Yesterday, I very earnestly asked who you commenters are and what you get out of the whole commenting experience. Except for a few people who fairly criticized me for just trying to drum up comments, almost everyone responded with equal earnestness. For the most part, people seem to just enjoy the community in the comments. For some, it's a distraction from work, when YouTube is blocked. For others, it's a distraction from the people at work, where everyone is old and no one gets Breakfast Club references. Prolific commenters claim to get laid through Gawker. I find that both depressing and inspiring, since actually writing for the site hasn't done the same for me, though I wouldn't want it to, either. Jenniferhdaniel said that if I write an essay commenting on the commenters, I would be the lamest of the lame-os. Harsh. Well, how lame would I be if I wrote about the comment reading experience?
Writers are a sensitive bunch. We're like flowers, really. I exaggerate [Not much! –day ed], but all creative types crave validation. And it takes a long time to trust that whatever you made is just good, without praise from critics, strangers and high school English teachers. One of the things I like about keeping a private blog is that only a few of my friends read it and I don't get any feedback. For one, I'm too much of a flower to take it. And for two, I don't have to think about whether what I write is good or bad, which lets me just write.
But having instant feedback is exciting and fun. No judgment, but I have a word document where I save all the nice comments I've gotten at Gawker. Plus, reading comments is a great way to seem engaged with work while actually just being self-involved.
Of course, the flipside is that people can be nasty, too. Most people objected that to my claim that Gawker commenters are "mad." Because of the Gawker invite system, executions and the Darwinian nature of comments, the site doesn't stand for calling our west coast editor "fucking retarded." But you guys are quick to point out any grammatical failings and let me know when things are old.
But even though I'd love to continue on about me, as yesterday's experiment showed, commenting isn't all about the writer. A good post will encourage a dialog amongst the commenters. Often a mediocre post will do the same. And after, say, the 40th comment, the conversation becomes hard to follow for the casual observer. But as a public forum, and as a business model, that's a good thing. Commenting is also an opportunity for office drones to prove themselves to be real writers. Our own Richard Lawson was discovered as a commenter, and as 8Millionth admitted, "more people will read comments on a popular blog than the same words written on an unknown blog."
But getting back to me—a friend mentioned that he likes reading the comments because people talk to me as if they actually know me. That can be fun and weird, like when my family's dog made the comments last week.
Of course, the person I am in real life (very clumsy, occasionally socially awkward) and my online persona are two different things. But maybe not that different. Earlier today I sent my dad a sappy email and then asked how much financial aide that would get me. His response: "Zero because you spelled aid wrong."
Eveyone's a commenter.