Water cooler “talk” on social media? These guys just get in the way.
Every day, thousands of pieces are written, published, and put online. And every day, readers conjugate and coagulate online and on social media at the bottom of these articles and sometimes actually talk about what they’ve just read. It’s supposed to be like a round table discussion or water cooler talk—but it’s not.
Instead, we get a bunch of Statlers and Waldorfs – those two old guys up in the balcony from the Muppet Show.
There is such a stinking pile of these nonsensical commenters that any attempt at actual discourse has all but disappeared. Comments serving to forward the discussion get buried under “your mom” jokes and rallying cries about liberal bias and the inevitable conservative apocalypses. The only thing these commenters are giving back is the ability to spot them coming from miles away.
Here, for your reading enjoyment, are the 10 most ridiculous and common types of people who comment on articles:
This commenter already knows what you’re about: pushing the liberal/conservative/federal government’s/Big Pharma’s agenda. That article you wrote about your pet rat clearly has ties to the Obama administration, and last week’s piece on Obamacare was obviously a paid-for publicity stunt by Obama himself.
Every once in a while, you’ll be lucky enough to attract a true conspiracy theorist, so get your tinfoil hat ready. You never know when the NSA is going to come swooping down.
The person who already knew more about your article before you got up that morning and there is apparently no reason for you to have written it. He’ll type out a 2,000-word comment and diatribe on something vaguely related to your subject, missing the point entirely, then throw his metaphorical hands up in the air if you refuse to examine, in depth, the 37 academic papers from the early 1990s that refute your points. Full of bluster, this person uses (incorrectly) as many five-syllable words as he can to show off his superior intelligence. He’ll note the advanced degrees and work experience he may or may not have to “prove” to you that he’s an expert on your topic — the one you wrote.
This commenter has a personal story to counteract each statistic and claim you make in your article. They know that all poor people are just like her horrible neighbor and all parents are spoiling their kids these days because she once saw a screaming kid get a cookie in a grocery store.
The Anecdoter tries to one-up anyone in their way and has a story that is more dramatic than your silly essay every time. They don’t know why you’re complaining about losing your job (which you never said) when she lost three jobs and her husband came down with pneumonia and they still managed to carry on with their lives like troopers. And by the way, lived through a tornado and a hurricane during that time.
Enter the sanctimonious individual who is morally outraged that they spent three minutes reading your article. They’ll address you specifically, calling you stupid or something equally witty. Other times, they’ll lash out at the “drivel” you’ve “been allowed” to post. He is super mad you probably got paid some pittance to waste his precious brain-space. Sometimes, they’ll turn into a Catholic nun and reprimand your priorities. “Don’t you have anything better to do?” They do this this as if commenting in this manner is bettering the future of humanity.
If they are not lashing out at the writer, they berate the publication, certain that their complaint will be taken up the ladder and considered by superiors. They’ll scoff at the “paper of record” which allowed “this tripe” to be published and call for your firing (whether you work there or not). They usually end with, “This is the last straw. You just lost a loyal reader.”
Inevitably, this commenter shows up on your next article.
The Slacktivist is really concerned about world problems. They organize rallies and protests (on Facebook), and swear they’re going to get around to donating to March of Dimes someday. For now, they are happy to belittle your article by invoking the fact that people are starving in Africa and Syrians are fleeing their homes. It all points to how frivolous you are. As they put it, if you really wanted to counteract cultural inequality, you’d click on these five crowdfunding links for obscure nonprofits run by her friends. She’d do it herself, but she has bills to pay.
This commenter has a lot to tell you about your piece and it all comes from the first three hits on a Google search. He leaves links all over his comments to back up his point of view and will not hesitate to pull out Web M.D. to refute your expert’s quotation. Unless, of course, you’re using Web M.D. to make your point, in which case, the commenter will immediately Google some expert who can discredit your ideas.
This commenter hates everything you’ve ever done and more. In fact, they hate you, too, you idiot. They take and inordinate amount of time to pour through your piece, looking for turns of phrase that might offend them. “Not all rich people!” he screeches below a piece on income statistics. They were just looking for something to read, and they’re honestly feeling very attacked right now.
They love ad hominem attacks and basic frothy blather filled with mostly harmless disgust. The best part about this commenter is they can’t stay away. They’re a regular reader of your work. A fan, even.
They’ll follow you around, popping up in random publications that have nothing to do with each other, each time you write a piece. They’ll even link to your past work to show you they’re keeping tabs on you.
“You suck and this is garbage,” writes anonymous6969. And then is never seen again.
The drive-by is often accompanied by “The Replier,” who, unlike the original commenter, is usually a regular in whatever comment section you are reading. He never makes an in-depth comment, and he never starts a thread, but he is always there, reminding you that he is always there.
“Right on,” The Replier replies.
THE TITLE READER
Every so often, The Title Reader will be upfront enough to start her comment with, “I didn’t read the whole article, but…” This is where you should stop reading. Usually, this commenter goes full maniac into how bad your article on income inequality in the United States is because it’s titled something “clickbaity” like “How The Poor Suffer.” They’ll present an irate argument of five paragraphs telling you quite specifically how you are wrong about all the things you never even said.
Your article may be on the evolution of electric cars, but this commenter really needs to talk about how Christians are oppressed in society. They’ll find a vague line between your piece and their problem of the day and insist on commenting not only to you, but replying to everyone else’s remarks as well. They won’t stop until someone else who is reading your article on stem cell research talks to her about the new El Niño. She has priorities and will blast you and everyone else with them, no matter what.
Writers bear the weight of the reader’s ignorance. Anonymous, disengaged, and ignorant readers. And for anyone who’s offended by the previous sentence, I wasn’t talking about you. Then again, maybe I was.