Periplaneta americana, Face, MD, Prince Georges county_2014-02-27-15.31.28 ZS PMax
Creative Commons License photo credit: Sam Droege

When members of your community defend you, it’s a great feeling. You could run a forum and a member defends your moderation efforts. You could host a show on YouTube and a subscriber defends you against a personal attack. You could be a major brand and, during a crisis, you have overwhelming support through your Facebook page.

Whatever it is, it feels good.

However, when this happens to me, after that initial wave of gratitude, I often feel something else. It makes me uncomfortable. Because, quite often, the person that they are defending me against is not worth speaking to. They aren’t good people and they aren’t commenting in good faith. They just want to cause harm.

While my members are not my friends, in the strictest sense of that word (the “I visit them and their family in person” sense), I try to treat them similar to how I would treat a friend. If I saw a friend defending me to some random idiot, I’d thank them and encourage them not to spend too much of their time on it. I do that because I care about them.

One thing I never want is for a well-meaning member of my community to get into some non-stop internet fight and watch them and the other person tear each other apart. I don’t care if it means more YouTube views, ad impressions and revenue – that’s no good. One of the reasons it’s no good is because I care about the one person and don’t want them to waste their time on someone that’s not worth it.

“You wanted to walk around these roaches,” Diddy says at the start of Rick Ross’ song, “Nobody” (explicit). He’s chastising someone for who they chose to associate with. The past tense implies that they have found trouble because of the people they wanted to be around – the “roaches.” He’s trying to push them to greater things.

That’s not to say that anytime someone defends you, it is a waste of their time or it is not worth it. There are situations where it can be important and meaningful, when there is something at stake. It can be a delicate line between that and an argument with someone who doesn’t care, doesn’t really matter and has nothing to lose by causing trouble or pain. But when you see it, you’ll know.

To look at it in a different way: you wouldn’t send a friend into a bad neighborhood and say “have at it!” You would give them directions to navigate around it.