Pieces of Me

Words always matter

aj_sdc_200“You are one brave girl.”

One day into publishing my first blog post this certainly was not the message I was expecting from one of my friends. Congratulations sure, brave – well she left me a little shocked and wondering why I was being brave.

“The online world is nasty, get ready for the backlash.”

Backlash? Even more shocked and taken aback I wondered what I could possibly write that would evoke a backlash.

In the three years of my blog being online there has been very little backlash. Constructive conversations yes, but no backlash. And I am grateful.


Yet my words have trickled into the online freelance space and well I’m not sure if it has been backlash that I have received, but it certainly has not been constructive conversation. Being told that I am raising murderers, I am raising disrespectful boys, I contradict myself and that I need to step back and take a good hard look at my parenting – all have come my way.

I have a fairly thick skin and quickly read the emails or the comments and move on. I respect that these comments are more about the person writing them than they are about me.

Yet, online backlash is very real to some and the situations so severe that even a thick skin cannot protect you from the negativity. It is these situations that often make we wonder – where do we draw the line?

Our sense of entitlement these days seems to override our sense of respect. And while I respect our right to disagree and promote healthy conversation, when our words are hurtful and do nothing to promote healthy conversation I have to ask – should these words be said at all?

Our online space seems to be dominated with negativity, more so than anything else. We contribute to a running dialogue of mothers against mothers, friends against friends and ego against ego. Once upon a time our life choices were simply that – our life choices. Now our choices are a gauntlet for taking down the choices of others.


Only last week I read about a mother who was berated and attacked over cupcakes. Cupcakes she baked for her little girl to take to kindergarten. Delicious, fluffy, oh so yummy cupcakes – we really have lost our sense of reality if cupcakes are poisoning us against each other.

It seems that this online negativity hides behind the cloak and dagger of exactly that – being online. It is just a comment on social media – get over it – it doesn’t matter.

But it does matter, especially to the person on the receiving end of those words. Words always matter. Whether they are spoken or they are written down. I even believe that words we say in the quiet of our hearts matter.

I wonder if we were to take some of these mudslinging attacks from the online space and have the same conversation in real life, face to face, would they play out in the same way. Would we even have some of these conversations at all?

If the avalanche of negativity continues online will we see ourselves heading towards a future where liability and compensation are something that are battled over in a legal arena – simply because of something someone said online. Where will we draw the line?

Do our online words matter?
Have you experienced online negativity?
Is our right to an opinion more important than anything else?


Disclosure: This post was written in collaboration with Firths The Compensation Lawyers. Their team of lawyers are compensation specialists and have recovered over $1 billion in compensation for tens of thousands of Australians. All opinions expressed are my own.

  • You always know how to put the right words to what I think about in my head, but they always come out more gracefully Josefa. I am surprised that you have received such awful comments on your freelance work, but then I’m not surprised because the negativity online has increased so much in recent years. I’m sure it never used to be like that. I definitely think the negativity is rooted to pride is some shape or form.
    Keep writing from your heart. You have a fantastic flare for writing words. And thank you for sharing my post. xx

  • I am with you Josefa. The attitude and apparent lack of a conscience online floors me. I am teaching my kids that you don’t text, email or comment/post anything that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face. The written word requires as much (if not more) respect than the spoken word as unlike the spoken word it doesn’t just disappear into thin air. It sticks around for a very very very long time.

  • LydiaCLee

    Yes our online words matter. I’m amazed at what some people do for sport. There have also been cases where people have been sued for pressing retweet or lost their jobs because they pressed like on FB. So in this Brave New World, we all need to take care….

  • I think a large part of the problem is that people tend to click through for shocking and negative headlines. So websites publish more of these because they know they bring traffic. And so it skews the tone of the internet in general and people start thinking it’s OK to attack. I wonder if it’s the case of getting the internet we unwittingly asked for? #TeamIBOT

  • Haidee

    Yep, been there on Facebook a million times. Mother’s groups are an incessant source of bitchiness and arguments and criticising others for their parenting choices. I have seen so much nastiness and as an admin of a couple of them, it’s not fun to be the one trying to bring back the peace. The more we interact online the worse the keyboard warriors seem to get, it’s a real shame people feel so safe up on their high horse behind their computer screens.

    Visiting from #IBOT 🙂

  • I’m still getting attacked for my lack of a thigh gap. I just choose to delete and move on.

  • Again, this very topic has been on my mind to write! I am like you – my blogging space does not induce negativity – but OUT THERE, I am shocked by the negativity and meanness of the world. There was a conversation on Sunday morning on RN about it you may be interested in. They compared the current online space to the village mobbers – yet in those days, the mobbers knew the person in the village – now it’s all behind closed doors, but it is on a much bigger scale. I worry about how this negativity affects the person writing the comment. A build up of such meanness is not good for a person, and rarely good for a situation. I value well-considered opinions, but comments like those you’ve received are definitely not considered or constructive. Where to from here?

  • Oh my Gosh! I am shocked to hear some of the comments people have made about your freelance work! What type of person tells someone they don’t even know that they are raising murderers? As for Bec’s cupcake incident, it really is becoming quite scary and sad. So sad that there are people out there who can make these comments and troll and intentionally hurt others. And what for??? I fortunately have not had any backlash and I hope it stays that way. I definitely think that a large proportion of the ‘mudslinging’ that occurs online would not occur in real life. As Zanni says below, where to from here?

  • Natalie @ Our Parallel Connect

    I read that last week too Josefa and was completely shocked. I was told as s child – if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. I believe is constructive criticism but those comments out of order. My kids eat meat, am I a bad mother? My kids have take away once a week… Am I a bad mother? Online words are important but back yourself up …

  • I have just read that story today Josefa as we were away last week – horrible and shocking. I’m so sorry you’ve received such nasty comments too. I wrote a post for Mamma Mia – sharing a very personal letter I wrote to our daughter’s birthmother in China (we don’t know her identity so it was a heart and soul exercise). I got slammed by several really nasty anti-adoption comments and I’ve never gone down the Mamamia path again. I do wonder whether we’ll all end up withdrawing into our shells again if the negativity keeps up.

  • I completely agree. I was reading an article on Apartment Therapy this morning, where there was essentially abuse hurled at the writer because the reader thought her opening line was crap. The comments went on and on and on, and it was so ridiculous and unnecessary and embarrassing and abusive. The article was about being a homebody…how does that trigger such anger in a reader??

  • This horrid behaviour is the very reason I don’t want my blog to get too big, or to delve into that freelance writing world. I don’t think my skin is thick enough. For some things yes (obviously absurd statements like you are raising murderers), but for other things, I’m not sure I would cope.
    Would be nice if ‘if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all’ was still practiced.

    • Hugzilla

      It’s one of the reasons I am happy for my blog to stay small as well.

  • That is the big question, would those people still same the same negative things if they were face to face with real people?

  • It’s not respectful or constructive, just downright mean! I’m always shocked when I read about these comments that are thrown about,thoughtlessly, and absolutely believe that YES, they do hurt.
    I think that maybe some of these comments are written out of boredom, and just to get some sort of attention. I truly hope that they’re not real feelings.
    I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with such awful comments, Josefa xx

  • This is one thing I really struggle with in the online… how freely people fling words around with little respect for the weapons they can be. Words matter. Words definitely matter xx

  • Hugzilla

    YES. YES. YES. So beautifully said. I struggle with the bile, vitriol and unnecessary aggression that is rampant on the internet. It’s toxic, and I really do wonder what the long term impact would be. I just don’t understand why people can’t have a respectful or even spirited difference of opinion without going on the attack, and often over the most trivial issues. I just can’t fathom it. Do people really carry so much anger around with them? Surely it’s harming them.

  • This is a really interesting read, Josefa. Despite writing for pubs all over the internet and being quite forthright on my own blog, I have never, not once, encountered once single ounce of negativity. I have no idea why that is, but I am very grateful! I don’t know why people feel the need to be so hurtful and negative. It is something I never wish to understand. x

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