The fact that we joke about[never reading the comments] documents an acceptance of a culture of abuse online. It helps normalize online harassment campaigns and treat the empowerment of abusers as inevitable, rather than solvable.
And worse, we denigrate a form that used to be, and sometimes still is, a powerful way of making meaningful connections with the world. I met most of my closest friends in the comments on my blog, or by commenting on theirs. Most of the people who came to my wedding were people who became friends by reading the comments. Whether it’s been some of the most talented people I’ve had the chance to collaborate with, or some of the most inspiring creators who I never imagined getting to connect with, being a person who read the comments opened countless doors for me back when we used to assume reading the comments should be a good thing.
There’s a grave cost to assuming online interactivity is always awful.
Anil Dash on the good of comments.
As someone who is Internet Old, and remembers the days before Don’t Read The Comments was a mantra, things nowadays definitely feel… lonelier than they did back then, even though there are more people. Maybe that’s just my Old Person Nostalgia talking.
Incidentally, for people who don’t know, Dash is the “if your website is full of assholes, it’s your fault” guy, so his suggestion of how to fix toxic commenting culture is to hold website owners–particularly the CEOs of large social media sites–accountable for enabling it.