When I watch a video on youtube or read an article or blog, more often than not I find myself scrolling down to read some of the comments before I’ve finished. Sometimes I do this before I’ve even begun.
The quality of comments varies between websites, but usually the comments are either phatic or moronic. On youtube or the Guardian they often depress or anger me. So why do I read them?
Abraham’s aesthetic reasons are really what clinched it for me. He says that not only does he prefer the look of his blog without the comments, but the very fact that there are no comments changes the way he writes. For the better.
I have to admit that I regret every comment I’ve ever left.
The comment section is a bit like that game where one person puts out a hand and the other lays their hand on top, then the first person puts their other hand on top and so on until both parties are slapping each other’s hands wildly.
Things I write here usually get zero comments. A few posts have attracted attention and at first I responded to all the comments, but this quickly began to feel draining, a chore. I’ve noticed that I often feel the same way once I’ve got sucked in to reading the comment section on other sites. I might have spent 20 bewildering minutes before I realise I’m wasting my time.
So anyway – to sum up this ramble – I’ve decided to avoid comments for a while, sending and receiving. I doubt it’ll inconvenience anyone, but if it really bothers you, write a post about it.
Comment on No Comment
In my malaise I forgot a few things. Something that wasn’t brought up in the podcast was that conversations needn’t be recorded to be important or worthwhile. Making a record changes things and being able to risk saying something wrong is important. Thinking that a wrong might be recorded would make one less likely to risk intellectual leaps.
The idea that we have to document our every move or thought is behind some of the pro-comment arguments. I’m reminded of Ralf Hütter’s observation that “Everybody is becoming like […] a Stasi agent, constantly observing himself or his friends.” But the defence of comments perhaps comes more from habit, from the feeling that this is just how things are done. No one in the podcast discussion used the phrase “information wants to be free” but an intimation that turning off comments was a form of censorship was constantly lurking in the background.
My main motivation for turning off comments is that I’d like to make a few mistakes in private. Off the record.