Confessions of a Commenting Whore

by Marie on December 10, 2010 · 27 comments

Today we have a guest post from Marie of The Quarterlife Quandary.

Let me start by just putting it out there: I am a blog stalker from way back in the day.  For the longest time, I would click and I would lurk, but I’d never actually comment. For me, commenting seemed like such a strange phenomenon. I felt like a complete creeper writing things to someone I had never met in real life. What would I write anyway? These people didn’t know me, they couldn’t hear my voice and understand my sense of humor, so I couldn’t write what I really wanted to. I’d have to write something P.C. and safe instead, like “great post!” Ugh. Lame. What a big fake commenting fraud I would be.

As I delved deeper into the author side of the blogging world, I realized that comments were kind of a big deal. Every article I read on growing my blog readership advised me to comment everywhere and anywhere because it would link people back to my blog. So I dipped my toe in the commenting pool and made some attempts to reach out. A lot of phoney baloney shou-outs ensued. I’d write, “Wow! That looks delicious!” when what I was thinking was more, “Please explain to me how you manage to eat that crap every day?!” I became a comment spammer, the internet equivalent of a used car salesman, sending my bogus blog love out into the atmosphere.

Like many novice bloggers, I eventually started making the transition from total emulation (pretty much straight-up imitation) of the stereotypical healthy living blogs to finding more of my own voice. I wanted my blog to reflect my personality and everything I believe comprises a “healthy life” (daily chocolate, the occasional tequila shot, and plenty of sex in between are among those things). I didn’t want to just write about the food I ate or the miles I ran…so why was I spastically commenting on only these things?

The tricky thing with comments is that they have power. I wasn’t respecting that power. I was neglecting the fact that comments are inextricably linked with content. In reality, with every kudos I gave, I was simultaneously commending someone’s writing and choice of content. Suddenly it dawned on me: I was validating people’s blog posts that I didn’t necessarily enjoy. I was praising content left and right just “because.” Not because it was fantastically written, or brazenly honest and insightful, but because it was written by a popular blogger and it just seemed like something I was just supposed to do. And then I got annoyed. I was angry with myself for falling into this pattern. How many uniquely amazing blogs had I overlooked while commenting with such reckless abandon?

But instead of just blaming bloggers for churning out the same old content, let’s ask ourselves: whose fault is it really?

Who should be held accountable for content? Is it solely the responsibility of the author to keep content fresh, interesting, and well written or do the readers and commenters share in a role in this game?

If the same post template is being used day after day (breakfast, run, lunch, dinner, yoga, sleep), but being commented on 87 times, what message does that send to the blogger and her followers? As a blogger why would you feel the need to push yourself creatively to expand your writing repertoire when what you’re doing seems to be working? To use my father’s favorite expression, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But this puts us in a precarious position as bloggers, one where we slip into a comfort coma of what’s “OK” — when perhaps our blogs could actually use a tune up. We are constantly rising to meet the changing demands in technology and social media innovations but sometimes, it’s the actual content is what needs updating.

Perhaps you like the person, so you disregard lackluster content or maybe you’re like I was in the beginning, hoping to bridge your readership by any means possible. Whatever the case is, I think it’s important to take a minute and think about our comments before hitting send. And on the flip side, as the writer, I am going to take extra measures not to bury myself in the ease and security of familiarity. My moods change, my breakfast preferences change, my underwear changes (on a daily basis thankyouverymuch), so why shouldn’t my content vary as well?

Marie is a twentysomething expat living in London. When she’s not training for her first marathon, being a full time grad student, or planning her wedding, she is coming up with creative ways to incorporate chocolate and tequila into her daily life. She also has an obsession with all things Google. You can read about her adventures on her blog, Quarterlife Quandary.

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{ 27 comments }

sarah December 10, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Yummo!
Jokes.

So there is a lot to think about here. Since blog communities are, more or less, circles of friends (or “friends”), saying that you are going to comment honestly all the time (“This post is dull as dirt”) seems unrealistic and way harsh, Tai. You wouldn’t tell your friend her story was boring in person, but you might nod and change the subject…which is why I don’t tend to comment on boring posts. I guess I think it’s not my place to tell a blogger that I don’t think she’s interesting, but my non-participation should serve as a silent cue.

Given that, I think it’s up to the blogger to gauge the quality and thoughtfulness of comments to decide if she ought to up the ante on posts. If the majority of my comments are along the lines of “Hahahaha that’s great” or “Awesome!”, then I know to do something different. Because that’s not the kind of conversation I want to foster.
sarah´s last post ..The art of living simply

Laura Georgina December 10, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Awesome post, Marie!

I have exactly the same commenting history, just because it seemed like the thing you had to do. I’m now much more sparing with comments–and, especially, with where I comment. Some blogs are great and make me reflect but don’t necessarily call for me to comment–and that’s fine. Others? If all I can think of is a saccharine comment, maybe the blog isn’t as stimulating to me as it should be–and maybe I should just stop reading.

I also slowly realized that, by commenting to put your name out there and find new readers, you are wading into a readership that may or may not be suited to your own. The blogs I comment on now are blogs that I LOVE and whose commenters seem to be on a similar wavelength as me, which makes the discussions that arise in comments on those blogs so rewarding.

AmandaD December 10, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Thanks for the interesting take & analysis on the art of commenting. I too was very reluctant to comment in the beginning & there are tons of psychological aspects to who/what/when/where/why we comment.
AmandaD´s last post ..Wildseed Farms &amp Luckenbach

zenlizzie December 10, 2010 at 3:54 pm

I agree that a lot of people just comment to get their name out there, and when a blogger is making big dollas from hits and comments, then I guess that works for everyone. Well, except for the people who want discussion and dialogue, and I doubt those people are reading shallow blogs anyway.
But, regarding accountability, I honestly think a lot of readers like the format and content of predictable blogs, just like people keep buying women’s mags with the same stories every month. Maybe it is comforting or reaffirming, or maybe they just like the photos.
That isn’t to say that those bloggers couldn’t mix things up and be better bloggers, but I think that a lot of their commenters are commenting not just to get hits to their blog, but also to try to encourage and build a relationship with the blogger. Now… whether that happens or not is up for debate.
For me, the real turn off of these shallow-praising comments is that it fosters an environment where people get too big for their blogger britches. I recently saw a popular blogger rant about other blogs, and I just thought, “Um, if it weren’t for all these people trying to be nice to you, you wouldn’t be in the position you are in today.”
zenlizzie´s last post ..Answering the questions you didn’t ask directly

shelby December 10, 2010 at 4:12 pm

Word to the word.

It blows my mind when I see some bloggers post their same oatmeal that they eat every day and then “92 comments!” But reading through most of those comments, they are definitely of the “sweet and low” variety. Lack of content begets lack of content. It’s like a blogger Ponzi scheme. And at some point, the house of cards will collapse.

Kendra December 10, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Great post!

Just kidding… that’s not all I have to say…

I really do love this, though, because I did much the same when commenting. I still comment A LOT on blogs that I really like because so many of those bloggers post things that feel inviting to dialogue and response. That and I rarely have the ability to keep my mouth shut.
Kendra´s last post ..Reflections On A 50lbs Loss- The Struggles

Lindsay Dianne December 10, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Putting out the time commenting is hard, but it is seriously difficult to put out the effort to do it well. To leave a useful, thoughtful and relevant comment is hard work in itself, and I am glad to have found a network of daily commenters who say useful and thoughtful things, rather than the drive by, get your name out there type of comment. It’s not hard to see the difference.
I have a rule now though. If I read through a post I will comment.
Unless I can’t find anything nice to say at all. Sometimes then I just choose to get off the page. But mostly I like to leave comments to say that I enjoyed the post and that it was somehow relevant to me.
Comments are encouraging! No two ways about it.

Joanna Burgraf December 10, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Nice thought-provoking post, you make a good point.

This particular blog community seems to favor only agreeable comments and most comments (that I have seen) where the commenter disagrees with the writer is either shot down immediately or they have to sweeten up their comment so much that the message never really gets across.

My question is how do we ever learn and grow our knowledge if for the most part things are not up for debate? Maybe this isn’t directly related, but I think it’s a discussion worth having.
I guess different blogs serve different purposes and perhaps there is an opportunity for a new type of community that likes to debate, disagree and challenge the status quo in an effort to learn and grow.
Joanna Burgraf´s last post ..Breakfast Burrito Perfection and a Party

MelissaNibbles December 10, 2010 at 5:03 pm

I only comment if I have something to say or to add to the conversation. I really don’t understand how a post of a bowl of oatmeal and recap of a four mile run warrents 150 comments, but the people like what they like.
MelissaNibbles´s last post ..Lazy Spinach Wraps &amp Three Things Thursday

Marie December 10, 2010 at 5:26 pm

I am absolutely loving all of your comments! Thanks so much for jumping into the conversation- a bit ironic we are having comments about commenting, eh?

Lindsay and Laura, I love your rule of thumb about commenting when you’ve read through an entire post! I agree, if I don’t skim, but read ALL of it, then I know it’s fantastic and I love it. Joanna, you certainly bring up an interesting aspect of the blog community and comments!

I think a great key point discussed here is the quality of the comment is related to the quality of the content- I’d much rather have 10 comments that have value and meaning than 86 that just say “great!”

shelby December 10, 2010 at 5:34 pm

I suspect that many negative comments get deleted in this particular blog community. :)

shelby December 10, 2010 at 5:35 pm

That was supposed to be in response to Joanna….

D December 10, 2010 at 5:40 pm

I tend to only comment when I disagree with the blogger (I’ll make an exception for this though! Hehe), which obviously get’s entirely misinterpreted in the comments. I really don’t see the point in writing, “Your breakfast looks great/I must try that recipe/Yes I’ll buy your book/I agree with your points” and so on. I read the post, and I might agree with or like everything in it, but I won’t ever comment on that usually. However, if there’s something in the post that bothers me or that I disagree with, then I’m much more inclined to comment. It’s not because I’m “hating” on the blogger, it’s because I think that a debate is more worthy of my commenting time, and I enjoy reading different perspectives. I HATE that, as a commenter, you get attacked for this, but I think it’s important to speak up when something bothers you. I figure that if I were watching a show/documentary/interview on tv, I wouldn’t pause the tivo every two minutes to say “that was funny!/she’s interesting!/ great point!. i agree!”, but I’d pause it to say to whomever I’m sitting with “huh, I don’t know how i feel about that/ what do you think? /I think she’s full of it/ that seems weird/ etc”.

Conversations (and commenting) are no fun when it’s just a giant lovefest.

D December 10, 2010 at 5:41 pm

oh man, i hate this! a lot of bloggers have openly admitted to this, which i find horrendous. i think the WORST i ever saw with this is on a bloggers twitter, where they wrote something about “should they delete this negative comment” but decided they would leave it up for “other people to chime in”. which basically means, “i delete all negative comments about me so that everyone thinks im perfect and that they are weird if they disagree, but ill let this one slide so that my rabid fans can online haze this one poor commenter and come to my rescue as the poor, attacked blogger”

D December 10, 2010 at 5:42 pm

uh that last comment was in reply to shelby…is the reply button not working?!

Lisa December 10, 2010 at 5:46 pm

I agree Shelby! It’s astonishing that people get 100 comments on a post that is exactly the same as the day befores….yet I would write something really heart felt and get 1 comment. It’s discouraging.
Lisa´s last post ..My Butt Hurts

Lisa December 10, 2010 at 5:49 pm

When I first started blogging I think I did this as well. I then thought long and hard and realized I needed to weed out the blogs that I was reading that I DID NOT LIKE. Why was I wasting time when their blogs just made me mad? I didn’t agree with them. I couldn’t relate to them. I cut my blogs down by half. I only comment on 50% of those now and only if I really feel like I can add something to the discussion.

On the flip side, I wish that other people would comment on my blog and not just lurk. I feel like the ratio of traffic to comments is very lopsided. It’s bizarre!
Lisa´s last post ..My Butt Hurts

Sues December 10, 2010 at 5:58 pm

I think about this ALL the time! And I still don’t understand it. I, for one, would rather get fewer comments and know I’m putting up quality, original content. But at the same time, it can be tough to think you’re putting out quality content only to get no feedback, which makes you think nobody liked it!

But I learned that this isn’t really true at a recent blogger conference where I met tons of people who said “I love your blog!!” and talked about specific posts and I thought, “you read my blog?? Why don’t you comment???” Then I realized, I read TONS of blogs that I don’t comment on. Not because I don’t think they’re amazing blogs, but simply because I don’t feel the need to kiss up or leave a generic comment. I read them and love them and that’s enough, right? But now, I think I need to start commenting on more blogs even if it is simply to say “awesome post!!” because sometimes people deserve that! And maybe it will keep a few fabulous bloggers going :)

Angela December 10, 2010 at 7:46 pm

I am amazed at the amount of comments the oatmeal-eating, marathon-running, opensky-whoring bloggers get. It’s one thing to be supportive and say, hey, I like what you wrote. It’s quite another to just comment everyday to feel as though you’re a apart of something – and I think that is what happens. If people are truly entertained by the kombucha-guzzling navel gazers out there, then I think it’s because they are missing something Hugh Jass out of their own lives and trying to live through those folks.

I don’t comment on everything – I currently have over 400 blogs on my radar – but I will if it moves me or if I think that person needs some feedback.

Joanna Burgraf December 10, 2010 at 7:58 pm

I didn’t think about that Shelby. I like the love fest when it’s genuine, but I don’t like it at the expense of exchanging ideas.
Joanna Burgraf´s last post ..Breakfast Burrito Perfection and a Party

marie December 10, 2010 at 8:01 pm

“Great post!”

Just kidding.

I’ve been guilty of this, but I try to consider -both when commenting AND when writing my own blog- whether I have something interesting to say that anyone is going to give a crap about.

And I hope it would occur to other bloggers that if all they’re seeing on their site are banal, two-word comments or a bunch of people who “totally agree with you!”, that people are not fully engaged or sincere.
marie´s last post ..jingle-weizen

Elizabeth December 11, 2010 at 3:24 am

Could not agree more with you marie! I’m almost ashamed to admit that In the beginning I wrote those generic “look at my oatmeal” posts because I thought it would be the best way to get folks to read my blog. Funny enough, I don’t even like oatmeal. So why the hell would I subject myself to food, writing and reading about something I don’t event like?! I can only plead insanity. But I say, no more! I deleted those same blogs I thought I had to be like to succeed from my reader. They didn’t interest me, they didn’t help me become a better blogger, they just bored me to death. So now I comment on posts that keep me entertained, make me think or inspire me to write something.

Tiffany @ Simply Shaka December 11, 2010 at 3:48 am

Add another one to the list who used to comment like that but then got to see that really wasn’t “my voice” coming across. I would read a lot of the bigger blogs at first but then after reading them for awhile, I got bored. It would be the same thing with a cup of coffee, oats, coffee, hubs, pet, exercise and repeat each day. I would comment at first b/c as some others have said, thought thats what you were supposed to do, but then just quit.

Since starting to blog earlier this year, I’ve come across many blogs that I read on a daily basis and follow but don’t feel the need or pressure to add a comment. Sometimes the entire post will be about a workout or run and they make a snarky remark about a person at the coffee shop and I will comment about that and how I love what they wrote about the minor thing and not the main topic (hopefully that makes some sense?) If I read an entire blog post and am meh about it, I move on and will comment once something catches my eye.

Maryea @ Happy Healthy Mama December 11, 2010 at 6:25 pm

This post is really making me think. I try not to leave generic or insincere comments, but since I like getting comments I feel like leaving comments on others blogs is almost a courtesy. And of course I also want to get my name out there. But if I don’t like the post or am bored, I don’t comment at all.
Maryea @ Happy Healthy Mama´s last post ..Healthy Snack Idea- Parmesan Roasted Chickpeas

Anna December 14, 2010 at 3:01 am

I was definitely guilty of this when I started blogging but don’t do it anymore because it’s boring and time-consuming. Does my blog get way fewer comments now that I don’t comment-whore myself out? You bet. Do I care? Not really. Because 1 thoughtfully written, novel-length comment is worth more than 100 fluffy “nice post!” comments.

Anna December 14, 2010 at 3:05 am

RESPECT for your clueless reference.

Anna December 14, 2010 at 3:06 am

…. that was supposed to be in response to the first comment. I don’t think the reply function is working.

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