On the State of Comments on the Internet

Feb 12

But we don’t stop [at simply being disappointed]…we need to express it. Vent it. Hiss it and spit it and hurl it like fistfuls of mental manure at the great wall of hey, screw you.

You have but to take a peek in the comments section below…any column, any article on this or any news site whatsoever, to see just how mean and nasty we have become. It does not matter what the piece might be about. Obama’s speech. High speed rail. Popular dog breeds. Your grandmother’s cookies. [It] will be so crammed with bile and bickering, accusation and pule, hatred and sneer you can’t help but feel violently disappointed by the shocking lack of basic human kindness and respect, much less a sense of positivism or perspective.
—Mark Morford, Why are you so terribly disappointing?

Morford doesn’t come to any grand conclusions or offer any fixes here, but that’s one heck of a apt, well-written critique of the general state of additional commentary online. The internet has at once connected much of the world, and unearthed our latent desire to vomit all our personal opinions and loathing at anyone, or at no one.

I hate the internet. I love the internet. My name is Joshua, and I’ve just started to ignore 95% of comments on 95% of websites.

9 Comments

  1. Lame.

  2. Just kidding.

    But seriously, the reason I continue to allow comments on my blog — despite the potential for negativity and spam — is because of my readership. I trust them to provide relevant and helpful commentary. For the most part, I’m not worried about the masses of people who would read a public newspaper site.

  3. See also: everything’s amazing, nobody’s happy.

    I continue to allow comments on my recreational blog (Properly Calibrated) because my readership is mostly comprised of folks that know me. I pulled comments from my design articles because of spam problems, and because the role of that blog is more straight reference and less entertainment.

    Readers who comment on a stranger’s blog don’t feel the need to be civil (the worst, most bilious negativity can be found in the comment sections of YouTube and major news sites), while commenters here at JoshBlankCom (for example) are almost always well-spoken and balanced.

    Contrary to the cliché, I contend that on the Internet, familiarity doesn’t breed contempt – it breeds just enough interpersonal sympathy to keep folks civil.

  4. Randy

    Much like all the “oops I posted that to a public forum” people just don’t think before they post. Also, it’s a lot easier to confront someone on the Internet than in person where you might be confronted for your nasty comments (or get your ass handed to you, not that I condone that type of behavior). There has to be an unrban dictionary term for it but it’s like people get an ego when they are safely behind a computer display. i.e Internet ego, cyber-guts, net-nerve, somethin’

  5. Randy

    that’s urban dictionary but I can’t type

  6. I just recently reactivated comments on my blog, largely because I missed having that personal discussion with my readers. Truthfully I don’t get as many as I’d like, but the ones I do get are always thoughtful and polite.

    One way that I’ve considered controlling comments (should they start to become belligerent, which, again, they haven’t) is by requiring people to login via Twitter, Facebook, etc. before they can post. That way, at the very least, their comments are tied to them somehow in the real world — rather than the anonymous comments by “Joe the Complainer” you see so often on news sites.

  7. So he wrote a whole comment blog post where he bites at and expresses his disappointment at the state of negative comments.

  8. There are obviously exceptions to the rule. Flickr seems to be the most notable example, where 95% of the comments are in praise of the photo above. Maybe there’s a fundamental difference between expressing opinions with words vs. expressing them through art that makes a difference in how people respond. Or maybe it’s the type of community that is drawn to different corners of the internet.

    Anyway, looks like this: http://stevenf.com/pages/shutup/ could be of use to you.

  9. Over at 37signals, they just posted a blog called about the “inverse relationship between anonymity and quality of conversation”:

    http://37signals.com/svn/posts/2205-there-is-an-inverse-relationship-between-level-of-anonymity-and-quality-of-conversation

    As more people create accounts with Twitter, Facebook, etc–sites that allow you to take your accounts elsewhere–why not require people to leave comments with them? What challenges does this approach face? What are the pros and cons?

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