Monday, December 5, 2016
Why don't we leave comments on blogs?
I thought I'd jump headlong into a subject which tends to be the elephant in the room. Bloggers often choose not to mention the number of comments our posts elicit, and I can think of a few reasons why. (When I use pronouns such as 'we' and 'you' in this blog post, I'm speaking generally, and not singling out individuals.)
1) We don't want to come across as needy or whiny by mentioning how few comments we receive. We don't want to be that annoying blogger who does guilt trips on all our friends.
2) We genuinely wish to convince ourselves that it makes no difference. We repeat the mantra that we love our hobby so much that lack of feedback is irrelevant.
3) We don't want to bring our gripe to the attention of others and be known as the loser with no followers (in case they haven't already deduced this by our lack of comments).
I wonder if I'm speaking for many of us when I explain what I've come to believe is the truth. Indeed numbers shouldn't be as important as we tend to make them, yet telling ourselves lack of feedback means nothing is just self-delusion. We should definitely strive to reach a point where our need for pats on the back isn't overwhelming, but at the same time, it's pointless to deny we are social creatures. A pastor who preaches week after week to an empty auditorium might eventually reconsider his calling and decide to stay in bed one Sunday. Just because we're talking about cyber-space here, the same thing applies to passionate bloggers. Encouragement, even from a small circle of friends, may one day make the difference between persevering or giving up.
That begs the question, well, why don't we comment more often? Whenever I look at my blog stats, the number of views is always far higher than the number of comments, sometimes like triple figures to zero. So what is it about human nature that holds us back from dropping a quick line or two, which might take a couple of seconds? I believe I've come up with three main reasons. See if any of these resonate with you.
1) We've passed saturation point.
Throughout history, information overload has never been as acute as it is for our generation. I've seen studies which cite that even our most scholarly ancestors never contended with as much information as every one of us do, often before our feet even hit the floor in the morning. Posts and articles zap around the globe and onto our screens non-stop. Annoying pop-ups vie for attention with clever, slick click-bait titles, all screaming, 'Look at me!'
Our attention is a limited resource, like precious oil, and it's easy to reach a point where there's no longer enough to spread around. I once read about a jam factory, which offered consumers so many delicious flavours to sample at a market stall, that most people couldn't make up their minds and walked away instead. In a similar manner, bloggers are lucky if we even skim their posts, let alone take time to comment!
2) We're Commitment-Phobes.
We aren't born this way, but modern western society has this effect on the best of us. There are enough things we have to do without bothering to stick out our necks and do something that's merely optional. Juggling every day bureaucratic red tape and form filling is compulsory for every one of us. How easy then, to ignore something that isn't absolutely necessary. Even if you enjoy your friend's blog enough to keep returning for more, being a lurker is far more convenient than commenting and probably frees up a couple of minutes of our day.
3) We feel shy and inadequate.
This one is possibly my biggest issue, and harks back to my Primary School days, when I used to try to make friendly gestures, which were sneered at or rejected. When you retreat back into your shell and vow never to emerge again, that instinct may still be driving you decades down the track.
We fear that our comments may appear dumb or obvious. Typing something like, 'I love your thoughts,' may come across so lame to us, we choose to say nothing at all. It's easier to wonder forever whether this witty or entertaining blogger has the potential to be a friend than risk putting out feelers and being ignored or cut down.
So here's an idea.
I'm going out on a limb a bit here. Who would be willing to be part of a small accountability group who looks after each other's blogs? I'm not talking about a blog alliance, which is something different and more formal. I consider what I'm thinking of to be more like blog caretakers. We keep a number of blogs on our radars, and without committing to comment on every single post, if we notice them looking a bit neglected over time, we leave an encouraging word or two in the comments. It may sound contrived, but since there's friendship and honesty behind it, it isn't really. If you think it sounds like a good idea, let me know in the comments, email or PM. (By the way, I'm grateful to those who do take the time to engage in my blog comments already. I know and appreciate you all.)
On a personal note, one of my main resolutions for 2017 will be to leave more comments than I already do, whether anyone joins me or not. The thought of commenting on new blogs always makes me nervous, but I can't help thinking it may be a risk worth taking. It may sound like a funny kind of New Year's Resolution, but here's why I think it's a good one.
1) It's a small action that can really make someone's day. Fellow bloggers, have you ever opened your inbox and had your heart leap with anticipation when you've seen a comment or two waiting? Since I've never had a talent for making big gestures, I'll go for this small one, which may well have the same effect.
2) I've convinced myself by this blog post that leaving comments is a sign of uncommon generosity. It seems from what I've said that not leaving comments is the common human reaction. If you want to be an uncommon person, this simple habit sounds like a way to raise ourselves higher than average. What's not to like?
As usual, I'd love to read your comments. That sounds like a bit of an awkward invitation considering the nature of this post, but I'll wait to see what happens, haha.