Blog comments have declined over the years, and I think that this has hurt our discourse. I request your comments!
I want comments to come back, and have strong arguments for why they should. Essentially, we’ve thrown out blog comments in favour of a combination of doing nothing and discoursing on social media, where your comments belong to someone else and disappear from view in moments.
Why Commenting Declined
The last comment posted by a real human on this blog was in 2016 — that’s four years ago and four years after I created this site. Already by that point, commenting as a habit was declining and still seems to be in decline.
There are a number of reasons why, but I think these are foremost among them:
When I first started my blog in 2012, social media was popular but not as popular as today. Friends and strangers would comment and converse on my posts.
With the growth of social, people began to comment more within the social network where I shared the work than on the blog post. This seemingly innocuous habit is actually suffocating: the conversation that used to take place on the medium itself became monopolized by the social media middle-person, usually Facebook.
The conversation might then take place across multiple separate social posts rather than at the source. Meanwhile, those comments on blog posts from back in 2012 are still there: anyone who finds that writing can read them — the Facebook comments, meanwhile, are buried in the infinite-scrolling feed, practically lost and without function.
Comment Section Shut Downs
Meanwhile, many blogs and media organizations chose to shut down their comments sections, sometimes due to trolling, legal issues, etc. This further denormalized the habit of commenting, while outsourcing the task of moderation to Zuckerberg.
A few years back the comment spammers got good and scaled up. For readers who don’t run websites or blogs, comment spam is like email spam, except the spammers attempt to promote their product or sites via your comments.
They are so prodigious that bloggers can get overwhelmed with comments to moderate. I think that the automatic spam-detection tools are better now, which is a relief, but back in the day it was a real task to sift through tens of spam comments per day — of course, for more popular sites the problem is even worse.
I suggest that comment spam wears out bloggers, who might chose simply to turn off comments and/or fail to approve real comments. Both of which discourage the decent commenting citizens from engaging.
I Request Your Comments
This trend, I think, has harmed our discourse. Foremost, put simply, I miss discussing things here on my site with you, the readers.
Meanwhile, the social media middle-personing is insidious.
Firstly, as mentioned above, your social media comments are seen for a moment, then are black-holed by the broken fire hydrant of dross on the network in question.
Secondly, your comments on my site are facilitated by WordPress, on which this blog is based. WordPress is a free and open-source platform, whose source-code is checked for skulduggery and proper functioning by the community. Facebook owns the comments that you write on Facebook: you own the comments that you write here.
Thirdly, more philosophically, I think that the people should own the means of communication. Your words and ideas, if stored at the pleasure of a corporation, are vulnerable. I advise that you buy a web domain, familiarize yourself with the technology of publishing, and use tools that you trust.
So: I request your comments. Please comment on this post, or another. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.