Where Have All The Comments Gone?

I was reading a blog recently—actually it was one recommended in an interview I read—and as I looked through some of the entries, I was impressed with how well the person wrote, and at the end of the article, I noticed the line, ‘No comments yet. Be the first to write a comment!’ and I thought, Huh. Really? But why?!

And it occurred to me that this happens a lot. I’ll come across a link to an article, to a blog I’ve never seen before, and I’ll read it and think, wow, this is really good! and there won’t be any comments. Is it because my tastes are so different from the majority of the rest of the people who read the internet? I can’t believe that (although of course, I do have excellent taste).

As just another blog on the internet, compared to independent, professional websites, my blog naturally gets very modest traffic, but it’s probably as good a representation as any as to what happens, even on the big name sites. Over a week, I might get between 150-300 visits. Given I only post once a week, I’m certainly not disappointed with that. On that weekly blog post, I usually get between one and three comments, and between four and eight ‘likes’. I usually post the link back on my livejournal account, where I might get a couple more comments. Naturally, even one comment makes me happy. Hey, even one ‘like’ makes me happy! Still, the ratio of comments to views is low, and I know this is something that’s not unique to my own blog.

So when I see people writing really amazing stuff, and yet nobody is commenting, I have to wonder what is going on. How are people missing this? How are they not telling the writer how wonderful it is? I have to wonder about what this means for the future of writing and for the future of writers.

I’ve written before about the issue of paying writers for their work, and payment is certainly one very significant way in which one can be recognised for one’s work. But the payment is only one (major) part. As much as it’s lovely to see one’s name on a byline on a website and have money in the bank, it’s a little disheartening if nobody has anything to say in response. It’s like giving a speech to an empty room. In fact, it’s worse. It’s like you’re standing on the footpath, giving a speech to a constant flow of people, only the smallest number of whom will give eye contact, or smile, or a thumbs-up.

When I first decided I wanted to be a writer—I mean, when I really thought, this is what I want to do–I naively thought that I could just write, and it would be brilliant(!) and that I would get ‘discovered’ by someone, and my work would become an instant hit, and I’d be famous and wealthy and be able to buy a little cottage with a window that looked out onto a meadowy field, where sheep grazed in the sunshine and wisteria grew rampant over an old wooden fence. I’d sit there and write my bestsellers and drink blackcurrant-flavoured tea and eat cherries and mangoes.

(Hey, I was sixteen. Reality didn’t feature much in this pipe-dream!)

And the reality is, there are so many out there, waiting to be discovered. I used to think that the best would simply find their way, that the cream would rise to the top. If it were really good, I thought, it would get the recognition it deserved.

Obviously that’s not how the world works. It’s certainly not how the internet works. Have you read it lately? And the ones that get the most comments are certainly not outstanding literature! Rather, they’re clickbait and sensationalism at its worst (or best, depending on your perspective). We really do ‘browse’ the web. We flit past, picking out what might interest us, and decide on a whim if we want to spend our time on it. Some sites even state the number of minutes it will take to read their articles, so you can decide if you have enough time to bother with it.

I wonder if perhaps we’re just so stretched between social media sites, news websites, email, and—gasp!—real life that we no longer feel we have the time to take a minute to type out a short response, even when we see something we really appreciate. I read an article recently where the writer decided to stop ‘liking’ on Facebook. Instead, she was going to actually take the time to write something.

Even though I’m not on Facebook, I’m still guilty of the same behaviour. I’m happy to retweet or favourite or like something someone has said, because it’s easier. And it’s not just a matter of having the time. There are times when I’m reading something so good, or so disturbing, that I don’t know if I have the energy to summon the eloquence I feel the article deserves.

Would it really be so hard, though, just to write ‘I really enjoyed reading this’? We don’t have to try to win the Nobel Prize for Literature with every comment we leave. We could just write a quick response, to let the author know how much we liked what they wrote. Even the self-doubt I might feel—but they don’t know me!–is ridiculous. I should remind myself that almost all of the comments I get on my blog are from people I’ve never met.

Comments aren’t the yardstick by which a site’s success is measured, of course. If one is trying to sell advertising space, it’s hits and followers one needs, and even then, there’s no guarantee that success will come. And then, there’s no certainty that payment will follow. One’s fifteen minutes of fame can come and go with relatively little to show for it, and after the spotlights fade, it’s back to regular programming. There is still work to be done; there are still words to be written. Internet fame is fleeting, and nothing old can stay. It’s all about the newest, the latest, the most horrifying.

The thing is, though, even without all the fame and the bright lights, I still feel that need to write. I still really like pieces I’ve written, even if nobody comments to say they do too. Sure, I can still read back over my work, and almost always edit a sentence or even a whole paragraph, but some posts, I’m genuinely happy with. Of course, I’d like to earn some decent money from writing, because it allows me to work from home, and it means I can choose my hours around being able to weed around the passionfruit vine if it’s a gorgeous day, or be up all night with an unwell child without having to worry about sick leave and letting colleagues down. But while I practise and search out publications which might pay me, I keep writing this blog, because every week, I’m writing about something which is important to me. That’s what will keep me writing. No matter the number of comments or views or likes, and I can only imagine that’s what others feel, as well.

Otherwise we’d just stop doing it.

(Any acknowledgement is kind of nice, though, I have to admit. So, you know. Don’t be shy! And I’ll do my best to do the same.)

32 thoughts on “Where Have All The Comments Gone?

  1. Great article! As someone who is relatively new to the blog-osphere I tend to use my site as a place to sift and sort through my thoughts, and experiment with my writing. It is so great to find a rare comment left on one of my pieces. It would be great that as fellow writers we use places like this as domains to comment, compliment or criticize one each other’s work.

    • Thank you!

      I agree, especially when you’re starting out, it’s so awesome to get an acknowledgement that you’re not shouting into the void🙂

      I need to make more effort to tell people what a great job they’re doing, really. No excuses!

  2. I believe sometimes, if it’s that amazing, I truly don’t know what to add. Other days I’m just lazy, but you are right that the comment creates a warm glow in my heart. It’s worth the two seconds.

    • It is worth the two seconds (and thank you for taking them!) and I’m sure that even when you’re responding to something truly amazing, the author still gets a kick out of a simple comment to say so. That’s what I am trying to remember when I read these really good, but lonely, posts!

  3. Yep :nodding: There’s also the “People want to write but nobody wants to read” factor too. I’ve run into that a lot.

    I think being spread out between too many social media sites is a huge factor. The clickbait is clickbait because it grabs your attention. I follow a fairly popular blogger on Facebook who posts snippets of other blogs dealing with specific subjects near and dear to her heart. She tends to be very “enraged” in the THIS TOPIC IS IMPORTANT PAY ATTENTION type of way. And I get why she does it, I do. She’s not the only blogger who does that. It’s like being in a room and having several people shouting at you at the same time…and what do you do? You either sit there and take it or you remove yourself. I think more people are doing the latter lately, tbh.

    It’s hard. All you can do is keep doing what you’re doing and support those blogs you find brilliant🙂

    • I recently cut back to about 30 blogs that I follow here on WP because there were just so many on my reader, I couldn’t possibly have time to read them all, let alone make any comment on what they were saying. So obviously I can’t be the only person on the internet who feels that way! And as you say, it’s like being in room with everyone shouting at once. Nobody can really pay attention to everything, it just becomes noise.

      ♥ I agree. And I’ll just keep on keeping on, for as long as it remains fun🙂

  4. I do think it is the Facebook laziness of just clicking the ‘like’ button – I get a load of ‘like’ clicks on my wordpress page but not many comments. For the record, I seemingly get a few sharing my pages, especially on LJ, but again no actually comments. Maybe it’s because so many internet brawling/trolling starts with a few words, no matter how carefully chosen.

    I have noticed that many can’t be asked to read anything that I write, unless it is confined to a couple of medium-sized paragraphs. They are much more interested in the video clips and pretty pix I post, than anything I have to say😦

    • Perhaps it’s because the pretty pictures and videos are just so much ‘quicker’ as well. Responding to something does take a careful choice of words, as you say, and I know when it’s a controversial subject, I worry that something might be misconstrued and do I really need all that drama?

  5. Same thing happens to me. I don’t really expect comments but I am surprised at the ratio. When I link my blog to Facebook I get a ton of comments but only on Facebook, not on the blog. Also I wonder if I know you from Lj. I’m not there much anymore, but I still have my journal there. I’m magsmom.

    • Hi Sally🙂 You do know me. I’ll send you a message.

      I certainly don’t mind where I receive the comments, but it is interesting that people like to comment on the platform they know. I suppose it’s only natural, really–Facebook is where they’re comfortable, and going to another site can be daunting or irritating if you’ve not been there before/have to sign up.

  6. Hubby and I are both bloggers, but not signed up to anything else.
    He’s been at it for almost 2 years, whereas I’ve just celebrated my first. Although I’ve overtaken him in the ‘views’ figures, he still outshines me in stats for visitors, likes and comments. Mind you, our blogs are totally different.
    It’s nice to get the likes, even nicer to get the comments.
    Some of the articles I read inspire me to write, others make me sad, or laugh, some touch my soul. I just hope some of my efforts do the same for other people.

    • I think there’s definitely something to be said about finding your audience, too – and some topics absolutely attract more visitors and comments, too. I wonder sometimes if some of the work I read is a bit too heavy (which is what I like) for many people. If you’re tired and worn out, then you’re more likely to go for the lighter pieces.

      I often find I want to respond to someone’s writing and don’t quite know what to say… but really, I should try🙂 Especially if, like you mention, the articles inspire some emotion.

  7. How novel, Rebecca. Ask for Comments! I would think when a blog post strikes a nerve with readers, comments will follow. But as you mentioned, most of readers are distracted by the barrage of stuffs online. Truly connecting would take some skills.

    • Haha🙂 I would think that comments would follow, too. But sometimes they don’t, even if it’s really excellent writing. But it takes time, and we don’t have it, these days, apparently. Look how long it took for me to even respond to your comment!

  8. “I really enjoyed reading this”!!!!

    Seriously, I did! You hit the nail on the head when you said clickbait. This is the way of our over saturated, social media drowned lives these days. Most people are looking for a mere distraction from the stress or dissatisfaction of their overstuffed daily lives.

    I also agree with your comment about sometimes feeling you’re lacking the energy to write something that justifies what you’re feeling inside, from reading the piece. Maybe in those moments we should remind ourselves that a simple 35 second comment wouldn’t actually drain us to ’empty’.

    I too am trying to build a life where I can work at least partially from home, free from corporate chains and duties.

    It’s like Kermit the Frog said: “it ain’t easy bein’ green!” (Or a child of the 21st century!)

    Have a great day! And for the record- your 16 year old self was QUITE a visionary! Sounds dreamy.

    Ashley.

    • Ha, I’m not sure about my 16 year old self. I think she liked the idea of being a writer, but really, sitting down for hours at a time, writing? Even 22 years later, I struggle with that! She was far more easily distracted😀

      I guess the trouble is, there is a lot of ‘noise’ online, and because there’s so many sites and writers and people vying for our attention, and so much of it really is interesting, and it’s very hard to say no. Especially when they appeal to our curiosity!

  9. I agree, I get few likes or comments and yet the blog makes my life better because I can focus my thoughts to something meaningful, keep on the path to a life that fits my values, and when someone does like or comment, that is just a little icing on the cake.

  10. Have you had more comments to this post than usual I wonder?! This hit a nerve with me. I blog for two reasons, a neither surpasses the other in importance. First, it’s a way to keep family and friends up to date with our travels. Second, I keep a blog on the advice of a successful non-fiction author and the editor of a well-known science magazine. I was lucky enough to meet him through my work a few years ago, and he advised me to keep a blog as a way to build up a following which would then turn into the buyers of my book (when it was finally written).

    So I have two issues. Related to the first, I never hear from friends and family any more. I don’t hear from people for months on end, and when I email they say, ‘Oh, but I’ve been reading your blog all along. I know exactly what you’ve been up to’. But I had no idea they were following my blog, because they are the ‘silent majority’ who never comment, or like, or leave their mark in any way.

    Secondly, I want to get more followers – the potential book buyers. But I sometimes find that the blog posts I am most proud of, that I think are written well, that are from the heart, get virtually no traffic. And the ones that are sort of meaningless to me get lots of traffic. So I’m left wondering, should I write for myself – posts that I am proud of – or do I write for my audience. It’s every writer’s conundrum I guess.

    I love reading comments on my blog. They reassure me that I have an audience out there, and they are always positive. No one (yet) has commented in order to tell me I’m rubbish, or don’t know what I’m talking about, or am a terrible mother, or whatever.

    And thank you for being someone who takes the time to comment on my blog now and again!

    • Haha, I’ve had so many more! It’s hilarious😀

      It’s an interesting thing, the people who follow one’s blog. My family reads this, as do some friends. I also wonder about whether blog followers are a good way of generating books sales? You’ll have to let me know whether you get many sales through the blog. I’ve considered having a blog for the purpose of promoting my book (when I finally publish it!) but really, what am I thinking? I guess we’ll see what happens when I get to that point. If it turns out I get a contract, then maybe…

      You’re very welcome. I’ve not commented much lately (sorry!) but I’ve really loved reading your recent adventures! I’m so glad we could connect on this platform🙂

  11. We come upon posts that we could comment on as we move through the hours, seeking our preferred flavor of mental info-nuggets. Some of us arrive by rote and others by accident.

    As a stumble-upon methodologist myself, I sometimes like the content and writing enough to follow the poster, as (for example) I have path:ethic. I lurk, I’m afraid. I’ll occasionally add a “Like” but not often.

    Like, +1, etc. buttons are seductive, I think, because they are the web equivalent of a nod, a smile, a lifted brow. You have to admit that it’s very noisy for everyone to chime in longform: “Me too!” and “Brilliant!” even though that’s the heartfelt sentiment. (Try to read the comments for a well-known friend’s hard luck posting on FB, if you need an example.) It’s much neater to click the star.

    I do like to think that we’re all open to a good discussion. But I think a discussion generally requires some sort of provocation, although I suppose one could say that additional observations upholding the poster’s point can be interesting, although they can be disguised “Me too” comments.

    Journalists are taught that a columnist isn’t doing her job if the editors aren’t getting angry mail and phone calls about her op-ed. Having readers/viewers who are interested enough, involved enough, or impassioned enough to make an effort to express themselves requires interesting content that demands a response.

    The easy way to this is to go for the perverse side of people, and, as already noted, a lot of sites do just that. The hard way is to slowly build an audience that’s genuinely interested in the niche you inhabit, of folks who have something to learn or teach. That takes time and persistence. (I admit that I have very little of either, unless the task is going to guarantee a payday soon enough to knock back a few bills. I’ve littered the web with more than a couple of hardly-begun blogs. It probably has the same root as my stumble-upon methodology….)

    If I comment, I want to add value to the discussion, so I’m unlikely to add a “Me too” — unless I’m on a “Like” strike, in which case all bets are off and I’ll be looking up “agree” in an online thesaurus.

    • Well, I think if you leave such very long, thoughtful comments, then it’s no wonder you choose so carefully where you write them! I feel honoured🙂

      You’re right – I’m not on FB but I think that it doesn’t really lend itself to very in depth comments, especially if there’s not really a lot to say.

      With regards finding a niche, I think many people think, as you mention, that they might be able to write something, have it go viral, and get their fame and all the trappings which come along with that… but as far as I can see, it is better to build over time (kind of like earning your money rather than hoping to win lotto). Of course, that does mean you have to kind of accept a delayed payday. I’ve got a couple of years, I figure, to build up a financial return in some way. Not sure how I’ll do it, but I guess we’ll see. If I can’t make it writing, in some way or another, I guess I’ll try and go back to teaching. And then write about it! Haha.

      • You’re almost there; you have a finished novel! I’m cheering for you — the world will never have too many good writers.

  12. I agree, we should actually comment when we like something. I guess people just react more to provocation or scandal.
    One thing that kept me from commenting in the past, although I had already phrased my reply mentally: having to register. I mean, come on, I’m on so many websites already, just let me use one of those log-ins.😉

    • I was linked to a story the other day, and read through it, and despite the fact that it was posted over a year ago, I wrote a comment to say how much I liked it. A couple of days later, the author responded to thank me, and I thought, yay! It is worth it🙂

      Oh, I know what you mean about registering. I don’t mind leaving an email address or filling out captcha but when it requires me having to activate links and add yet another password to the bazillion I already have to remember… how annoying!

  13. Great article! I agree. I have been taking my time to follow and read and comment on everyone else’s articles. Which is taking away time from writing my own but that’s what we are supposed to do is support each other. But I have only one person who has cared enough to comment back. I’m new to this and keep asking the people I follow for any suggestions but no one seems interested in being bothered. My question is, ” why do I take the time to support people who won’t do the same?” I just wrote an article about this this morning. It is called Proper Etiquette.

    • I read your post, and I think part of the problem (and something that has been mentioned in the comments above) is that people have so much to read and watch and listen to that they just don’t have the time or energy to post comments, or reply. Or they feel as if they don’t have that time, or they think that their comments are not worth posting.

      I’ve posted on people’s blogs before and never received a response–i can understand that, when they’re getting hundreds of comments, but it’s a bit demoralising when it happens often.

      It’s a shame you’re not getting a lot of feedback, though. I’m sorry not many people have been receptive. I know that I followed many of those who followed me when I first started out, but then found that I couldn’t keep up with that for long. My reader just became very crowded with blogs that I didn’t have time to read, so I trimmed it right back to about 30 or so. It means that people are following me and I can’t return the favour, but real life is also kind of demanding, so I have to prioritise. Perhaps that’s what’s happening with those who aren’t responding to yours as well?

      In any case, just stick at it. It does take time to find your place and build a following! Good luck🙂

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