One of the great things about blogging is being able to interact online with others. However, sometimes people will decide to persist in trying to interact with you even when it’s unwanted. That can involve assorted inappropriate, intrusive behaviours, so let’s chat about how to deal with that. This post isn’t going to touch on criminal-level stalking, but rather the lower-level inappropriate behaviour that many bloggers may come across at some point or another.
Reacting vs. ignoring
I’m generally a fan of not giving people the reaction they’re looking for, in the hopes that they’ll give up and move on along. This is probably most effective for the more casual, less targeted people, who will likely move on if they can’t get what they’re after. However, it may not serve as much of a deterrent for people who are more deliberate and have chosen for whatever reason to fixate on you as their target.
One tool in the toolbox is blacklisting someone from commenting. You do this by going to My Sites > Settings > Discussions, then scroll down to the box where it says disallowed comments. You can enter a person’s username, email address, or IP address.
There are a couple of ways to find a person’s email or IP address. One is to go to My Sites > Comments and find a comment they’ve left you, then click the user info button. Another way is to go to a post on your site where they’ve left a comment (do this on your actual site, not in the Reader). There will be an edit button next to their comment; click that and it will display their info.
If the person creates new email addresses, which is easy enough to do, you may have to blacklist those too. Watch out for comments from Gravatars you don’t recognize, especially if they don’t have a blog URL attached to them; you really never know who they might actually be.
Turning off or moderating comments
This might be worth considering if someone is repeatedly trying to get around your blacklist. In “My Sites”, go to “Settings”, then click the “Discussion” tab. Scroll down to “Before a comment appears.” You can then select “Comment must be manually approved.” The other option that’s listed is to moderate comments left by commenters that you haven’t already approved comments from.
Moderating might help if someone is leaving inappropriate comments that you really don’t want others to be able to see, but it won’t prevent you from being exposed to them. If the person at issue isn’t being outright nasty, moderating might not be of that much benefit to you.
Turning off comments entirely probably means a big change to your readers’ experience as well as your own, which may or may not be worth it. Going private with your blog might make for a better choice.
WordPress doesn’t let you block someone from liking your posts or liking comments on your posts. Given that someone has to be signed in to be able to like a post, this seem like something they should be able to implement if they were so inclined, but WP seems to be too busy trying to make things more complicated to have any time left for coming up with features users might actually like to see.
You can remove the like button altogether and/or remove the comment like option from your site by going to My Sites > Tools > Marketing, and then clicking on the Sharing Buttons tab. While this removes the like options from your site itself, people can still like posts and comments within the Reader, so it really doesn’t accomplish much. I haven’t come across any way to disable that for WordPress.com blogs.
Since it’s easier for post likes to get lost in the shuffle of notifications, I’ve noticed that people who are trying to get noticed will sometimes like comments, as that makes it more likely you’ll be stuck seeing their Gravatar in your notifications. Speaking of things it would be nice if WP allowed you to block… I really don’t care who reads my blog, but it would be nice to be able to manage who can show up in my notifications.
Removing a contact form
While a contact form may be a nice thing to offer readers, if someone’s misusing it, it may be worth taking down. It’s very easy for someone to create an email address and contact you pretending to be someone they’re not, so if you do leave the contact form up, it might be a good idea to be selective in responding to apparent strangers.
Restricting access to your blog
Switching your blog from public to private
Changing your blog from public to private allows you to control who has access to your site. However, if you do that, anyone you want to be able to continue seeing your site will have to added as a viewer individually.
Plugins may be able to help in some ways, although most people using WordPress.com don’t have access to plugins at all. On my plan, I can install plugins, but not ones that WP.com decides will interfere with their stuff, so some of the ones that looked potentially helpful I couldn’t try. I don’t think any of them can do anything about what happens in the WP Reader. It looks like you can probably stop certain IP addresses from being able to see your site, but I doubt it’s a very effective way of controlling access by specific people, since there are so many ways to change up IP addresses.
What happens on other people’s blogs
You can control, at least to some extent, what happens on your blog, but you can’t control what happens on other people’s blogs, and you can’t stop someone from being able to reply to your comments on other blogs.
Laying low for a while might help, but you never know when the person behaving inappropriately might find you on another blog and try to engage with you there. And unlike comments on your own blog, you can’t blacklist or check the email/IP associated with the comments to be able to add a block on your own site.
Unfortunately, you can’t stop someone’s poor behaviour choices, nor you can’t force them to have the boundaries that they lack. The right balance on restrictions to try to reduce their impact is probably going to depend on what’s most important for you to continue having as part of your blogging experience, such as the ability to interact with your community.
Have you ever been the target of inappropriate behaviour online? How have you dealt with it?