First off, I would like to confess something: I am an epic commenter. I enjoy sharing my thoughts—especially when sharing leads to interesting discussions. Exchanging ideas is probably the single most important thing humans can do. The truth is, opinions shape our world—they can influence policy, trigger our emotions—unite or divide us. Interacting with strangers on the web has taught me a lot about human communication, including how to make my point more concisely and diplomatically.
Until recently, I have enjoyed this process greatly. But something has changed in the last few years. I no longer take as much joy in commenting or reading comments and as you may have noticed on this blog; I no longer have open comments. First I will cover the types of commenters and then my reasons for limiting comments.
THE WEB—A HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT
I have long pondered the implications of turning off comments on various platforms and whether that’s a good or bad choice—especially while I’m trying to grow an audience. When I was posting YouTube videos often the comments were off-topic disparaging personal remarks from random viewers. Unfortunately, the web doesn’t always make for a positive working environment—especially on YouTube where audiences skew young and male, i.e., really immature.
Which brings me to the main types of people who comment:
1. The Troll.
They find validation in the degradation of others. Trust me, I’ve been called ugly a million times and there is only one person’s opinion on that subject I care about: My husband’s. My solution: Just ignore and block. Unless it’s a death threat—then screen cap, report and block.
2. The Negative Nancy.
They find something negative to say, no matter the subject. Recently, I saw a video where a guy had rescued some deer and there were all these comments criticizing the video creator for his lack of filming and editing skills. Really? How about, “Way to go dude, that’s awesome!”
3. The Promoter.
I know how hard it is to get anyone to give any ducks* about what you have to say and I am a real fan of people promoting their work when it makes sense. I have connected with some very cool people because they approached me to listen to their music or look at their website. But more often than not you’ll see a long parade of blog comments insincerely stating ‘Great post!’ in order to get some visibility for their own work. Yawn! I know this is a common strategy but as a long time marketer, I think it’s probably smarter to network and collaborate than to comment on blogs with uninteresting, insincere comments. If you do comment, make it sincere.
4. The Supportive Friend/Fan (GUILTY AS CHARGED)
Leaving a genuine comment could be the start of a conversation. And conversations can lead to friendships; and supporting friends is never a bad thing—unless you do it at the expense of your own work. My “RealityTC was here!” comments are well intended and hopefully contribute something to the conversation. I especially enjoy when I’ve left a nice comment and it causes an epic shit storm with other readers/viewers, i.e., commenters 1 & 2. (Sarcasm intentional.)
5. The Person Who Knows You IRL, i.e., your mother.
There’s always that family member or close friend who leaves inappropriate personal comments that should be left to personal conversation. Moms of the world, take note.
6. The Devil’s Advocate.
Whatever the topic, this person, who is often well intended, takes the opposite position and argues it until the cows come home. Hint: The cows are never coming home.
7. The Bot.
No one is clicking spam links. Like ever. So why do they persist? If you don’t have Askimet spam prevention for your blog—get it. It mostly eliminates the spam comments.
Sidenote: I miss YouTube video responses when they were actually topical responses—not just advertisements for other channels! Unfortunately, the response video was abused and it has met the true death. #RIPYouTubeVideoResponses
WHY I THINK COMMENTS STUNT CREATIVITY
Don’t get me wrong, I love having a dialog with my audience and I do care about how my content is received and whether my point came across as intended. I’m just getting a better handle on my creative needs.
I’ve come to realize that if your brain is not coming from a place of peace, it’s really hard to give the world your best effort. And to create better content you have to make more of it—a lot more. When your creative time is divided among many tasks—even if you are Buffy The Negative Bitch Slayer—ANY activity that takes up space in your brain can slow your creative output. Your job is to eliminate any obstacles to your optimal creative self. For me one of those obstacles has turned out to be comments.
Here’s how comments are affecting my creative process and what I’m doing about it:
1. Comments Breed Obsession.
I obsess over comments. Checking them, responding to them. Giving way too many ducks* in general. It all takes time away from the things I should be doing, like more content creation.
2. Comments Don’t Change Minds.
In recent years I’m seeing much more polarization on the web. People are pissed—especially people who comment a lot. It doesn’t even need to be a naturally controversial topic like politics or religion—angry people will find their way into the conversation and things often get toxic. I don’t need it and neither do you.
Side Note: As much as I hate trolls and pointless negativity, I do believe anonymity on the web is extremely important to protect those who have minority opinions. I do not support the decisions of many major newspapers that now require people to attach an identity to their comment.
3. Comments Make You Want To Recheck The Comments.
What do you do when you make a comment? If you’re like me, you go back and see if anyone commented on your comment. Many people constantly refresh comments all day and spend a tremendous amount of time defending their position to strangers who don’t matter.
4. Comments On Your Blog Do Not Always Mean More Hits.
Since turning off comments on my blog I have found that people are more likely to click around on my site and LOOK AT MY OTHER CONTENT! This really surprised me and I love it!
5. Turning Off Comments Doesn’t Mean Not Accessible.
Uh—I don’t know if you follow me on Twitter but I am practically there 24/7. (I know—one addiction at a time!) My Twitter was founded on insomnia and co-sponsored by Ambien, which I thankfully quit a few years ago. Unfortunately, I still have insomnia, so I’m often creeping my feed late at night and catching up on breaking news. I find that having a dialog on social media is easier because people are more likely to be kind when they are corresponding with you in real time and in the public eye. I also am happy to respond on Facebook or G+.
To conclude, turning off comments has made me a more focused creator—and hopefully that will lead to better writing. And that’s the whole reason I started this crazy journey!
*ducks—Profanity for copulation. See also: ducking Origin: Apple