Since I’ve returned to blogging a bit more regularly, I’ve been struggling with the role of comments on a blog or news site. When I first began blogging, I thought they were a natural extension of an activity I love, competitive debate, a place where people can challenge and question each other’s ideas, perhaps even find some truth or compromise. That idealistic notion certainly didn’t last long, and for ten years of writing at this site, the most unpleasant task has been dealing with comments, whether they come in the form of spam or personal attacks against me and others. And for the one comment that increases understanding of an issue, there seem to be 99 that offer little insight and become excuses for extending personal battles.
And it’s certainly not just here. A quick perusal of almost any site, amateur blog, or professional news organization, reveals the same toxic cloud of personal attacks and repeated arguments that pass by each other. There’s very little marketplace of ideas discussion taking place. Instead, there are mean, crude, poorly-written comments that give undue power to people with the time and energy to bully other commenters.
And I don’t like the anger that I feel and express when I engage in these flame wars. I don’t want to waste any mental or emotional energy fighting these fights any longer.
And anonymity gives the comments unwarranted power. If you make the mistake of commenting and writing under your own name, you’ll almost assuredly come under personal attack, about your profession, your family, and/or your personal life. Those who hide their personal attacks under pseudonyms always win in those exchanges, because they have nothing lose, while the named person puts her reputation online.
I’d love to have debates on issues. I still hold onto this somewhat naïve belief that we can learn from each other when we battle over ideas, even fiercely, but how often does that really happen online or elsewhere anymore?
The truth is that I probably want to keep blogging for some time, but I don’t want waste any more time moderating comments or engaging in debates on them. So for now, just on my posts, comments will be closed. The time I don’t spend engaging there will be better spent writing, on this site and on other projects. This will be the last of my posts open to comments. Enjoy.
Other writers here are welcome to keep their comments active if they enjoy the give and take that happens or if they have more faith in the marketplace.
If closing comments keeps you from reading, there are a lot of other great sites to read. If closing comments makes you angry, feel free to launch a personal attack.
Just not here. J
Update: This thread certainly proves that I made the right choice for myself. I suppose it’s not terribly surprising that I had to moderate a thread about the problems of moderating comments.