Monday, November 26, 2007

A Comment On Comments

I leave comments from time to time, mostly on political sites like ThinkProgress,The Huffington Post, Crooks and Liars, Firedoglake **, and TalkingPointsMemo. I'm not quite sure of what this says about me, but so many of the comments I read are either nonsensical, poorly thought out, mis-spelled, childish, or off-topic. Many are varied combinations of that list.

Now I'm certainly not immune to some of this either, but in my defense I've gotten better since I started using WordWeb, some other writing aids like an additional thesaurus (Mobysaurus Thesaurus), the web site, and many others. And the best aid of all, taking my time and re-reading my thoughts before clicking "Post".

I know some of this is unfortunately the way many younger people are communicating these days. No capital letters, no punctuation, etc.. And then there's the fact that just because you have a computer, it doesn't necessarily mean that you're educated (or course there are some people that aren't 'educated' but are plenty smart).

I hope this doesn't come across as conceited or anything like that. My formal education ended after high school (and later in life one year of photography school). And to call that an 'education' is being generous. During high school (in the seventies) I was a rocker and a serious partier. I spent most of my time playing the drums with a local band, smoking pot, and drinking beer. But somewhere in there, mostly before and after that part of my life I read a lot. It also helped that my parents were highly intelligent graduates of Colby College and my mother quickly corrected me whenever I mis-spoke.
I'm far from perfect, and I prove it often, but I try to take the time and steps necessary to minimize that fact when I leave comments.

Nowadays I deal with chronic depression, ADD, and severe anxiety, all of which conspire to make writing and thinking clearly a difficult process. I guess that in some ways that forces me to be more careful about what I write and how I write it. And sometimes when I don't put the effort into it I let things go that I'd otherwise spend more time on. The end result being writing that I'm less than proud of, and usually exhibits itself towards the end of whatever I'm writing as my attention and energy fade. My writing is far from perfect, but at least I make the effort to make it understandable.

I assume that this happens to others also. The reasons for thoughtless (or 'less than thoughtful') comments are many, but the reasons for poorly spelled comments aren't. There are typos, which are easily remedied by simply re-reading before posting. Then there are many people who can't spell, which is almost as easily remedied by using one of the hundreds of spell-checking utilities available that underline the mis-spelled words for you.

Then there are the comments that seem to have been written by aliens, some of which actually were written by people from other countries who don't have a good command of english, and others that seem to have come from some beings that are not of this world.
The former is understandable, but there are many that fall into the latter category, undecipherable by the best translators. They're the ones that leave you thinking, HUH?

It's a tossup as to which is more maddening, the inane comments that people pull out of their butts, or the fact that some people are so lazy that they won't bother to use a simple spelling utility that could at least allow them to fake it and not look so stoopid.

These days with all the blogs, forums, and comments sections, most of which are solely print-based, you have to take extra care to make sure your thoughts are conveyed clearly. There are no facial clues or voice inflections for others to notice and thereby access your true feelings or the actual meaning of your comment as opposed to what they think you meant.

I haven't touched on THE PEOPLE WHO FEEL THEY HAVE TO WRITE EVERYTHING IN ALL CAPS, JUST SO...__________________(fill in the blank).
Most veterans of internet forums and such know that this is considered 'yelling' and is bad form, but with more and more new people coming online with computers everyday and joining the world wide conversation there are just so many that haven't learned the proper etiquette, let alone bother to use proper english or spelling. Some know better and do it anyway.

I haven't mentioned 'trolls' either. Those who 'troll' the comments sections of web sites looking to engage in arguments with people that don't share their point of view, and some who purposely go there to derail the legitimate discussion. The reasons are many. These days the small but vocal minority of 'loyal Bushies' seem to be everywhere standing up for their hero, the facts be damned. Among those there are also the religious zealots, well-meaning and otherwise.

I'm finding myself less and less prone to even read the comments sections these days. I am finding some sites that seem to have a more thoughtful and less fanatical commentary but I don't know how to avoid the lazy posts with the typos, et al.
Maybe at a site like

I've 'replied' to people's comments from time to time, politely mentioning how easy and helpful spelling assist utilities are, but they're usually met with the 'spelling nazi' reply or some other defensive retort so I don't bother anymore.

I wish it didn't bother me as much. I'd blame my mother, but it's not her fault. I'm glad for her guidance. I feel sorry for those whose parents aren't good role models. I know all to many. Unfortunately ignorance usually breeds ignorance as I'm sure many teachers would agree. The exceptions are wonderful to see and are to be encouraged. But this trend towards 'no rules writing' is bad. I've had people tell me that "it's just the way kids are communicating these days", as if there was nothing that could be done to change it.

It's bad for the future of increased online interaction and bad for accurate communication where all you have to go by are written words.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to re-read my post. I could really use an editor to help me with that, but for now I'll have to muddle through as best I can.

Did I mention the ones who overuse the bold highlighting feature?
** Edited on 2/21/2011 4:50 PM: Added strikethrough because of the recent distasteful and unprofessional behavior of Jane Hamsher on Twitter.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are welcome but need to be on-topic and civil.