There is a very old adage of the internet that goes something like this, “Don’t read the comment section”. Much like Cottoned Eyed Joe, where that phrase came from and where it will go is yet to be seen. That phrase, as the years tick by and people become the worst versions of themselves online, becomes more true.
Let me briefly trace back my own experience with comment sections. My true foray into the internet was Deviantart. I so desperately wanted to become popular on that site that I was constantly commenting on people’s works in the vain hopes that perhaps they would comment back on mine. I would learn much like follow for follow, there was a thing called comment for comment that people would put on their profile.
I was dumb and naive. I was also a major weeb, and to be honest my drawings weren’t particularly good. I still tried, and on occasion I even got into some nice comment chains on my own work or others. Then I made a mistake, just once at the tender age of 14.
I made the comment of “lol thats so random”, on a gif of the joker doing the putter butter and jelly time dance from the viral meme. Please don’t ask why that was a) a thing b) why I, who is rather indifferent to all things superhero, felt compelled to comment on that. Again, I was dumb and 14. I was trying in my own misguided way to try and comment more then just favoriting things on the site. I loved getting comment from people who didn’t follow my account, so I figured that other people would too.
Until several days later, I didn’t realize that on that post it was in fact the very first comment for awhile. The artist never acknowledged it (i.e. commented back, favorited it, etc), but hadn’t removed it either. It was during that time, the gif made it on the front page of dA; and the first time I was dealing with a person I can only describe as an early version of a white knight. Or maybe just a pissed off 16-17 year old, who knows.
This white knight, replied to my comment, which was very obvious from my profile that I was a dumb teenage girl in her weeb phase, “it’s not random”. I fired back some not witty and probably innocent enough reply of, “it was to me lol”. And they ripped into me. I mean pretty damn mercilessly saying that I had no respect for the artist, the character depicted, and even Heath Ledger.
Retrospectively, I think this person was just pissed at the internet culture of the time being dominated by “lol so random” and trying to make an example of me. Which is also dumb because clearly the artist didn’t give a shit what I wrote, so why should they?
Needless to say that at fourteen a comment like that had me scared! I was suddenly this terrible person for making one dumb comment, trying to do some good on the hellsite that is/was deviantart?
I eventually stumbled along and apologized to the white knight. I for whatever reason was scared this person was going to troll me, or set their followers on me (something that had only recently started to trend on dA) that I apologized.
For a comment not even directed at them, for fear of the public backlash.
And that where I can trace when I stopped commenting as often online. I tried my best to be positive, and move forward but after mid-sophomore year in college I deleted everything on dA, and deactivated my account. So long and goodbye.
It was pretty similar on things like Fanfiction.net, and even Facebook. I’d do my best to come up with something insightful to say to an author on Ff.net to be met with radio silence. Not that I was expecting replies, but even a thank you would have sufficed. I poured time and effort into my fics, only to get trolling or incoherent replies. So when I stopped writing fanfic; I barely even missed it. My empty profile still remains on the site since you can’t deactivate or delete your account (which is stupid).
Facebook wasn’t much better as the majority of my friends never commented or liked my statuses. Which, is largely unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but as a teenager it wounded my ego. Even my pictures, barely scraped a response to the point where to this day I still barely post on there. I have it for messenger, and stalking musicians and that’s about it.
Youtube, I never even bothered. That’s where I learned the comment section was ‘cancerous’. Especially given how much I was into Kpop; it was the same vapid fanwars that have existed since 2012. The same recitation and spam of “stop sleeping on —“, “stan talent, stan –“, “Im a (insert fandom here) but here to support (insert band whose video it is)”. There was nothing insightful to comment on. The one time I pointed something out, specifically, a member of a group was purposeful excluded from dance breaks because he wasn’t the best, to someone; I was capslocked at and told I was a fake fan.
It wasn’t enough that I was trying to practice what other people were preaching; comment more then you like things. Because when I did I was either a) being disrespectful or b) wasn’t worth commenting back to. The first I could handle, the internet is full of disrespectful pricks much like the real world. While those comments strung it was a faceless commentator; who cares? The second was much harder. As someone who rarely had the confidence to comment, being ignored after (personally) taking such a risk was devastating.
Let it be known; its not the OPs faults. They are not obligated to reply to everyone who leaves them a nice good/good job/wow comment. One, that’s obnoxious and not necessary. Two, over the years I’ve adopted the mindset that a lot of creators are like me; it takes just as much if not more courage to post something, then comment. They’re probably already freaked out enough that they published it, let alone it gets any positive comments anyway.
I was on tumblr a long time. Tumblr was a social media where you could get away with just reblogging and favoriting and it was fine! No one was expecting you to start or engage in a conversation on a post! While not inherently true, it was for me. I existed in my bubble of all the weird things I was into at the time, following who I wanted without having to engage in anyway. The best part was I could watch the drama unfold in a long form comment chains, but never actually had to articulate my own thoughts.
If for whatever reason I was really compelled to engage I could do so safely without the public eye on me. I could just DM the original poster and ask what movie/anime/etc it was. They usually would reply and that was that. If I wanted to be a fangirl again, I would just send a happy fanmail message and be done with it. Occasionally, a creator might even DM me thanking me for it, etc.
Eventually it wasn’t enough. I craved something with a more consistent content. I refocused what I wanted to appear on my dash. I unfollowed a lot of pages, edited my setting and revamped my blog to be more effective. It worked for a short while, but it was still missing something.
Discussion. The option to really post a long comment, and have the original poster reply back just as long, with or without interference from other commenters. Doing so on tumblr would be a death sentence. Eventually I would say the wrong thing, and get sniffed out by the cancel culture police, and be hounded off the site until I deactivated. Just thinking about it gave me chills from my dA days. I knew it could happen on tumblr too.
I recalled the million times I wanted to start a blog. That I had followed other friends blogs that had come and gone over the years, and it didn’t seem impossible to do. I was tired of posting one review on one site for it to get ignored, and another review on another for it also to get ignored or down voted. I wanted one spot, to post all my reviews about my anime/manga/dramas/etc that wouldn’t drive me off the site.
I remembered having booted up a WordPress in college for an internship. (Its still up, but desperately in need of an update.) I poked around and the setup wasn’t so difficult. It would take some time to get use to but I wasn’t planning on going pro with it…
But the comments. The comment sections on posts, scared me. In order to run a decent blog, you can’t only be a blogger you have to be a commenter as well. Your thoughts might be the most interesting thing in the world, but if you can only parse out a thin thank you to each comment; you won’t get anywhere.
So I stalked comment sections for about a week on bloggers I was following. I was looking so desperately for the ‘cancer’, the rude comments, the ugly ones disregarding author and content and found… near to none. There were bloggers who just outright admitted; if its a bad comment I don’t allow it on my site. They distinguished the fine line between deleting a bad comment and critique/debate.
That was allowed? I was allowed to police my own comment section like that? I could decide when and where to engage with that kind of stuff? I messed around in my settings and it was true! Was this finally the answer to my long desired aspiration of having a place to release my thoughts, as well as have a decent commentary?
Largely yes, I found that other bloggers rather then shutting me down for my different opinion, encouraged it. Within reason of course, I never got nasty. I might have expressed an opposite, strongly worded opinion, and someone might have replied strong worded; but I never felt like I was ‘wrong’. I might have needed a refresher here and there, or a correction but I was never considered disrespectful
(as far as I know…).
Where was I going with this? Oh yes, comments and commenting history. I still don’t really comment on other platforms. The urge is there, believe me, especially when someone is so inherently ignorant I can feel it radiate from them through my computer screen. I ignore it. There are so many comment sections I ignore; Youtube, Facebook, just to name a few. I watch my video and go. Occasionally I stop and think, and maybe check it for clarification but otherwise watch and go. If I have something of substance to say, I take my time and post it here, on my blog.
You could argue, I shelter myself by hiding behind the idea if I don’t like a comment I don’t have to have it on my blog. You would be right. My heart is still a delicate thing, and sometimes I have a hard time separating an attack on me or my work, verses a critique on my writing style, or the media I am commenting on. It’s a work in progress. I can say I have only deleted one comment from a real blogger (I think). That was simply because on WordPress; I get to curate my experience. If I don’t like or can’t see a bloggers perspective on something, I can unfollow and not comment.
I’m still working on my commenting skills. It takes a lot for me to get the gumption to comment something mildly intelligent, and even then I still post something half-witted or stupid sounding, in my books. I brace for impact for the hellfire of an OP or a white knight, and so far it has yet to come. Many bloggers have been very understanding and still willing to engage even with the most trifling comments. I appreciate it.
I’m not sure where I was going with this post. It’s been on my mind for awhile, and in editing it reads like a very boring story time vlog from Youtube. When it comes down to it, I had missed having discussions online despite a lot of pitfalls. I’m glad WordPress, and the community that I am part of here, is so willing to be courteous in the comments. Here’s hoping I continue to build my commenting skills even more to make the experience even better.
If you somehow suffered through this 2000+ words; bless you. With that, I’ll see you next post.