (And Whether Yours Will Even Be Read)
I recently turned off DMs on Instagram. I didn't want to, I had built up some really great discussions with followers, it was a lot of fun. But with the fun was a lot of frustration. I would receive rants about brands, rants about bodies, rants about the retail industry, rants about me. Sometimes those rants weren't even related to anything I shared; it was just folks who were frustrated and thought I could relate and would care.
And I get that, and honestly, that makes me proud to be trusted in such a way. But I want to provide a bit of perspective. I am considered a microinfluencer, with a little over 25,000 Instagram followers. And I received so many DMs I couldn't manage them and decided to turn them off to get back some of my life.
Your typical popular influencer or fashion brand on Instagram has ten times as many followers. Imagine what is in their DMs! I know from talking to other influencers that many of your DMs are deleted before even being read. And many influencers have an assistant who reads their DMs for them, replying to them, and only letting the influencer know about what they deem the most important ones.
That is just one of my platforms. I also have this blog, my comments form, my email inboxes, Twitter, Pinterest, a Facebook page, and a private Facebook group. I also have a newsletter individuals reply to, which brings more emails to my inbox. This means that every month, half a million folks can be experiencing some form of content I have created, and a lot of them have thoughts on that content. And again, I am considered by many to be a “microinfluencer.”
Your comments are important, but to have them read, remembered, and acted upon, you have to do more than share a personal rant. You need that why. Let me show you some examples:
I can't fit into that brand.
I get the comment, “I can't fit into that brand/designer/store” all the time. And it's a valid complaint… only if you share why. I can't fit into that brand because it's not size inclusive and only goes up to a 14. I can't fit into that brand because I am pear-shaped and all their pants seem made for an apple, even the curvy fit. I can't fit into that brand because I have a large bust and everything from knit tees to button-front shirts struggle across the chest, even when I size up.
When I get such a comment on a public platform (Facebook, Instagram, the blog) and it doesn't include the why, I scan it and move on. Sometimes others reply to that comment with their why, and it becomes a useful thread. But more often than not, the other commenters also ignore the self-focused complaint.
The way to be read, be respected, and possibly create positive action is by turning your rant into a PSA. Share the why, and your rant gains power. Some examples of adding the why to a fit rant:
“Great dress, but I don't shop at The Frock Shop because they dropped their petite line in 2017. I've emailed them, I even signed a petition started by another influencer, and they went ignored. I even noticed that when others comment on their social media about the lack of petites, they delete those comments.”
“Great dress, but The Frock Shop doesn't fit me. I find that Frocks R Us has a similar aesthetic but is built more for an apple shape, which we both have. You should check them out.”
“The Frock Shop doesn't fit me. Even though their size chart goes up to a 20, I find the brand runs smaller than a lot of similar shops. For example, I love Frocks R Us, I am a 2X or a 20/22 there and the fit is consistent. But I've tried The Frock Shop three different times over the past two years and each time their size 20 feels at least a size too small, and the measurements don't match the size chart.”
When I get this kind of information it piques my interest, makes me do more research, and questions whether I will feature that brand, style, or store again. When such comments are shared on public platforms, individuals are more likely to “like” it and reply to it, increasing its reach. Brands and influencers notice if an Instagram comment has dozens of hearts. Not only are you extending your reach, you're also helping out others with your PSA. Power AND positivity!
That is too expensive for me.
This is the same kind of complaint, it's one that requires a why with it to make it valid and not just bitching into an internet black hole. Because if there's no why, no one cares whether or not you can afford that dress including me. But if you add the why, you have my ear. Some examples adding a why:
“That is too expensive for me. I have been following you for ten years and in the past six months your average outfit went from being around $250 to $800 and it's just too rich for my blood as a 42-year-old project manager in suburban Ohio.”
“That is too expensive for me. I used to shop this brand all the time and found the quality stellar but in the past couple of years they have been using only synthetic fabrics, the sewing has been shoddy, and the last dress I bought from them the zipper broke the first time I wore it. Sadly, this brand is not the quality it used to be.”
“That is too expensive for me. Now that I am retired, I am on a fixed income and cannot justify spending over $39 for a t-shirt. For anyone else in a similar situation, I got this t-shirt from Frocks ‘N' Tees for $28 and it's awesome: [link]”
All of these comments are still criticizing the cost of the item, but are explaining why. It helps me better know my audience. It also helps others. Quality changes, budgets, lifestyle changes, worthy alternatives… you're making this world a better place while getting your point across.
That is ugly.
If you want to know what comments grind my gears the most? The kind that honestly, were like my early content on Wardrobe Oxygen. Back in 2005, I thought I knew everything, and that I would be more successful with a voice of authority and expertise. That voice used a lot of negative words like awful, tacky, unflattering, gross, trashy, ugly.
This blog introduced me to women across the globe who live very different lives, have very different bodies, beliefs, priorities, and needs. It taught me that negative words can hurt in ways I can't even imagine. They exclude, they embarrass, they judge, and they yuck a lot of folks' yums.
And when you choose to share those negatively worded comments on another person's online platform, it's even more obnoxious. Go get yourself a Twitter account, get on TikTok, build your own blog to write your tirades. Be snarky and witty and holier than thou on your own platform, not another's. (Sites that thrive from a snarky comment section are of course not included.)
How to share your thoughts with a positive spin? Use the Thumper Rule: if you can't say something nice don't say anything at all. And if you're so pumped up to rant, you can use that energy to get creative with your Thumper-approved response.
Let's say you despise suede, and your favorite blogger wrote an entire article about suede fashion for fall:
- “While I don't wear suede myself, that camel dress is a beautiful color and silhouette.”
- “I'm not a suede fan, but I do think the collages you made are gorgeous!”
- “I'm vegan and don't wear animals, but I appreciate the care you took in finding size-inclusive options.”
- “I don't wear suede and leather but I found this cute dress that is a similar color and style and made from cotton [link].”
- Remember, it's also okay to not comment. There is power in not engaging.
I liked you better then.
We online folks who have been around more than a couple of years get these kinds of comments all the time. I liked you better when you did something different, wore different fashion, wrote about different topics, I liked you better then. I read this kind of comment and I never think, “Wow, maybe I should go back to how it used to be.” I instead think, “Wow, this person is stuck in the past.”
If I was still writing about the same thing I wrote about ten years ago… well I wouldn't be doing this job anymore. Not only would it not be financially viable, but it would also be a miserable slog. And I can't even imagine wearing the same sort of outfits I wore a decade ago. I am a different person, my life is different, my outlook on the world is different, and with that, this site and the content I create is different.
Essentially, when you're telling me you liked me better then, you're telling me, “I liked you better when you were that way because I am still that way and need confirmation that being that way is okay.” And you're not going to get that from me or from any self-respecting individual with an online presence. I've changed, and I will continue to change. Haven't you changed over time?
It's frustrating when things change, but everything changes. The healthiest thing with change is to move with it, or move on to something (or someone or somewhere) else. When you complain about something or someone changing, I encourage you to again add the why to it. That why can be hard, but it can also give you amazing insight into yourself and how you may have also changed.
I have an issue with myself.
I often receive comments and emails that aren't necessarily feedback but an opportunity for an individual to list off what they find wrong with themselves. They can't wear a certain style, their body has changed, their skin can't deal with a certain ingredient, their hair is unmanageable, etc.
I get it, it SUCKS when you feel you're in a battle with yourself. Maybe it's something you have dealt with all your adult life, maybe it's a new issue due to age or health or life changes. Been there, am there. I get it.
But you know what won't help the situation? Bitching about it on the internet. Well, bitching about it without a why. And in this case, the why isn't what happened, your why is a call to action to fellow readers or followers of that content. Here are some examples:
“I had my son three years ago and while the scale is back to my original weight, my body is a completely different shape and none of my old clothes fit. I have no idea how to dress this new body that has larger breasts and larger hips. Has anyone else gone through this? Any tips on where to shop, especially on a budget?”
“Since my hair started going gray it's so coarse and frizzy. I don't know how to manage it, everything I try just makes it look greasy. Anyone else experience this and have some advice for me?”
“I used to wear skirts like that, but when I went through menopause suddenly I ended up with this pooch belly and I lost a lot of the roundness of my rear. I love wearing feminine silhouettes and miss my bias-cut skirts and dresses. Can anyone relate? Is there a brand or silhouette I should look for that will work with this new body of mine?”
The thing is with comments, other folks see it. And even if the author of the piece you're commenting on doesn't have advice, others may. This is why Facebook groups are so great, it's a popular place to ask a question and receive answers from multiple people. But the comment fields on blogs and social media posts can also be a treasure trove of advice and support… only if you ask for it.
So ask for it. There are so many people out there thinking they're the only one, as well as so many people out there who have been there and may have some advice to help you through. We live in a time of extreme information, a person reading your plea may be hella knowledgeable in the subject. I have had my life changed for the better thanks to a comment on social media; asking these questions helps you and helps others too.
I am unfollowing or unsubscribing.
There is nothing wrong with outgrowing an influencer. While there are some writers, bloggers, influencers, brands, and online personalities I have followed for eons and will continue to follow, there are many I let go of because they were no longer a good fit. But I have never told them I stopped following them because I know they don't really care.
If you are at the point where you're 100% dunzo with an online person or brand, writing out a soliloquy in a comment or email… it makes you look as though you don't know how to use the internet. Those who have been on the internet most of their life know that announcing your departure takes away your power. But having you disappear, no longer be a follower, a pageview, a subscriber… that is your superpower.
Announcing you are unfollowing or unsubscribing is the blogging equivalent of asking to speak to the manager. Replying to a newsletter requesting to be unsubscribed is the equivalent of a minion meme on Facebook. (For those unaware, by law there has to be an unsubscribe button in every newsletter. Some are harder to find than others. The one in mine is right at the bottom in dark blue font.)
Leaving a comment is currency, even if it's criticism. Leave a comment on a blog or Instagram post saying you're unfollowing and you will increase traffic and engagement exponentially. It's why Bravo TV is so successful; folks love a bit of drama. Hate following is still providing views, which also benefits the individual you're supposedly unfollowing.
They say word of mouth is the best advertising, and it is even if it's a negative review. I know this is true, because I have been criticized online and it has only increased my traffic, my followers, and my subscriber rate. And it's not all hate follows; a lot of those folks curious about the drama ended up sticking around liking me or my content.
If you're done with something online, just leave. You have better things to do with your time than announce your departure. Use your energy to find a better fit instead of dwelling on the past, you deserve it.
The Best Way to Turn your Rant into a Resource
Take some time to think out your thought before you hit the keyboard. Don't be afraid to grab a notepad or the Notes app on your phone. I do this myself. Write down what is making you angry, annoyed, disappointed, frustrated, or disgusted. And then keep going. Find the why, not just the what.
I know, when you're angry it feels good to pound out your thoughts in a comment, but taking a moment to gather your thoughts and find the why is the key to success. Your why will help get your comment read, help get support, and help improve the situation.
If you feel you've done this before and it has accomplished nothing… that is possible but do you think your rant will do anything other than have your brain focus even more on that bad thing? Venting and ranting can temporarily feel good, but in the long run, does not benefit us and it surely doesn't benefit the world around us. But taking a bit of time to figure out your why can turn your rant into a resource and increase your power online.
I’m a new reader of your blog, and I found this post to be so very thoughtful and helpful. Rather than telling people NOT to share their concerns, you showed us how we can have our rants but also make them useful to others! Thank you.
Paula Morton says
Thank you Allison for this piece. I do miss being able to comment on your blog, (like the Scary Doll, LOL) but totally understand how rude some people can be. Others are just lonely and feel the need to try to make others feel that way too. Keep standing your ground. I hope that you can return to open comments someday. Love ya!
Book Goddess says
Thank you, Alison, for a constructive and useful piece of writing!
When I read Carrie’s comment, I was reminded of Rotary’s Four-Way Test (I’m not a Rotarian, but my father was):
Of the things we think, say or do:
Is it the TRUTH?
Is it FAIR to all concerned?
Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
I think that would work.
L H Carter says
This post is why I read you. You remind us of our better selves exteriorly and interiorly.
Erika Otter says
Yes! Thanks for the effort you took to write this Alison.
Marsha Banks says
I find, especially on Facebook, I want to leave a really snarky comment…a rant if you will. Then, I stop and ask myself what I want to accomplish. I may even type the rant out, but I almost always delete it because 1) I’m not changing anyone’s mind on Facebook; 2) it makes me look hateful and mean; and 3) I really don’t want to engage in that kind of behavior. This is a powerful post, and I agree with many…it needs to go viral! Thanks for always reminding us of why we need you in this virtual (and real) world!
People are incredibly lonely. I only read your wonderful blog and that seems to be filled with praise , so I wasn’t aware you were getting all of this. Hopefully your point will be considered by all who read it!
Such a great post today with much wisdom! I’ve followed you for many years now, & I never have times where I feel like you’re just phoning it in. Today is a good example of how this blog has grown over the years but you are always consistent with your core self. It’s greatly appreciated.
Appreciate your perspective. I operate online with the philosophy that if I write something online in an email, blog comment, or Insta DM, it should be something I would say directly to a person in real life. No hiding behind anonymity. I also consider that what I post online never goes away, so I’m not only careful about my own online content, I’m careful to be constructive and curious when/if I comment on content. These days if you’re looking for a new job, it’s not difficult for your new organization to unearth that ranting post from 10 years ago on FB that you made when you were drunk.
I’d love to see this post go viral, bringing you widespread fame and fortune. Of course, then you’d probably get even MORE rude comments. Ha.
I’ve noticed the increase in rudeness lately, and I have only a minimal social media presence. After the past few years, I think we all need a manners and decorum reset, myself included.
As my husband likes to remind me, don’t complain unless I can provide at least one helpful solution. That’s my goal!
Shelly Cook says
Thank you, Allison. This post applies to so much more than comments on a blog. You have great wisdom and insight into how to clarify one’s thoughts and share them constructively. The examples are much appreciated.
Very nice Post, Alison! Very thoughtful and well laid out. I bet it was hard to decide to post this (maybe not?), but I am really glad you did!
Urban Dictionary defines “an old” as “a term hipsters use to describe someone over the age of… 30?” I guess I’m in the minority, but if this is the criteria, I’d rather be an old.
Yes, it’s an odd way to end a post about ranting. I honestly think ranting seems to occur across age levels. But, all the points are valid.
I must be blind this morning. Where is the “old” comment in Alison’s post? Looked at it twice, couldn’t find it.
Anyway, the post is full of good common sense! And a great internet guideline and etiquette to follow in general. Great reminders!
Nicole Kowalski says
I didn’t mean as a dis to Alison. When Linda and I read it, there was a comment at the end about following these guidelines so not to appear as “an old.” It’s why Linda posted the definition of “an old.” Maybe Linda and I are the crazy ones?
It was probably just a circle back to the Simpson’s meme “old man yells at cloud” at the beginning? And here we are proving Alison’s points.
I’ll show myself out now…
The header for the last section had at the end a bit in parentheses about not being an old. After a few members of the Facebook community and here in comments shared their feelings about the use of the term, I decided to delete it.
YAS Allie. Hard agree on all of this. I’ve also pledged to not argue with strangers on the internet. It has truly improved my life and I hope it’s helped put just a *TINY* bit of unsnark in the world. It’s effing hard out there, no one needs my hot take on most things. It puts a person in the cycle of negativity constantly. Remember the old adage about thinking before you speak: is it helpful? Is it kind? We have friends we can snark to about what Kim K is wearing, or whatever.
Along with all the fashion aspirations, you’ve given me a new goal with this post as my 50th birthday approaches–not to be “an old!” : ) : )
Annie Shaw says
Your blog today Allison, on telling the WHY on a rant, is the reason I am a faithful follower of you even though I am not particularly interested in fashion. Your blogs (and newsletter) help me find relevance in helping me live in community, help me be heard, and you share from your life.
And, I can respond in a more understood manner within groups. This week when family visited, I realize that while I don’t always listen to my sister-in-law when she rants, but if we can talk about specific issues, we can actually have a conversation.
This is just one reason I enjoy your blogs. I also have begun more consciously practicing self care – a topic you show from example regularly. Thanks again!
This is a fascinating, great post. I heartily agree with everything you say, and I think you are hitting on much more insightful things here than just “don’t be mean in the comments” – which is true, but you are helping people re-direct to something more constructive. But what really struck me is that your advice aligns with the way I feel about journaling. It often starts with ranting just to work out the emotions, get out the frustrations, but then if you keep going the why starts to reveal itself, and in that, often the solution to the problem you didn’t even realize you had, or the change in perspective you need to deal with the issue and move on. But I would never share that journaling with anyone, as it is a process, not a finished product. It sounds like those ranting comments are similar unfocused feelings that have not undergone enough thought and exploration to reveal the real problem or issue that needs to be addressed – the “Why” as you say.
Thank you for this. I’m not an influencer, so while i knew/suspected much of what you’ve written, reading it and seeing it so well documented was educational and helpful. I can’t tell you how often I’ve started comments, on this blog and others, and deleted them when i realized I’m adding nothing to the conversation.