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Thursday, July 05, 2007

What if Comments Sections Were a Real Place?

One again, a recent post by Noel got me thinking. Along the lines of that Chappelle's Show sketch wondering what the Internet would be like as a physical place, I thought about what a comment section would be like. And it seemed straight out of THX 1138.

Imagine if you will: a brief news item, a diary entry, or a rant written on a wall. Down below the text, responses appear every few minutes. Some responses are poorly-worded and/or filled with typos while others are well-written and thoughtful. Certain comments are defensive, some are of the praising variety and some have nothing really to do with the topic. They're all in the same font, so understanding the comment's tone is almost impossible. A lot of people pass by this wall while this is happening. Some stop to take a look and read the whole everything. Interestingly, the number of lookers is far more than the number of actual people that posted responses.

So, does this sound like the kind of place anybody would really want to go to? Not me. It's too dry and boring in a physical sense. So why do we feel compelled to see this in a virtual sense? Well, I have some theories.

For one, it's automatic feedback. Secondly, it keeps the discussion going. Third, it gives the chance for the reader to speak his or her mind. But more often than not, what I see is a mixture of venting sessions, defensive conversations and sophomoric name-calling. If MySpace makes us all act like we're all in high school, then comments section can make us feel like we're back in kindergarten.

I don't mean to say that all comments sections are a bad, but it's difficult for me to look past the anonymous haters when they show up. I don't even bother reading comments sections on some sites because I don't really care about who was the first to post a response, which band/record/movie is overrated, or why something is "the worst ______ ever."

On this blog, I appreciate comments and I read every single one. I had to put a stop on the anonymous comments last year for various reasons and I haven't regretted that decision. I see my blog as a place I'd like to go to with conversations I often have with people in everyday life. But as a whole, isn't the whole allure about the Internet is to go to a virtual spot where you can do things that you normally can't in the physical world? Would anybody really want to go to the Internet if it really was a physical place?

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