When I first started out blogging and was young and innocent, I avidly awaited my first comments. I desperately wanted to know somebody was actually reading what I had written. I was naïve enough to think that people would respond to what I was writing about and give me their opinions of the topic at hand.
For as long as I kept slogging away on my own at my personal site, the only comments I received were from friends I had pestered to read what I had written by sending them links via email to my articles. Beyond that I felt that I might as well be writing in a vacuum.
It wasn’t until I joined up with blog sites that I began to receive my first glimpse of real comments from people I didn’t know. The first site I went to, Blogger News.net provided room for onsite comments, but it meant going and checking the site on a regular basis, because it did not have an email notification system. It wasn’t until I began posting at Blogcritics.org that comments became more a part of my blogging experience.
The best part was that I could set up my account with Blogcritics so that my comments were sent to an email client of my choice. This was great; every day I could open my Yahoo account and see if anybody responded to my pearls of wisdom. Oh the anticipation each morning of opening my mail, and oh the disappointment of seeing a big “0″ besides new messages.
Of course I eventually started to receive comments, and I loved them all. From the ones that accused me of being a sinner and a traitor (since I’m not an American and always try to make that clear when I talk about issues affecting that country, I have to assume that by writing about the United States I am somehow betraying Canada) to the ones who agreed with me, they were all balm to my ego. Someone is reading what I write.
I couldn’t care less what anybody thought about me; at least they were reading what I wrote. To a neophyte writer sometimes that’s more important than anything else. I have an audience. Yippee.
My favourite comments have been the ones where people have written to say they had never really thought about a situation in the way I had described, and it was making them rethink their opinions. My next favourite are the people who disagree with me with comments that are intelligent enough that I have to rethink what I have said. I have even gone back and edited a post or two based on what somebody has said in a comment because it made more sense than my original idea.
After a while though I began to notice something that started to bother me; people were commenting on the subject without reading what I had written. Or they would latch on to one sentence and think that was the whole point of the article, and block out anything else that had been said.
It started to make me wonder about their reasons for posting a comment. If, as it appeared, they weren’t reading the whole article, were they just taking this opportunity to post their own opinion without having to write anything? Or was it because they were so desperate to discredit the idea that as long as they found one thing they could disagree with they were happy?
This was most irksome in instances where the situation wasn’t black and white, but the commentator insisted that there could only be two answers; his or the wrong one. Those comments are the most disturbing because to me it shows a complete indifference to the fact that there are a variety of ways to look at the world, and that it is possible for there to be more than one correct answer.
I’ve also noticed how people take pride in what they call hijacking a thread to their own agenda. Instead of talking about the topic under discussion they manage to get it switched over to something they want to talk about. If what they have to say is so important than they should write their own post about it, and try to show a little respect to the person who has written about something that was important to them.
I’ve noticed this happens to a lot of posts, friends take them over to use as personal message boards where they can talk about what ever they feel like. I have even read people boasting about this, like it’s some great accomplishment. It’s a sad thing when being rude and ignorant is considered an accomplishment.
I guess the only thing worse than that is when a comment thread turns into a personal insult match between two third-party commentators who had nothing to do with the original post. Sometimes they seem to be carrying on an argument that they had been having in a previous thread, and neither of them want to give the other the privilege of having the last word. They should just get a motel room and get it over with!
I guess the comments sections of places like Blogcritics and other similar sites epitomize both the best and worst features of the Internet. On one hand it is a venue for the free expression of ideas and opinions, on the other hand it is a venue for the free expression of ideas and opinions.
I’ve taken to doing what is the oldest form of censorship in the world; I just choose not to read the majority of comments generated by my articles any more. If it’s an address I’ve never seen before I’ll read it, or if it is one I recognise as being someone who has something insightful to say I’ll read it too, otherwise they don’t even get opened.
I find it sort of sad that in a few short months I’ve gone from anticipating with pleasure comments being sent to my e-mail’s inbox to my current thinking of them as almost equivalent to spam. But when there are upwards of 80 a day sometimes I just don’t see the point in wading through somebody else’s conversation that has nothing to do with me, or anything I have written.