Why You Shouldn't Delete Your Blog Posts and Comments

25 days ago

I recently noticed something on self-hosted Wordpress blogs: unlike Blogger where the comment-leaver can delete their comment after posting, on self-hosted Wordpress blogs, the only person who can do the deleting is the owner of the blog. This fact to me speaks volumes about the division that exists in the online world about deleting -- who can delete (which is really about who owns the words) and should we delete in the case of blog posts or comments that we regret?

Deleting, of course, does not always mean that the words or images disappear. In the case of the recent Girl Scout cookie boycott video that went viral, the maker of the video made her manifesto private, but people had already downloaded the YouTube video and were now uploading it on their feed in order to keep it accessible.

Similarly, Dave Dorman deleted his post about finding offense with an image of a breastfeeding woman in a comic book titled: "Why Dave Dorman Finds New Image Comic ‘SAGA’ Offensive." Again, when he decided to delete, it was after the backlash, when people had quoted from his post, therefore most of the words still remain online.

Recently, author Julie Halpern wrote a blog post about someone who wrote a negative review of her book, but then deleted her post titled "Google Trash." This post was cached by Google and is therefore still readable. CuddleBuggery points out this drama in a roundup of a lot of drama that kicked off the new year, noting that the problem wasn't just the original post but the two additional posts she wrote further blaming reviewers before deleting all three posts.

Of course, there is the well-known example of Scott Adams -- of Dilbert fame -- who deleted a rant last March, but again, it lived on in the blogosphere and once he realized it wasn't going away, fanned the flames for a bit. He insisted that despite deleting the original post (which he then proceeded to re-publish),

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I was enjoying all of the negative attention on Twitter and wondered how I could keep it going. So I left some comments on several Feminist blogs, mostly questioning the reading comprehension of people who believed I had insulted them. That kept things frothy for about a day. Now things are starting to settle down. It's time for some DMD.

And those are just a handful of blog posts and YouTube videos. That doesn't even scratch the surface of the times I click over to read something from my Google Reader and find the blog post is gone. Or the times when people are responding to a comment in the comment section of a blog, and suddenly the original comment disappears.

Some people -- myself included -- believe strongly in deleting certain types of negative comments in the same way that if someone took a crap on my living room floor, I would clean it up rather than leaving it there for authenticity. While I don't delete people who disagree with me, I do delete hate speech and hurtful comments that are not meant to further a discussion but instead are meant to harm another person emotionally. An example would be the time when I was writing about my sadness over someone who miscarried, and the comment expressed glee that the person had lost their pregnancy. On the other hand, if I don't believe the comment will emotionally harm another person beyond pissing them off, I'll leave it in place.

On the other hand, with the exception of deleting a comment and reposting it again immediately without a type-o, I don't believe in deleting comments I write. Even when I'm slammed by others in the comment section for my point-of-view. Knowing that I don't delete makes me think twice before typing, and there have been plenty of times that I've walked away from leaving a comment if I don't think I can write it well or own my words in the future.

But I feel differently about deleting posts that I regret, and I feel cheated when other people delete their posts once they are asked to own up to their words. Once you set your ideas out there and someone reads it, it becomes part of their story as well. Every reaction to an original blog post or video is just as valid and important as the original piece. And in that case, removing the original words becomes akin to stealing something away from your readers who were affected by your words.

It's better to own your words and express regret for posting them. To explain your ideas further or even admit that the reaction of readers got you to change your mind. There is nothing wrong with stating that your viewpoint has changed. In fact, in addition to a new blog post, you can update the original post with a note at the beginning to explain how your viewpoint has changed over time.

Deleting reflects on a person's integrity. Just as we can't take back words we say once they're out of our mouths, we shouldn't edit our online words. People make mistakes. People say things they regret upon reflection. But there is a big difference between crossing your fingers and muttering, "I didn't say that!" with a delete, and owning your words and the damage they caused.

Of course, the simple answer is to also be circumspect with what you post on the Web. If you don't want it connected to your name, don't post it at all.

Do you delete blog posts you regret? Do you get upset when other people delete their posts?

Photo Credit: Delete Button via Shutterstock.

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.

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