Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

Just Your Average Joe Blogging Away His Debt—In One Year or Less

Spectacles and Spectators

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Total Black: $65.07
Total Red: $230,428.77

I referenced back in Schadenfreude a comment left by a reader, accusing me of preferring to make a spectacle of myself instead of just switching apartments and moving to Queens, as he suggested.  That comment and others to my post Moving Out . . . or Up? got me thinking about commenters in general and why we take time out of our day to comment.  And why it is that the negative commenter weighs in more often than the rest of the spectators out there. 

“If you’ve ever written a blog post, read a blog, or had an opinion on anything in the blogosphere at all,” writes Olivia Hayes of Ignite Social Media in her post “How to Handle Negative Blog Comments,” “chances are you’ve encountered a negative comment.  In some cases, the vitriol of negative comments are the driving force behind the blog itself . . . but, in my opinion, constant snark does not a credible blog make.”  According to Hayes, “[b]alanced is the key word here; incorporating both the yin and yang of the blogosphere.  You don’t want a blog that reads like an overly processed, censored corporate document.  The rough edges are what give blogs the patina of authenticity that attract readers. But too much negativity, and your blog can seem petty and immature.”  Her answer to the problem: “A few negative comments . . . can be a strong opportunity to prove yourself.”  I should note her post is gear a bit more towards a company’s blog than a personal one like here, but the advice applies here as well.

Clearly the negative comment is nothing new to the blogosphere.  But that doesn’t explain why.  Darren Rowse of Problogger penned a post back in April 2008 “How to Deal with Negative Comments On Your Blog.”  He noted that “typically the rude comments come from someone who’s never commented before.  This tells you something about them—namely, that they never contribute anything positive & are really only interested in pointing out a flaw or perceived problem.  With these people, I say, have no mercy!  Delete their comment & if what they’ve said is really nasty, just ban them.  You don’t need the strife!”  His isn’t the most eloquent commentary out there but the assessment is noteworthy.  It does seem that negative comments come primarily from the drive-by commenter.  Someone who isn’t a follower, hasn’t contributed to the larger conversation, and instead takes a cheap shot as he passes.  I envision him—almost always the comment screams a male tone—as the type who would stick his leg out as you walk by.  Just for fun.

Generally there are three types of comments: inquirent, laudatory, and insulting.  Well, there’s always the additional desultory comment, but that’s expected.  The inquirent I understand: someone wants more information.  Laudatory isn’t all too often.  Insulting takes the cake.  But why?  What does it say about those of us who make a spectacle of ourselves, blogger and commenter alike, and the spectators who sit back and watch the show.  As Edmund Burke is purported to have said, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

Okay, maybe that’s a bit over the top.  Just a bit.  But having been blogging now for just over four months, I must wonder who is this silent majority?  And why do they stay quiet while others give me a tongue-lashing.  The other day the blog hit nearly three hundred viewers in week.  That’s only counting the hits on the main page, not syndicated views where people view new posts via subscriptions to the blog and not counting hits from other websites referring traffic to my blog.  That’s a decent number of people given that the blog has only been around four just over four months.  This past week has had over one thousand people viewing the blog.  So what gives?

Consider Ladybug’s comment to the spectacle: “Don’t listen to these stupid pigs.  I also have a blog and you will not imagine the nasty remarks I get for the most harmless posts.  There are a lot of unhappy weirdos out there.  You are not making a spectacle of yourself—yours is the most honest and heartfelt blog I have come across in a long time.  Trust me I have been reading quite a bit about lawyers’ struggle this past year and this one really has something about it that makes me want to read more.”  I suppose I need add the defensative to my list of three above.  Or perhaps this falls within the laudatory?  But To be fair, Spectacle Guy wasn’t being nasty.  He was merely suggesting I head north to Canada to escape my debt.  But his comment got me thinking and prompted this post.

So, what prompts some to comment and others to sit back and watch?  Is it simply personalities?  The introverted versus extroverted commenter? But commenters can comment anonymously.  Their IP address comes through via an email but that’s it.  And one’s IP address doesn’t, in itself, give away any identifying information.  WordPress does allow blog hosts to require that any commenters create a profile and log-in before commenting.  I’ve not enabled that feature.  I assumed it wasn’t necessary and would instead serve to stifle conversation.

I value my commenters and their contributions.  One reason we blog, and thereby open it and ourselves to the public, is to attract readers and their comments.  Yes, even the negative or nasty ones.  As Hayes noted, even the negative comments have their value.  I’ve made it a point not to delete any comments on my blog.  Thankfully, to date, I’ve not had to address hate speech of any kind, at least not of the protected class ilk.  There’s certainly been a lot of nastiness, but nothing untoward, racist, homophobic, and so on.  But I have wondered whence the negative.

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