Comments on comments

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long time.  I don’t think the time will ever be right, but I’m tired of having it floating around in my head.

Figuring out how the comment function “should” work in this medium has been awkward at times.  When I first started blogging, I would encounter blogs where leaving a comment met with a “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”  I check back and the writer never approved it.  A perfectly innocuous comment, agreeing with what the poster said.  I take that as my signal never to return.  Why do these people have their blog public?

Some writers are vigilant about commenting on everyone’s comments, and this is great.  It makes it a real conversation, back and forth.  But sometimes when I start to do this, it feels forced.  Sometimes I know that a comment does not require a response.  At the same time, I don’t want to make the commenter feel unheard or unappreciated.  That is a dilemma I struggle with.

There is one blogger whose writing I admire for its humor and commentary on pop culture.  I’ve left a couple of well-crafted comments, hoping maybe to strike up a conversation or let her know I like her work, and she has never responded, nor has she ever visited my site, according to the blog stats page.  She doesn’t get many comments on her site, maybe a couple for a post on a good day, or else I would just make up the excuse that she is too busy and overwhelmed by her readership.  Though I feel like a little kid standing in humble admiration, I continue to visit her page because it is worth it, even if she doesn’t have time for me.  (At least she doesn’t moderate my comments into the cyber round file!)

Another blogger whose writing I very much enjoy brought up the desire for honesty in comments, an idea to which I myself subscribe.  Respectful honesty: to me, I’ve always thought this is the goal of communication, right?  

But now I think, maybe not always.  Sometimes maybe it is good to have a place to come and just get support from people.  This world tends toward the hostile, and sometimes even respectful honesty feels hostile when you’ve had enough strife in the rest of your day.  Sometimes we just need people to relax with and not feel like we’re being criticized or picked apart every minute.  This is definitely legitimate.

A recent foot-in-mouth comment of mine leads me to consider the nature of individual blogs, what their purposes are.  I above all want to be respectful of people’s intended audience and atmosphere.  I think the most disrespectful comment is the one that tries to tear the fabric of the blog without consideration of its nature.

Which leads inevitably to the question, what is the nature of my blog?  I get the sense from people’s comments that they are inspired to think about the content, and sometimes have a good chuckle, when reading my posts.  I confess I’ve never had a disruptive comment.  Luck, I suppose, or lack of traffic!  I don’t feel like I’ve clarified the purpose of my own blog in my mind, other than having a forum to express myself and see how people react to it, how they can add to it or spin the topic in a way I hadn’t thought of.  I do really like the idea of making people laugh.  I think this is a valuable objective.  I want to cultivate my own sense of humor and learn not to stand in the way of others’.

Lately I’ve taken to commenting on some of the articles on the website of the local paper.  Most of it is democrat/republican sniping, and I like to jump into the fray if I feel there is something worth addressing.  I know the paper welcomes all comments so they can sell ads to advertisers, so there is no danger of disrespecting a certain atmosphere that someone has worked hard to create.  As you can imagine if you are familiar with how I operate, I don’t launch personal attacks or try to ridicule anyone individually.  But neither do I hold back much on what I really think.

But blogs are a different kind of public forum.  I am so blown away by bloggers who open up themselves to the world and try to make honest, real connections.  I am equally impressed with readers who take the time to digest and react in their own words to what the blogger has offered up for thought.  I have always loved books and words, and I’ve always loved to sit around and chew over some issue or other with friends, but this experience on the internet combines both activities and takes them to a whole new level.  It is amazing to be in a global conversation and I have not stopped being overwhelmed at how lucky I am to be participating in it.  Really, it is unprecedented in the history of humans.

I look forward to many years of experimenting with this great exchange.


Filed under writing

11 responses to “Comments on comments

  1. Joy

    I love your blog because you write in a way that I can’t. I know your also talking about my blog and what happened over there. I’m very sorry for that. I also know what you mean when your always moderated. I’m very turned off by that. I’ll post a comment and sometimes days go by with nothing. Mine usually go on though but to me, I feel once comments sit so long like that, the conversation is gone because it’s been so many days. You’ll go on and see a few comments but by then, it’s over.

    I don’t moderate mine because of the time change in the world and if I had to moderate all of them, I feel I take away from the conversation and flow of others talking back and forth. That is what I want. I need and want and love the company I feel I have with my blog. I also don’t write alone and don’t want to be the one to “judge” all the comments. We all don’t always agree and mostly, we argue respectfully. USUALLY. I had to close only one post down and it was a smoking one and it got out of control with the whole issue being forgotten about. People were name calling and it was getting rude. That I don’t want.

    I will say very honestly that if someone doesn’t come to mine, I don’t go to theirs. I almost feel, in a way that when someone comes to my blog, it’s like my home. When I go to other’s, I’m respectful that it’s theirs but I do want them to come to mine as well. It’s not out of maliciousness but I feel, politeness.

    Again, I’m very sorry for the thing that happened but I just didn’t feel right about deleting the post or deleting others comments.

    PEACE and thanks for writing. I felt HORRIBLE.

  2. I agree that some comments are conversation starters. I’ve mentioned to people before it’s the most fun I have doing this and, many times, I’m not even involved!

    I love reading the comments commentors comment on and how far they take it. It’s like all my snarky friends are coming over tonight.

    I don’t think I’ve dumped any comments. I mean, how could I? I set the asshole bar so high it’s almost impossible for anyone to get over it.

  3. Joy

    boundandgags, love the “asshole” bar!!! LOL!!

  4. Joy- I know what you mean, about not being visited. I wish I felt like I could say who the blog is but then I would feel like I was being a whiny tattletale. I tried not going back but it really is a quality blog. I feel like a fly on the wall when I’m there, and realized that that’s okay with me sometimes. (But I much prefer the bloggers like you that I actually get to “hang out” with!)

    bound and gags – That’s one way to do it! When I first visited your blog I felt like you set the funny bar too high, and I was afraid my pathetic attempts at humor would fall really flat. But then I thought, hey, vaudeville, what the hell. 🙂

  5. Hi, I followed the bread crumbs at B&G. Terrific writing. I’ve read a lot of posts and rather than comment on all (in fact, I almost didn’t comment at all – I can be shy?) I just wanted to say hi, I guess.

    Best to you on your new biz, too! I tutor a woman who wants to improve her English (but it’s through the library, thus not for $$) and it’s very fun but extremely informal and I wonder if I’m really helping…

    Oh… and, I moderate comments cuz all those Russian comments were getting thru akismet. Maybe I can turn off the mod, now… just letting you know IF you ever comment on my blog that I promise to watch out for you AND promise to respond. Thanks.

    Again, awesome blog!

  6. Hi Curious C, thanks for stopping by and also for mustering the gumption to comment! 🙂

    I guarantee you are helping your student, assuming that you two are speaking English! (ha ha) The conversation can’t help but sink in and then she’ll be better able to retrieve the vocab, having heard it a bunch of times. I’ve tutored English a lot, so if you want any ideas of fun (and helpful!) things to do, let me know. (That’s cool that you are doing it for free… I just need to find a way to help support the fam…)

    I never thought about moderating for spam when I started my whine-fest. That’s a good point.

    I’ll be checking out your blog. See you around!

  7. I don’t always have time to go back and check if any of my comments on other’s blogs have been responded to. And sometimes I forget I even commented at all. I am like you and Joy, I visit those who visit my blog. It has been so fun for me to get to “know” so many people. This was a great post.

  8. stacybuckeye

    Great post. I agree that it is hard to know if you need to respond to every post. Sometimes it doesn’t seem necessary and yet I feel rude if I don’t say something. I’m always glad when you stop by and leave a comment.
    When I started my blog was just for me and I wasn’t sure what to expect and whether anyone but my husband and mother would read it. Now I have a few new blogging friends who stop by and it’s great. So, I understand when you say you don’t know the nature of your blog. I think your posts are always thoughtful and interesting.
    Thanks for your honesty and for sharing.

  9. I don’t believe I’ve ever read a post on comments before. I’d say it’s high time. 🙂

    I am terrible about getting buried in life and not checking my blogs as regularly as I should. Since I tend to forget some of my comments to others, I guess I presumed it works both directions in the same way. It never occurred to me that anyone might think me rude if I didn’t get back with a response. I read them all in email, but going back to respond…it gets tucked into my mental to-do list and frequently doesn’t get to-done.


    Thank you for pointing this out. It’s a good lesson for folks like me. Common Courtesy should never be forgotten. 🙂

  10. Oh, I didn’t mean to make anyone feel bad. I just meant to say, I don’t expect everyone to respond to every one of my comments, but do they expect me to respond to all of theirs? How do we make sure we are being appreciative without having to say “thank you” to every single comment? (Or should we say it every time? Whew, that would be a lot of work.)

    I guess I should have summed up my current plan, which is, if people occasionally visit my site and leave a comment now and again, I consider that thanks/response enough for any comments I’ve made on their site (although it is fun once in a while to get into a mini-discussion back and forth with comments). And I hope that no one is offended by this!

    Isn’t it fun to make all this up as we go along?

  11. Sounds like a good plan to me. 🙂

    Heyyyyy…someone needs to start a blog on internet manners. That’s one way to set the bar. Oh! Oh! And driving manners, too. I wish more people had them. I wish I had the time–I’d do that one myself.

    Again, great post!

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