I did an interview a little while back on the subject of blogging. With tedious inevitability the question arose “how do you deal with the haters? The trolls? The negative comments?” Simple. I don’t read the comments.
I never read the comments. Good or bad. (Unless they come directly at me, by email or Twitter, but that’s another story)
Why would I care what other people think? I don’t do this blog because I have an insatiable need for the insight of the common man, because I have some craven need for the approval of strangers. I do it because I enjoy writing it - there doesn’t need to be any end game beyond that.
I hate that the comments section exists and I hate even more how insidiously pervasive it is. Back in the glory days of the internet that’s what the forum was for. If you were sufficiently driven to share your opinions on…whatever you could track down the forum for whatever media you were passionate about, register an account and post your fanboy yaoi fiction to people who shared your vigour for being heard. That was the alpha and the omega on it, people didn’t have to be exposed to your stupid opinions.
Now, in the gormless grab for the public’s very limited attention span there’s a comment section at the end of every page. Comment here, be the first to comment, tell us what you think - as if that’s actually relevant. Even television shows, even the goddamn news, now has a Twitter crawl where you can send some grammatically challenged, ill-thought, 140-character bon mot with the appropriate hashtag.
It is killing media. All media.
Who cares what the masses think? They’re the masses - they don’t think. If they had a thought that was compelling enough to actually register then they would take the action to generate an article themselves
When was the last time you read a comment that actually added to the article it was in response to? When was the last comment that was a trenchant insight to the human condition, a quip of such salient insight that you just had to step back and sow “wow- thank you for contributing”? Never I venture. Comments sections are the fetid cesspool of humanity where the dregs gather to hurl poorly spelt, syntactically-challenged, proto-sentences at each other.
No, the comments - with the sacred anonymity of the internet - are where humanity can show it’s true face. Where people are free to be who they really are - stupid and mean. It’s a concept that’s been known to psychologists and artists for centuries. Deindividuation.
As Oscar Wilde (a man who DID know his way around a well placed bon mot) quipped:
“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth”
I won’t go into the specifics of deindividuation here because the incomparable Dave McRaney, a man whose work changed my life, summed it up so absolutely perfectly in his essential reading “You Are Not So Smart”. Suffice to say that having an opportunity to say whatever you want with no ramifications, reprisal or account does not lead to a better quality of discourse.
I wish comments did not exist. I wish they were not the number one fad item of the internet. I wish that I didn’t have to see them. Because no matter how much I try and avoid the comments, not just of my own work but in general, some of them always slip through. Your eyes slip, you’re not as vigilant at closing the window as perhaps you should be and there it is. A comment, straight to the face.
And you read it. And you read it again, because you didn’t quite get it the first time. The spelling is horrible, there is no concept of grammar and punctuation and the word they’ve used does not mean what they think it does.
And you read this and a little part of you dies on the inside. You lose a little bit more hope for humanity. You realise that this person is not an outlier or a statistical anomaly. They are the common man. They represent, better than anything else, what people actually are. And it makes you want to run yourself a warm bath, drink a fine scotch and then open a couple of veins.
You’re free to comment on this article, it’s part and parcel of the whole Tumblr medium I’m working with, but ask yourself “do I really want to?”.