I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the tendency of people to compete, even when it seems like an inappropriate time to do so. Perhaps compete isn’t the right word, but there appears to be a general mood of defensiveness amid web commenters and forum users.
An article on Huffington Post about the benefits of yoga leads to a comment section devoted to each person telling the next that “nope, this other thing is better” or defensively expressing that they’d participate in what the article suggests, if only it weren’t for some malady/childhood trauma/personal roadblock. It’s as though those compelled to share those things can’t conceive of a world where articles are there for reading and considering, not to pass down judgement, as though not doing the suggested activity reflects poorly on them. Or else, they feel the need to share that this other thing they do is better, and therefore the article is wrong. And they feel quite clever for having figured out where someone is wrong. All because someone wanted to share an infographic detailing some of the benefits of yoga.
Discussion of the pervasiveness of pedantry and meanness in comment sections has been going on for a long time, but I don’t think this is what is happening here. To me, this looks more like the propensity of some to feel the need for a boost to their self-confidence, thinking that correcting someone else, or admonishing them that there’s something they missed, looking for where the other shoe could drop or the sky could fall, makes them look like the smarter person in the room. It draws the attention away from the blog post/video/article/forum post, and puts the spotlight on their big brain. With so much media from very smart people being available to us 24/7/365, is it any wonder that some of us feel like the least clever person in the room? Competition for eyeballs on social media (increase your followers! ask me how!) teaches us that the goal of the internet is to Win All the Followers. And then we try to perform for them like dancing monkeys. It’s like that high school popularity thing, except that phenomenon actually having an impact on our lives? It was supposed to end after graduation. Most people grow out of it, the need to collect followers.*
It comes back around to my decision some time ago to disable commenting on this blog. What I write here, it’s observations, thoughts, opinions. It’s not up for debate. And, if something I say needs challenging, there are other ways to reach me. But here’s the thing: I am no obligated to provide the platform for that debate. Because in providing that platform, I would be handing over the spotlight to a commenter, and detracting from my own writing. In fact, my position on this was solidified when I read similar thoughts from a blogger I respect, Teo Bishop when he closed commenting on his site, Bishop In the Grove:
[...]it doesn’t really matter whether or not the comments are positive or negative, for every comment that exists as an addendum to the writing I’ve done on the blog changes the context of the subject I’m writing about. The feedback re-contextualizes the original writing, and sometimes I find myself feeling the need to be in dialogue with this new, altered perspective rather than the experience that brought me to write in the first place[...]
Original post here.
Some blogs are meant to document a journey, and this is one of them. I feel confident and comfortable in the decision to keep the feedback out, where it isn’t asked for. Some people take that as an affront to their sensibilities. Call it censorship. Which is absurd. It’s not censorship to not enable comments. Readers are welcome to comment all they like, someplace else. The reason they get upset isn’t because they’re being censored, it’s because they don’t have the benefit of your blog’s readership to bolster their ego and compete for attention in this noisy, clamoring internet.
*Unless you are advertising something, I guess.