Disagreement: not a dirty word, is it?

I’ve been blogging for a while now. I’ve seen spats and snarking aplenty but I have also found that parent bloggers are usually incredibly supportive of one another and tend to go out of their way to help each other out.

That’s a lovely thing to be a part of, but I am wondering whether we need a bit more disagreement in our lives.


Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think we need more Dynasty-style drama, sniping, or  anonymous hate blogs. But maybe we need more honest-to-goodness, old-fashioned opinions.

I’ve seen a couple of comments this week on the Blogger.Ed forums from bloggers who say they don’t feel able to express opinions on their blogs, for fear that they will be targeted, excluded, judged or otherwise subjected to unpleasantness.

If this is true, it is a bit worrying. For starters, I’m not sure it’s THAT hard for bloggers to express opinions, even if they might be unpopular. For example:

  • I judge you if you watch the X-Factor
  • I think Justin Bieber should have had his Internet privileges revoked a long time ago
  • I think people who drive MPVs have probably given up on life, just a little bit
  • Posting pictures of gravestones on Facebook is weird


These are some of my opinions – based on my personality, prejudices and experience. Since my personality is different to yours (some might say better, but we don’t need to go into that right now) it stands to reason that my opinions are different.

Since this is my blog and I am Master Of All I Publish, I’m allowed to share my opinions and you can’t stop me.  But here’s the cool thing about blogging – you can share your opinion too. So if you’re a passionate Belieber and prepared to admit that online, then please tell me about it in the comments. I won’t mind.

Furthermore, I promise not to give up blogging because you’re SO mean, or tell all my friends that you’re terrorising me so we can all block you on Twitter, unfriend you on Facebook and never speak to you again because you are DEAD TO US.

Here’s the thing: I like to talk, I like ideas and I like debate. I think the best ideas happen when people challenge one another’s thinking.

Debate – when it’s done well – makes your blog engaging, vibrant, interesting.  Blogs and communities that don’t debate things quickly become dull and lifeless.

If I could say one thing to bloggers who are nervous of getting involved in debate  it’s this – someone commenting on your blog, and taking time out of their life to engage with you is paying you a HUGE compliment, even if comes in the form of “you’re completely wrong on every possible level”.

Rather than feeling attacked, I’d tell my blogging buddies to be flattered, because your words, passion and perspective have  moved someone to think about an issue, to start a conversation with you. That’s pretty cool. Sure, occasionally, you’ll get unlucky and someone will be obnoxious or aggressive, but that’s THEIR problem not yours, and for the most part, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised because pretty much all of the bloggers I’ve ever met are reasonable, smart, funny and supportive people.

Some smart arse reading this post will be thinking, oh but Sally, in June you Tweeted that the number one rule of social media is never get into a fight on the Internet.  You’re such a hypocrite.

Not so, amigo.  Disagreement isn’t fighting. It’s conversation. It’s sharing ideas and maybe trying to win people over to your point of view. That’s all.  If you write a post about how amazing high heels are, I’m coming over there to fight the good Converse fight. Consider that fair warning.

If you’re struggling to tell the difference between debating and fighting, then check out these top tips from the (future) best-seller The Who’s the Mummy Guide to Disagreeing with People on the Internet:

  • We all have opinions – and they’re as unique as we are. So if you write about your opinion, it’s inevitable that someone, somewhere won’t agree.  This is normal, healthy and not a judgement about you as a human being
  • When someone disagrees with you, providing they are not abusive, give them the courtesy of publishing their comment. Blogs that have a stream of “Wow, great post!” comments are sadder than a basket of lame puppies.
  • Keep relevant. If you’re disagreeing with someone’s take on breastfeeding, then going off on a tangent and insulting their teeth just looks silly
  • Support other bloggers who express opinions. Even if you don’t agree, a quick “great debate” or “really interesting argument” can go a long way to creating a vibrant, interesting community where debate is supported and encouraged
  • By all means be passionate, but don’t disagree with people when you’re drunk, emotional or hormonal. It will only ever end badly.
  • Be sincere. There are a small minority of internet users who pretend to feel strongly on an issue simply to stir up heated debate and ill feeling. They’re called trolls and being a troll makes your hair fall out. Well, this isn’t strictly true, but it should be.

What do you think?  How do you handle it when someone disagrees with you?  Can it be a positive experience? Or do you disagree with me completely?

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