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How does commentary affect the world around us?

Virgin Commenter Brutally Attacked… by NPR Listeners?

In this NPR All Songs Considered post about Weezer, one brave soul was driven to comment on the internet for what might be the first time ever. In response to ASC producer Robin Hilton’s ruminations about never developing the affection for the band Weezer in the same way that other folks of his generation seemed to, “Katie” opined:

Of all the drivel on the Internet, nothing has managed to get under my skin quite enough for me to post a comment until now. So congratulations on that, first of all.

The snarky opener: common for comments, but productive? For Katie would go on to be excoriated by the next three commenters for a factual slip-up: she lamented the loss of the wrong band member (Brian Bell vs. Matt Sharp) in her comment, undermining her authority as a Weezer superfan.

Did Katie’s comment, which was well-thought-out and contained a valid point, deserve to be trashed in this way? All the folks who nitpicked about the band member’s name ignored Katie’s larger message, a plea for the contextualization of Weezer: sure, the band’s current album (the red album) might sound good on its own, but when compared to the group’s history, it’s just subpar. Later on, a few commenters commended Katie for her point, but did the three initial negative reactions discourage Katie from commenting forever?

Comments are no less flame-prone and troll-friendly than the rest of the internet. It’s interesting, then, that Twitter replies don’t seem to have acquired quite the vicious overtones of anonymous comments. Is this because most Twitter accounts are so directly linked to the actual identity of the user, and it seems therefore like an actual human interaction rather than an anonymized debate focused on the issue, rather than the people involved? Or perhaps it’s that character limit: when you have less room, you’re less likely to waste it on a useless attack on someone else? Finally, could it be the increased visibility–i.e., everyone who follows you will see your cruel comment and identify it with you immediately?

Regardless of the reason, it does seem that the Twitterfication–and perhaps accompanying identification–of commentary has led to more reasoned, conversational-type exchanges. It’s a positive development in online commentary, and deserves to be encouraged–perhaps due to greater standardization of online presence?

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Filed under: Blogs, Commentary

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