Why I Don't Respond To (Some / Too Many) Comments

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 15.678% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

A friend of mine seemed distressed by the fact that I usually don’t reply to comments on Facebook.  Or LiveJournal.  Or Twitter.  And I started to reply, explaining to her why most of my comments go unreplied-to, and why that doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate comments (I read every one, sometimes obsessively), and after I’d doped it all out in my head, I figured I mise well deconstruct it here.
Thing is, I do reply to an awful lot of comments, or so it seems when I get ’round to them.  But the problem is that, for me to reply, I feel like I have to have something of interest to say back.  And while I get some beautiful comments, very personal and outpouring, by the time they’re done I don’t have anything to add to them.  They’re complete thoughts, intriguing – but I always feel that if I’m going to leave a comment, it should contribute to the discussion rather than just being the empty space of a “…Yeah.”
(This applies everywhere, by the way.  It’s why I rarely comment on other people’s blogs, either; I’ll link to multitudes of them, praising them highly, but you’ll note I hardly ever comment on the blog posts I paean.)
What triggers my “that’s interesting enough that I have something to say back” is a mystery to me, just as I’m never quite sure what thought is going to inspire a blog entry, and like the blog entries, it waxes and wanes according to some mysterious inner tide.  Sometimes I’m inspired and everything seems like a dialogue, other times I feel like I’m just wasting space on the Internet.
I know, I know, people like acknowledgement.  So if a comment is particularly clever, I’ll leave a “Well said” if I think my readers should note it.  (Or I’ll like it on Facebook.)  But for me, a page full of “Thanks.  Thanks.  Thanks.  Thanks.  Thanks.  Thanks.  Thanks.  Thanks.” feels kind of empty, the sort of thing you do for the sake of politeness than out of interest.  And if I did that, then my blog would turn into even more of a chore than it is, and I’d write less.
And it would mean less, I think.  I was absolutely thrilled the day that Joe Lansdale retweeted me, until I doped out that he seemingly retweets anyone who mentions him for any reason, presumably on the advice of a publicist.  Joe’s one of my favorite authors, but when he responds to me, I want it to be because I’ve said something that caught his eye, not just because he rubber-stamps everything.  And so when I see him replying to people, I don’t think he’s entertained by us, I think he’s just following some arcane law of social media. I don’t judge Joe for his choices, but I do know I don’t want to be that guy.
Sadly, and I know this is a failing, the best way to get me to respond is to be wrong.  A comment that’s dunderheaded in a sincere way will get me talking back to you, which some folks have told me just encourages the argumentative.  That’s true, because I’m argumentative.  I like debate.  I like new facts.  I like getting in there.  But I also do like quiet reflection, and it’d be nice to provide incentives for more of them, but again, I don’t know what to say that wouldn’t ultimately be meaningless.
Thing is, your comments entertain me mightily.  I read every last one, sometimes to Gini if they’re funny enough.  And I’d say I probably respond to 20, maybe 25% of them.  But I get a lot of them, and many lie fallow because I think I owe it to my audience to be just as entertaining back to them as they were to me.
So you might not get a response.  Sorry about that, Hoss.  But like Frasier, I’m listening.


  1. alexander hollins
    Dec 3, 2012

    Thats a better percentage than a lot of people get. And agreed, I try to avoid saying anything unless I have something of import to say. I do have a few friends that crave acknowledgement, I’ll try to remember to respond to them, even if just a yeah, sounds right.

  2. Mark
    Dec 3, 2012

    Well said. I think the ease of contact generated by the internet makes people less able to understand this kind of viewpoint, and to take offense when absolutely no offense is intended. And kudos for not taking more space than needed on the internet. I hear they need that for gossip, cats and porn.

  3. Megan Rose
    Dec 3, 2012

    I used to comment and respond to anything on the internet I possibly could, and got into a lot of arguments, and had a lot of drama in my life. I found myself some nights unable to sleep because of some comment thread I had participated in, worried about responses I hadn’t gotten, or stressing about the responses I *had* gotten, whether they were bad or good. It seemed so stupid, but I was kind of addicted. I felt like I had to say something at all times, but I really don’t. There’s nothing obligating me to run my mouth (or my hands, as it is on the net).
    For me, commenting came both in the form of arguments, wrongs I wanted to right, people I had to set straight. But also this sense that if I didn’t say something, people would forget about me. Both fans and colleagues. And I know I came across as insincere in half the things I said because, well, I was! And I see it from a lot of other people who are just starting out in various fields. Commenting on every single little thing ever said to them. It’s all very much like a first date with someone you don’t know but find very hot and you laugh at all of their jokes even though you would never find that funny if you knew them better and they weren’t so hot.
    So in recent years, I have trained my brain to get an actual high every time I close a window instead of commenting on something. I feel lightheaded and euphoric every time I don’t comment now. Compared to me from a few years ago, I barely speak at all these days. I’m less stressed, which is nice. And people haven’t forgotten me. In fact, I’ve never been more remembered, or highly regarded by those same fans and colleagues I had tried to impress with my prattling.
    And I know this is something I could never have been told. I had to figure this out for myself even though it’s so simple and nearly everyone I know who is making it work is making it work this way.
    Aaaaaand I just realized I wrote a long comment about how I rarely write comments as a response to a post about not commenting on things that I agree with 100% and I am laughing at the irony of this.

    • TheFerrett
      Dec 3, 2012

      “It’s all very much like a first date with someone you don’t know but find very hot and you laugh at all of their jokes even though you would never find that funny if you knew them better and they weren’t so hot.”
      Too fucking true, I think.

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