We writers live for comments, for feedback, for some sign that someone is reading and reacting to our work. Every time my phone “dings” to signal a new blog comment, my stomach turns in excitement. I can’t wait to read it!
But lately, I’ve been noticing a trend on blogs that is quite disheartening. I’m referring to the ridiculous, off-hand comments left by readers who clearly don’t care. You might expect absurd comments on sites like YouTube or Facebook, virtual dumping grounds for all things ludicrous. (Case in point: A comment on a video of an adorable baby laughing reads: We should nuke Mexico. I admit I laughed out loud at this one! The baby wasn’t even Mexican…)
On sites driven by more written content and less social entertainment, however, you might expect comments to be more closely related to the subject matter at hand. This may be true. But, the driving force appears to be the same—to annoy, judge, debate or flat-out offend. Although I haven’t experienced too many overtly negative comments on my blog, I imagine they will come as my blog grows. It seems to be the trend.
So I thought about this over the weekend as I flipped through blog after blog, comment after comment on my overheating iPhone. (Cable and Internet have been out since the Freaky Wind Storm of 2012 passed through on Friday.) Proponents of healthy criticism aside, I find that critics fall into one of six categories.
(1) The Theologian. This person reads each article in sections, intermittently flipping through a hardcopy of Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance to check and double-check each Bible verse or reference. His/her comments come across as corrective and full of the elusive wisdom that comes only from four or more years at an accredited seminary or a lifetime at a monastery or convent. The Theologian’s comments might include: That’s not what John 3:16 actually means; You might consider reading the entire book of Exodus to gain some context; or It’s quite obvious that 1 Thessalonians 4 does not actually support a pretribulational rapture.
(2) The Debate Team Captain. Before reading any article, this person puts on a pair of boxing gloves and a pair of shiny Everlast shorts. A fighter by nature, he/she sets out to “start something” just for the sake of starting something. His/her comments come across as combative and tough, sometimes hostile. The Debate Team Captain’s comments might include: What degree do you have that qualifies you to talk about the causes of autism?; If democrats want so many civil and social freedoms, why can’t they afford the same to the babies they’re aborting?; or If polygamy is wrong, explain Jesus’ words in Matthew 5.
(3) The Propagandist. This person does not trust any authors, no matter the extent of their expertise, life experience, or mastery of the subject matter. His/her comments come across as accusatory and critical, sometimes offering enlightenment to another—often secret—point of view. The Propagandist’s comments might include: You clearly support the U.S. government’s involvement in the 9/11 terrorist attacks; The church is all about love, except for that whole hating homosexuals part; or You know your tithing is funding your pastor’s BMW lease, right?
(4) The Defense Attorney. Armed with a briefcase in hand and the District Attorney’s number on speed dial, this person is keen to the flaws of the author’s case against him/her, and is ready to present a closing argument to the jury. His/her comments come across as self-protective and vigilant. The Defense Attorney’s comments might include: Why do you hate men? Clearly you’re a feminist; Show me in the Bible where it says I can’t live with my boyfriend before marriage; or “Judge not lest ye be judged” (Matthew 7:1).
(5) The Self-Promoter. This person is on a mission to market, promote and sell a product, book, blog or website, often without regard for any correlation with the article at hand. His/her comments come across as self-righteous sales pitches, otherwise known as spam. The Self-Promoter’s comments might include: If you support this article, you should volunteer for your local Republican party; Great article! My book talks about the same topic; or worse, just a copy/paste of a hyperlink to their website.
(6) The Apathetic Reader. The most annoying of all commenter types, this person cannot be bothered to read or comment because their time is so important and in demand, however they continue to read and comment with reckless abandon. His/her comments come across as random, haphazard and seething with frustration. The Apathetic Reader’s comments might include: Well, I’ll never get that ten minutes of my life back; This article is so pointless; or simply, Who cares?
No matter which of these commenter types you encounter, the spirit behind their comments remains the same: it’s all about them.
As a writer, I cannot convey how irritating and discouraging it is to receive these types of comments. And FYI, it’s also really annoying! Writers of published content (at least most of them) put a lot of work into their pieces. By commenting without thought to an article’s content or to the spirit behind an article, the commenter disregards the author completely.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not letting writers off the hook. We should not be able to write without pushback, healthy criticism and debate. We’re not writing for the Soviet newspaper Pravda and we’re not employed by North Korean dictators. I find the greatest part of writing is to learn how it affects others and to hear about their own experiences, whether similar or different.
All I’m hoping for is a little mutual respect. A little forethought before banging out a comment on your keyboard. A little consideration before spouting out words that will forever be catalogued on the Internet. Because with the current state of the online community, just a little could go a long way.
Writers and readers, have you encountered any of these types of commenters in your travels across the blogosphere? What do you think?