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Friday, April 25, 2014

Online Comments

I don't know the origin of the saying but someone compared online comments to sewage. Seems about right to me.

Reading online comments to articles never yields any substantive benefit or enlightenment or satisfaction that lasts more than five minutes. Of course not all comment sections are excrement. New York Times and The Onion's AV Club have a markedly higher density of non-pukable comments on their Web site. (The Onion's own site wisely avoids the comment section altogether.) But these are exceptions. Most online comments are ... stupid is less of a problem than the mindnumbing dullness. So boring. So predictable. So repetitive. The comment sections are largely filled with pathetic attempts to make commenters feel smarter, wiser, better, and more consequential than they really are. A kind of mental masturbation. One can leave dozens of comments under YouTube videos mocking Adele's fatness. Does that change an iota of one's own worthlessness in comparison to Adele's magnificence?

Yet the crushingly dull banter floating in the sewage of Internet holds a kind of bizarre attraction for me. Whenever I read a semi-interesting piece, my finger on the mouse automatically pull the cursor down to scan the comment section. I caught myself doing this and began to wonder why. I seem to have a morbid curiosity for this crap and get micro-thrills akin to opening emails.

Perhaps it is akin to eaves dropping on a bunch of chattering strangers in a closed room. What's the gossip? What are people saying about this and that? What is on their mind? And then the question is why am I so keen on hearing the chatter. Why do I care what people are saying?

A friend of mine recently mentioned that she dragged herself up in the middle of the night to attend a company teleconference in a different timezone. She didn't need to but felt compelled. What are the news? She did not want to be left out. I suspect that this curiosity for neighborhood gossip is behind the many hours I have wasted on reading worthless sewage in the online comment sections.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Before the age of internet, I lived a somewhat sheltered life since most people I associate with are of reasonable intelligence. Internet was an eye opener, especially the comment sections. It is just mind boggling that people can be so pathological, vicious and stupid.

Jun Yan said...

Many observers have commented on the exposing effect of anonymity of the Internet. It makes me wonder what's revealed and what's concealed in human nature. I still believe that most people are interesting in some ways, but Internet expression doesn't help reveal it in most cases, it seems.

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