I Censored Myself

So this morning, I wrote a blog post.
I wasn’t sure if I should post the entire thing.  It talked about Stillwater specifically and people who post anonymously on blogs and articles.  I know better than to engage online with people who post anonymously on articles.  I didn’t want to open myself up to any drama.  But it felt good to write it.
I wrote it and before I posted it, sent it on to a few of my downtown business friends to see what they thought.  Was it too much, should I name names?  Would it be best to just let it be?
Well, I didn’t hear back from them soon enough so I censored those parts and posted it like this.
As the day went on today, my friends responded that they loved the original post as it was and that I should tell it like it is.
When I censored myself earlier in the day, I did exactly what people do when they choose not to engage.  People don’t engage in things for fear of confrontation.  They don’t volunteer for the Parking Commission because they don’t want residents to yell at them when it costs $5 to park.  They don’t volunteer to coach a little league team because they don’t want a parent to yell at them for not playing their kid on 1st base.  They don’t want to say their peace on a blog because they don’t want to open themselves up to be yelled at in comments.
I guess I’ll post this and let the chips fall where they may.
So…here is the original post.  Complete.

I think this is so great.
Lake Elmo, a neighboring town, is taking a stand and taking initiative to try to change how we talk to each other.  They know that they can’t stop disagreements, but they are going to try to “Improve the level of civility in public discourse”.  How great is that?
They say many things on the website that I loved, but this line stood out.
“Civility is about advocating for your beliefs without degrading someone else in the process.”
In addition to changing how we talk to each other, they want to encourage civic engagement.  What city wouldn’t want their citizens to be engaged and plugged in?
It’s hard to open yourself up to be engaged.  I get it.  That’s why it’s always the same people volunteering…for everything.
I’m sure you see it in your town too.  The same people offer to help out at church, with t-ball, with school stuff and with city stuff.  Those volunteers aren’t any less busy than other people, they just put themselves out there.
It’s also hard to put yourself out there these days.  Our every action is scrutinized and commented on through Facebook, in blogs and articles.  People can be vicious and anonymous.  I blogged about it earlier this year.
There is one certain person on line who has a negative comment on everything that happens in Stillwater.  We’ll call him “Randy Marsh”.  It’s not his real name anyway.  He can be brutal.  He seems to be, on the surface, plugged in to what’s going on around town, but no one knows who this guy is.  I tried to find him online, to maybe have a private conversation. But he doesn’t seem to exist outside of the television show South Park and article comments.  So this guy is choosing to comment anonymously.  Why?  What good is he doing?  He certainly isn’t “improving the level of civility in public discourse”.  If I didn’t know better, I would think he is just a bully.   Wonder if he takes the time to volunteer for anything to improve the city or if he just simply wants to complain?
If you want to see for yourselves, the level to which our civility has fallen, check out the comment sections on our Stillwater Patch site, or any public news online source really.  There are almost all anonymous.  It’s too bad.  The Patch is doing a good service for our community and the comments posted on news articles just turn nasty.  Often. 
When I opened the yarn store in 2009 I had NO IDEA that the issue that would give me the most anxiety would be dealing with that kind of stuff.  Dealing with other businesses, owners, politicians and organizations can be hard. 
Stress brings out the worst in people too.  The last 5-7 years have been difficult for all businesses and certainly small business in Stillwater is no different.  Like other parts of our economy, retail and restaurant businesses were hit hard with the recession. 
Small business is tricky.  You might think someone who owns their own business must have a lot of money.  But let me tell you, that is almost never the case.   Owners have leveraged their homes and other assets against loans for the business.  Owners don’t often take paychecks.  Heck it took me 3 years to take a regular paycheck:)  I’m not telling you this to make you feel bad for small business owners, most of them I know love what they do.    I certainly don’t regret for one second opening my store.  I am just mentioning it because when you are backed into a corner, and you are fighting for your financial life, things can get mean. 
Things are looking up though.  We have been working for years to make changes downtown.  Change is slow.  We have a group of engaged, involved businesses, and residents, downtown and up the hill.   We have committees and volunteers that are sacrificing time to try to change things.  The city is doing their part, working to get downtown cleaned up and they are listening.
Good luck Lake Elmo!  I don’t live or work in Lake Elmo, but I will take the pledge!  I will Speak the Peace.   I hope more people will engage in their communities,  pay attention to how they interact with each other and how they speak to each other.   It can’t possibly hurt right?
So, go forth and volunteer for something for goodness sake!
If you are looking for something to volunteer for tomorrow (Thursday, May 23rd) come plant flowers in the pots on Main Street with the Mainstreet Stillwater Independent Business Alliance (IBA).  We’ll be doing our annual Spring planting.  We’ll be meeting in front of Darn Knit Anyway at 8:30am!  Bring your gloves!

This was my complete post.  I am not anonymous.
Can’t wait to read your comments:)


9 Responses to “I Censored Myself”

  1. Margaret Thomas says:

    Bravo, Aimee. Bravo for your honesty, bravo for calling it like it is. Anonymous commenting, especially the sort mentioned here, is akin to bullying — it is rooted in cowardice and rumors.

    It takes a lot more heart to put yourself out there, honestly, for the community. Commitment is rolling up your sleeves and being willing to ask questions / seek answers side-by-side, in the open. People aren’t always going to agree, but we can approach tough issues from a place of respect and vested interest in reaching for better outcomes.

  2. Meagan Frank says:

    I commend you for speaking your own peace and for putting yourself out there. We must all be intentional about making a difference, and that means we need to shed our anonymity and break our silence. (in a loving way no doubt!) I like your directive to make an effort in the spaces we occupy and I feel challenged to do just that.

    Thanks for sharing…and thanks to Mags for posting on FB 🙂

  3. Kate Cruse says:

    Proud to know you & support what you’re doing. So not anonymous!

  4. 🙂 Glad you went with your original thoughts – always love to read what you write. Sometimes it makes me laugh, sometimes it brings tears to my eyes, but it always makes me think. Absolutely believe that civil discourse & respecting others opinions is how we learn from each other. See you tomorrow with gardening gloves on….

  5. Carla Semple says:

    Way to go Aimee! Proud to know you! You are a good person ;-). You are right, it’s always the people that never take a chance on anything that do all the bitching. Keep putting yourself out there, I’ll always be there to stand beside you!

  6. Meg Brownson says:

    Thanks Aimee for blogging about what MANY of us feel! It’s frustrating to have the anonymous postings that spew misinformation and make nasty road rage comments that I am sure these folks would never say out loud in person. It’s the seedy underbelly of the internet! Love you! 🙂

  7. Shawn Hogendorf says:

    Well said, Aimee.
    For the record, I’m not a fan of anonymous commenting, my name is on everything I write, but that said I do see the value in it when it is done respectfully.
    Comments on Stillwater Patch–I’m the editor, so I felt compelled to respond–do get out of hand from time to time, but it is important for me to note that often times those comment threads police themselves.
    If someone is consistently negative, it goes toward their credibility (anonymous or not), and people take what they read with a grain of salt, and often times move the conversation forward to represent many sides of any given topic.
    As you elude to in a previous post about the comments on Townie Tuesdays, I appreciate that you don’t think I’m a dummy, but let me be clear that I’m not fishing for negativity–ever. It’s simply not who I am as a person.
    The way I see what I am doing is the equivalent to “hosting a party.”
    I don’t want to feed the guy (or gal) who is going to insult my guests, but I also don’t want to kick someone out for expressing their opinion. That’s a tough line to draw sometimes, and yes, there are jerks everywhere, but to get the party started, an open-ended question needs to be asked.
    As an online journalist, I want to know what others think, and there’s really no other way to get people engaged in discussion other than asking the question.
    “If you want to see for yourselves, the level to which our civility has fallen, check out the comment sections on our Stillwater Patch site.”
    Fair enough, but I would like to point out there are also many positive discussions on Stillwater Patch, and other blogs, that bring many more viewpoints to light than a traditional publication can procure.
    I agree with almost everything you say here, and I am more than willing to explain myself, and how I handle the comment thread on Stillwater Patch, if you or anyone reading this have questions, please post it here, or message me privately. My email is shawn.hogendorf@patch.com.
    My hope is that when people choose to comment online that it is thoughtful, moves the discussion forward and is respectful. If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, why write it for the public to see?
    In the days when a comment can be written from anywhere, my hope is that people take a deep breathe, consider their thoughts, put the phone or laptop down for a minute and then respond–rather than reacting with venom and emotion.
    I truly think as the Internet ages, people will see this, but it takes time.
    Anyway, great blog post. Cheers.

  8. admin says:

    Hi Shawn!

    Thanks for writing. Please know, I very much appreciate the Patch and what it and you do for our community. I think you are professional and do a great job of getting information to us.
    It’s just really a shame that the commenting is what it is. It isn’t your fault by any means. It just gets so out of hand. Not just on the Patch, but on all websites that allow commenting. I don’t believe that you or other editors should pick and choose which comments get posted. I am not criticizing Patch. I am criticizing the people commenting. Their comments would hold so much more weight if we knew who they were, what their frame of reference is…they might actually change minds. But staying anonymous does nothing.

    As for policing themselves:)
    This was a serious story about this sad event and the comments below it are just ridiculous.


    Thanks again Shawn, I’m just trying to make my own way in this crazy town:)

  9. Shawn Hogendorf says:

    Credibility goes a long way:)
    I agree, and totally respect your post.
    Thank you for writing it.

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