Blogging and writing, Mental health

Do Your Blog Posts Say What You Think They Do?

Do your blog posts say what you think they so? Image of a large question mark

Do you ever read the comments on your posts and think that the commenter has taken a different message from the post than what you intended to convey?

This is something that’s fascinated me for some time now.  I’m not talking about the odd person misinterpreting here and there, which is bound to happen.  I’m thinking more along the lines of multiple readers understanding a post in a way that doesn’t match what you were trying to write.  At that point I don’t see it as misinterpretation; there’s something deeper going on.

One thing that I’ve noticed across multiple posts and multiple commenters is that people are concerned I’m being hard on myself.  I find this so interesting because that’s just not something I tend to do.  I’m very clear on what’s me and what’s illness, and while I can get frustrated with having to deal with the effects of my depression, I don’t judge, blame, or criticize myself for them.  I don’t have a strong self-critic, and most of the time I don’t have a lot of the negative cognitions that are common in depression.  Also, I take the view that it’s far better to aim low and be pleasantly surprised than to aim high and be disappointed.

So, I don’t feel like I’m being hard on myself, and I don’t think it’s something I’m in denial about, either.  Yet it’s something that people take away from my posts on a fairly regular basis.  That makes me wonder – where is this disconnect coming from?

There are probably many reasons why this might happen, not just in this particular instance, but in general.  A few that I can think of are:

  • The writer is implying something without realizing it
  • Something is written ambiguously
  • There is a lack of detail in the writing, leaving the reader to try to fill in the lines
  • The reader is reading what they expect to read rather than what’s actually there; for example, assuming the writer would be reacting to something in a common way, or in a way that’s typical for their situation (or their mental illness)
  • The reader is extrapolating based on what they already know about the writer
  • The reader may be thinking about how they would feel/react in the situation being described in the post

When it comes to the question of whether I’m hard on myself, I think there are a few different factors that come into play.  One is that when I write about the negative effects of my illness, I may not make it clear enough that I fully attribute those effects to the illness rather than some sort of personal failing.  It’s also common for people with depression, or mental illness in general, or even perhaps people across the board, to be self-critical and hard on themselves, so readers may be expecting it, and as a writer, I haven’t countered that expectation.  I think there’s also the fact that people are trying to be supportive, and perhaps reading between the lines to think of things I might need support with.

Another example is a post I did recently on feeling disconnected from blogging.  I didn’t say anything about doubting the quality of my blog, because it wasn’t something that was even an issue for me, but a lot of people’s comments showed that they got that message from my post.  I know a lot of people do go through phases of questioning whether their blog is good enough, and I think, at least to some extent, people read into my post that common experience that they would have expected.  I haven’t gone back and looked, but I would say that at least half of the people who commented took away that message that wasn’t intended to be there, at least from my perspective as the writer.

I also wonder, if I had somehow written it differently, whether that same message would still have been received.  Then again, it’s not necessarily easy to anticipate that people will see something in a post that isn’t even on your own radar as a writer.

I’m not saying any of this intending to criticize readers at all.  Once something is published it goes out of the writer’s hands and into the world, to be interpreted as people will.  What really fascinates me is what happens in that space between writer and reader, and how and why it happens.  For the most part, I don’t think it’s just one simple thing; probably it’s a more windy, complex path.

Have you ever noticed a disconnect between what you intended to say the message that people seem to have taken away from it?

66 thoughts on “Do Your Blog Posts Say What You Think They Do?”

  1. It happens all the time (site under migration) but I quite enjoy seeing the different perspectives, I re-read what I’ve written from their angle and it sheds new light on things overlooked. That’s the beauty of writing, it can speak to people in different ways. I think anyway!?!

      1. Even the most direct writing can be taken differently depending upon mood, where we are upon reading it, how we feel. Your post has fired up my thought process and I love that. Thank you!

  2. Ashley you have a talent with spotting things that everybody knows or thinks about but maybe can’t write a post about it.

    “What really fascinates me is what happens in that space between writer and reader, and how and why it happens.”

    This part right here, that SPACE is like a rabbit hole, where Alice in Wonderland goes, and you never know nor can know what will come through the other end of that rabbit hole because we are not Alice nor do we know which particular rabbit hole they’ve gone down, unless we know that person extremely well, which probably on here, is not going to happen.

    You have the ability to not be self critical too, and I envy that very much in you.

    Everyone sees things in a unique, way and adds a slightly different
    perspective .

     It would be so boring if we were all the same and thought the same.

      1. But would you want control over that?

        Just to say I felt about your post your referring to the other day that maybe you were feeling a bit meh about everything…and that feeling spilled over onto your blog which it would. But that’s only natural.

  3. This is a fascinating post!!!

    1 – I *did* actually have flashes of wondering whether you were being too hard on yourself, but they were brief, because the confidence and straightforwardness of your content stood out more strongly for me.

    2 – Worrying about being misinterpreted, or implying something without meaning to, or showing a part of myself without even being aware of it — these are all things I worry about when I post.

    3 – Your point about the space between writer and reader reminds me of something we learned in my translation classes, which is that we aren’t translating “the words” of the source text so much as we are translating “the meaning” of those words. And a lot of that meaning can be “unsaid.”

    1. That third point is something I find really interesting in terms of medical interpreting. It’s particularly important in mental health, i think, to be getting the meaning behind words rather than just the words themselves.

      1. Yes, absolutely. If you just translate the words, it’s possible to miss the point of the original message. It’s not the same thing as “overtranslating” or putting words into the author’s mouth — just trying to achieve the same effect on the target reader as the effect upon the original/source reader.

    2. And if someone does like your post, you think, what did they like? Are they liking it because they liked what I said or something resonated with them or what?

      This is where you just have to write and then let it go, and whatever happens from there…is not within our control…

      1. Likes are especially ambiguous. My approach is to just take them at face value and not try to read much into them, because there’s really nothing to go on.

        1. I agree, I just know I cannot do this blogging thing. I cannot be on facebook, twitter or anything because of the same thing.
          I am going to delete this blog.
          I should have never started it.
          🤦‍♀️

  4. Also to add…I do think I absorb, process, and think differently to many.

    I also interpret, and react differently to most too because of the way I am.
    This has its problems as I can take things very personally, and I do also tend to notice little changes which others would not see perhaps.

    Do not mind me just dropping by having a coffee in your blog cafe!

  5. We wonder if readers’ reading other comments influences their comments, too.

    Actually, we noticed this phenomenon, too, with your posts and comments. We noticed it with the specific post you are referencing.

    We’ve always thought people respond with how they see life and how they relate (which were two of the possibilities you’ve listed).

    We read the comments and thought, “Wow, we didn’t get that from Ashley’s post at all.” We actually felt less common humanity because we felt so differently about your post than how we perceived others’ comments. And, in fact, we have some “comment” anxiety when reading other comments on blogs

    We have learned that people comment from their experience and compassion and that while comments do not always hit what we, as writer, expect, comments are like gifts and treasures

    1. I agree, comments are wonderful, and I think the vast majority of the time people have positive intentions. I guess it just shows the diversity of human experience that people find different bits and pieces that stand out for them, giving a whole garden of different interpretations.

  6. I think I understand most of your posts in that you are stepping back and viewing yourself objectively, which is not the same as being hard on yourself. I’ve never thought you were! I have felt sad when you seemed to be meh about blogging, since I love your blog (and your comments on my posts). I always am hoping you’ll stick around 🙂

    On the other hand, I used to be misunderstood, mostly when I wrote about dating/relationships. I consider this to be my fault, since it happened repeatedly on the one topic yet not on others. I think I was a bit scared too say too much and thus was vague and maybe confusing. I’d get so irritated when people would comment on the “wrong” things! Or give advice I hadn’t asked for! It was so frustrating. I finally began deleting those posts and stopped making new ones. Now, I’ll just post dating type “stories” instead. I’m rarely misunderstood these days 🙂

    1. I’m guessing dating/relationships is one of those areas where people are more likely to read and interpret through the lens of their own experience.

      And thank you! 😊. I’m not going anywhere. Luckily the meh phase was pretty short-lived.

  7. Oh yes for certainty, but I worry about it more with my fiction writing than with my blogging. With my blogging, I tend to be inconsistent with my moods and experiences, so people are going to think I’m just downright weird (which I probably am). But with fiction writing, this is why it’s so important to have beta readers. They can say, “Were you going for humor here? Because it fell flat,” or “Your character’s reaction makes her seem younger than she is,” etc. etc. I’ve come to accept that I can’t write good stories/novels without help! (And I’m not sure there’s anyone who can, or that that’s even a worthwhile goal.) Very interesting blog topic! I see what you mean, and I fall into the trap of accusing you of being hard on yourself, but I’ve come to see objectively that you aren’t being hard on yourself. Oopsie!! Looking at your list of possible ways to misinterpret someone’s blog post, I have to say, you have a very logical brain! (I didn’t misinterpret that, did I?) 😛

      1. It’s a fun concept, and even published authors are starting to thank and reference them in published books!! YAY for beta readers near and far!!

  8. Totally relatable and honestly it’s something we can never run away from. That’s the art of communication. Misinterpretations are bound to occur and the best we can do is try to minimise them

  9. Thanks for sharing this post. I had not thought about the miscommunication in the context of blogging. But I do know in the workplace and elsewhere there can be miscommunication in social media and the like. I guess it’s the idea of tone that doesn’t always come across the way it was intended.

  10. Transference maybe.
    How readers interpret things depends on where they ‘sit’ and how their own experiences affect their perspective. If, as a reader, someone has doubts about their own writing or is self critical, they will naturally attach that to their interpretation of what you have written. The written word is an interesting phenomenon.

  11. Really interesting topic! From my own life, I think people misinterpret something I’ve said if it’s something they don’t want to hear. Their brain converts my words into something they would prefer to hear. I wonder if the same happens in reverse.

  12. OH YES. There have been a couple of people who took offense to everything I wrote and would always try to start a fight with me in my comments. Luckily they moved on a long time ago, it actually stressed me out quite a bit. I don’t know why… I used to be a huge internet troll and enjoyed pissing people off on social media but as I get older I try to avoid it as much as possible as it gives me anxiety to have people argue with me online. Maybe because I realize how futile it is and no matter what I say nobody will listen to me.

    1. Trolling seems like seems like something that never actually wins anyone involved over to the other person’s side. One person might give up the fight, but everyone’s still walking away thinking the same way they thought before.

  13. Sometimes, when I read my posts back later, even after editing (which admittedly doesn’t always happen as closely as it should) I think “My God, I sound like an idiot…these people must think I’m a moron.” So when there’s a disconnect, I usually just attribute to what I was trying to say in my head not coming out exactly as I meant on the screen.

  14. Interesting! I guess you immediately ‘know’ when there is a bias from the readers part. I know that I notice. The more interesting thing would be if someone would catch a message that you weren’t even aware of (as a writer). Sometimes I have those moments, from comments or when I re-read or re-think my posts.
    When you look at it, it can be plain and simple a misunderstanding but I guess it is also something to learn from. I mean, there is no point in arguing about what the post said to whom.

  15. Definitely!!! I often write some positive, in my mind, themed post that’s misunderstood. Whenever I write anything about recovery people often reply as though I said something about today even though I think I’m clear about what is present.
    I’m glad to know it’s not just me…
    I think it’s both. Sometimes it implies something else, and I like your thought that people read what they expect.
    Love, light and glitter

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