Why I Don't Leave Comments That Often: I Don't Wanna Be That Guy.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 12.06% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Back when LiveJournal was the social network to hang out at, I was the shadow.  People left scads of comments on my journal – but I was the ghost, consuming their words silently and then moving on. Friends thought I didn’t read their stuff, and were quite surprised when we met up in person and I was conversant with all of their blog entries.
I read. I didn’t comment.
At the time, I considered that a weakness.
But as time has passed, I’ve come to see my lack of commenting as a strength.  Because I don’t comment unless I have something particularly salient to say.  And a lot of comments, well, are kinda obvious, and I figure people would know them, and so I don’t bother.
ENTRY: I don’t like $THING.
COMMENT: Ah ha, I am doing $THING as a humorous response!
ENTRY: Here is a metaphor for politics or relationships.
COMMENT: This metaphor is imperfect! It does not account for this corner case.
ENTRY:  Here is a musing on relationships of a certain type.
COMMENT: You forgot to mention the other kinds of relationships!
ENTRY: I really love $THING.
COMMENT: I hate $THING. Here, let me shit on your enthusiasm.
ENTRY: Here is a musing on what it’s like to be a member of race/color/creed.
COMMENT: You forgot to mention what it’s like to be a member of other race/color/creed!
ENTRY: Here is an entry with an obvious joke to be made.
COMMENT: *makes obvious joke*
ENTRY: Here is an extremely specific request to ask you all for information, with specific rules, because otherwise this information will prove useless to me.
COMMENT: *ignores rules, gives five billion unrelated suggestions*
ENTRY: Here is a technique that $PEOPLE_WITH_CERTAIN_PROBLEMS can use to improve their lives.
And so on.
Now, this makes it sound like I mind comments, which I don’t.  Most comments are enthusiastic affirmations of whatever’s being written about, and that’s awesome.  (Even if the affirmation bias can lead writers to believe that they are correct when in actuality, people are simply unwilling to confront someone in their own turf, where they’re all but guaranteed to lose.)  I don’t mind it when people go, “Hey, yeah!”
But whenever I write an essay, I’m now experienced enough to know what kinds of dissenting comments will be made.  They’re obvious, because the flaws in the essay are equally obvious, to my view.  I’ve often thought about writing an essay that I know will get hits, and then secretly writing – in advance – a summary of the kinds of negative comments I’ll receive on said essay, just to see how accurate I am.  I suspect I’d be pretty much on target.
And to a certain extent, I cringe, because obvious fart joke is obvious.  Obvious criticism of a narrowly-scoped essay for not addressing global issues is obvious.  Obvious discussion that metaphors are imperfect because they are metaphors is obvious.
And I’ve seen some writers slow their roll on writing because, well, people mean well, but they know if they mention “runs like the wind” somebody’s going to make a fart joke, AH HA HA, and okay, there it is.  Right now, somebody’s going, “I’m going to make a mega-comment that combines all the categories of bad comments Ferrett listed!” and lemme tell you, I know that’s coming.
When someone makes a new criticism or joke, I am all over that like I am all over a cupcake. It’s great! It’s fresh! It’s awesome!  Even if it’s sometimes a very painful cupcake, where I’m being called on the carpet for new reasons!  It’s a reason to write an essay, to have someone come along and say something that’s not obvious, and expand your damn mind!  It’s why I interact with humanity, that great hope of seeing the mind-blowing comment!
And I do.  Several times a week.  That’s the awesome.
(And that behavior differs somewhat on FetLife, where the central stream of pictures and posts also notes the comments you made on other entries, so often making a comment leads people to read the original entry.  Most comments are dead-ends, but given the right social engineering they can be a gateway for other people to see what you’re doing, and in that, I support commenting as a method of advocacy.)
Yet for years, I felt bad because I didn’t comment unless I had something really interesting to say. Yet having interacted with authors who have much larger blogs than I, I have come to believe that for me, this is a better path.  When I say something, I try to go beyond the obvious gag and find something deeper, and if I can’t, I remain silent.  If I read an entry and go, “Huh, that seems a pretty narrowly-defined blog post,” I can wait an hour and someone else will make that exact same comment for me, and then I’ll feel like, “Okay, point is made.”
And I wonder if those authors were expecting the comment, same as I expected to see it.
Now, I treat my comments like blog posts.  I have a hundred thoughts a day I could share with you.  I only share the most interesting.  And there’s nothing wrong with commenting wildly, or widely, or even obviously, but I’m the sort of person who is utterly uninterested in the predictable.
So I comment very rarely.
I tend to think of that as a positive strength these days, even if it does mean that a lot of people never know I was there.  And maybe, for some people, that “I was here!” is the whole point in the absence of a Facebook-style “Like” system where they can’t just give a virtual thumbs-up and keep on truckin’.

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