You're Talking a Lot, But You're Not Saying Anything


How does commentary affect the world around us?

Talking a Lot… for Whom?

In keeping with this blog’s title, I now turn to pondering the question of audience–for blog comments, not blog posts. Blog posts tend to have an at least somewhat identifiable audience–the blogger’s friends, or community members, or enthusiasts of the topic being blogged about, whether that’s politics, video games, knitting, or what have you. Blogs usually have names, about pages, and bloggers with bios, such that it’s relatively easy to figure out something about the blogs/bloggers and their motivations.

But what about commenters? What are their motivations–for commenting, specifically, not for reading? Some of them may be truly interested in learning about the topic at hand, and are commenting to ask questions or make suggestions about it. Some may actually be knowledgeable about the topic at hand, and sharing information that the blogger didn’t reveal in the original post. But others–many others, it often seems–are just freaking jerks and morons.

These folks are the inspiration for the title of this blog, and the folks who give commentary a bad name. These are the folks whose comments consist of ‘first,’ ‘furst,’ ‘fist,’ ‘fust,’ ‘first!!!!1!!!,’ and other variations on the regrettable first, and most often do not show up in anywhere near the first spot. (First stopped being funny or clever the first time it was done, to be clear.) These are the folks whose comments consist of ‘lol,’ ‘omg,’ ‘wtf,’ or other acronyms. These are the folks who are not saying anything.

Recently, I read some of Peter Elbow‘s thoughts on writing for audiences and for the self. Bloggers have, in some sense, an audience-even if it’s an audience of one. But commenters have a less defined audience. Not everyone reads the comments on a blog post–sometimes even the blogger doesn’t have the time or the inclination to read such comments, much less respond. Elbow makes the point that writing for the self, without regard to audience, can be an important gesture in learning just what it is you’re trying to say.

I have found this to be the case for myself on may occasions, some involving blogging. On occasion I’ll draft a blog post, even publish it, and only hours later figure out what I was actually trying to say. The great benefit of the internet is that I can then go back to that blog post and edit it, or comment on it, to reveal the point I eventually figured out I was making. And sometimes commentary works the same way. From time to time I’ll be really bothered or struck by a blog post, and begin drafting a comment, only to realize that I don’t really understand what it is that’s bothering me. Many times it takes several drafts of a comment–written mostly for myself, not the blog audience–to come to understand what I’m really saying.

This often occurs for me at Feministe, a feminist blog that I enjoy reading but am not always sure how to respond to. I often respond to posts with some degree of indignation toward the racist or sexist injustices described therein, but there’s often something about the “right on! those people suck!” attitude of the commenters that bothers me. I think it sometimes seems that the site’s commenters–not necessarily the bloggers themselves–make it seem like there is a feminist doctrine that must be upheld in all actions, blog comments included, and cannot be questioned in any way. Since feminism itself is about questioning the patriarchy (at least to some extent, or in my mind), it always seems odd that there should be only “one way” to approach it. In drafting comments (I do draft and rewrite comments; perhaps I’m the only person on the internet so dedicated) on Feministe, it often takes me several tries to figure out what I want to say, vs. what I think the audience may want to hear. Sometimes I never quite understand exactly what I’m objecting to–but at least I’m thinking about it.

More on the audience for comments (if there is any) soon, I hope–I think it may prove to be a key issue.


Filed under: Blogs, Commentary

One Response

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: