The Internet is home to two types of commenters: trolls and idiots. So I’m proposing a radical notion: We should end the free-for-all that is “discussion” on the Internet.
It’s not that I’ve never read something and thought, “You know what this needs? My hastily assembled reflection on why the author is wrong.” It’s just that in my better moments I get it: No one cares. People either agree with you or they don’t. Unless it’s a truly intelligent blog known for a high signal-to-noise ratio, comments add nothing to the discussion but a bunch of static.
Mixed into this is the peanut gallery’s propensity to be failed writers themselves. I have to listen to people who can’t even be bothered to set up a WordPress blog? Shit.
I know, I know. “Never read the comments.” And I try not to. But I get a strange mixture of sick curiosity and schadenfreude from the various combinations of “WOW. JUST WOW,” “OMG, A TYPO! WHAT A DICK!” and “I SEE WHERE HE’S COMING FROM, BUT…” that populate comments sections. Then there is the rare soul possessed with obviously good taste who feels fit to lavish my fine writing with praise. They are right to do so and should be encouraged in such endeavors. But at the end of the day, is it worth providing a platform for scolds, ninnies, busybodies, and schoolmarm grammarians? I ask you not seeking any kind of response, but rather a lack thereof.
For better or for worse, the Internet allows for everyone to become a micro-celebrity. We are a generation raised from birth in the persistent fantasy that we are precious little snowflakes bound for greatness. The Internet weaponizes this with instant and global digital communication inside a small echo chamber of mutual ego masturbation.
Thus, we’re inundated with Instagram galleries filled with selfies (guilty, but come on—look at how ridiculously handsome I am!), Twitter feeds constituting a blow-by-blow account of quotidian minutiae, and blog comments—the common man’s aborted attempts at fancying himself some manner of thinker. Nothing will change in this regard. In the brave new world of digital communication, page views drive business, and few things drive page views more than controversy and giving the yokelry a chance to preen in the sunlight of their overinflated sense of self-importance.
There is a simple reason that I have long since stopped responding to comments on my work: I do not wish the commenters to think themselves my equal, nor to indulge their delusions that their opinions are important, interesting, or necessary. In the rare event that I find a comment worthy of discussion, I make some attempt to contact the commenter directly—to exchange emails and initiate a broader discussion on the topic at hand. In the best-case scenario, drinks (or at the very least coffee) are exchanged.
Think before you comment, if you’re capable of it. Then try to put at a minimum the amount of effort into your comment that the writer did. Otherwise, stick to funny cat gifs and “Which Brand of Soda Pop Are You?” quizzes. You’re stinking up the joint.