Did People Always Act So Entitled? Comments are a Privilege

Posted on 05 Jan 2016 02:31

In SEO and blogging circles, there are endless debates about whether a website owner or blogger should have comments after their articles. People debate about the advantages and disadvantages of dealing with comments. The disadvantages are, for instance, having to deal with negative and often hateful comments. The advantages are engagement and repeat traffic.

One of the biggest arguments for having comments on your articles is something like "it shows readers you are open to discussion and willing to hear what they think." And if you do not do this then "readers will be turned off and think that you believe yourself to be above discussing your articles; that you are the final word."

You may notice then that SEO and blogging folks do notice one important thing: People expect to be able to have a conversation with a writer about what they write. Not only that, they feel they are entitled to it.

I have never ever charged anyone for accessing anything I've written. I've rarely ever marketed to them or driven them to my articles in any way. And yet, I have noticed, again and again, this sense of entitlement. As a matter of fact, many commenters seem to expect to be treated like a customer in a retail store, where they are always right and the staff is always courteous and helpful.

Yet, they are not my customer. This is not retail. I do not want to be nice to people who are hateful to me. I do not want to pretend that someone's poorly thought out reactionary rant actually adds any value to a discussion.

Now, let me tell you a little secret: No other bloggers want this either. They will "take the high road" and "maintain a professional demeanor" not because they aren't pissed that some moron just splutzed all over their comment section, but because they are afraid of upsetting or alienating other readers, or causing them not to comment. There is little value on the internet given to being real and expressing yourself honestly, if you are a writer.


Yet what kind of writer are we if we do not express ourselves honestly?

I am dismayed by how many emails I get from people wanting to thank me for something I wrote that helped them solve a problem. I am not dismayed by the emails! They are great. I am dismayed by how few people ever express any kind of appreciation in public comments. Are people so privileged nowadays that those who actually do have a sense of appreciation must go under-ground and contact authors privately?

Comments aside, not only do many people feel entitled to what we write on our websites, but feel that we ourselves should derive no value from it whatsoever. We should pay hosting fees, spend countless hours in thought and research and, hell, even pay for images for our articles and do it all for free and to enrich the world.

I have had people tell me there were too many ads on a site, and that they were intrusive, even though they were, of course, not intrusive at all. I've had a person tell me that a very helpful article wasn't good enough because I needed more 'stick figures' and that I should hire the artist who drew the other image on the article to make some more for me. All in the same comment!

I am sure these same people would not like it very much if I pasted a popover with a plea for donations every time they tried to read an article. Yet, unlike Wikipedia, I don't have a bunch of people creating my content for me for free! It's all me. On the other hand, Wikipedia, who has duped thousands into creating all this content out of some sense of righteousness, is holier than I! I who never ask anything of anybody. Not that I am suggesting that Wikipedia is in direct competition with this or any other blog. You will never seen an article on Wikipedia entitled "Did People Always Act So Entitled?"

Recently, as well, I came across a thread on Disqus, which is the comment tool I use here on this site, where a reader was complaining about his comments being deleted. He was asking if Disqus could fix it so a commenter could dispute comments being deleted by site owners, or if they could somehow be informed about who deleted their comment so they could then complain, etc. I understood this person's frustration. I've left what I thought were good comments on blogs and had them marked as spam or deleted. It seems unfair and unjustified.

I would only delete a comment if it was extremely hateful, racist, etc. Most bloggers are the same. We want you to comment. We want to be open-minded, hear criticisms, and anything else you have to say. We would like it to be on subject, but we know that beggars cannot be choosers. However, as soon as you start acting as if it is your "God given right" to say anything you want in your comments, we get a bit irritated. You would too.

However, this fellow's comment, and the comments which followed, made it clear that many of those involved did not understand that the comments on a site were purely there at the discretion of the site owner or admin. They all seemed to feel they had a 'right' to comment and to not have their comments deleted. Understand that a person's site is like their home…they decide what is in it, and what goes. If you want to decide this for yourself, then I think a lot of website owners will agree with me when I say, "anyone can start a website!"

Thousands of other writers are in the same boat as I am. You would never buy a book and feel absolutely entitled to having a little sit-down with the author. Yet, even book writers today must do all the work of marketing themselves, and have websites where they, you guessed it, schmooze their readers hoping they can get some sales out of the "good guy" marketing plan.

Being a writer today is about like it was being a grocery bagger when I was in junior high school. Some people give you tips, but they look almost ashamed about it. "You poor sap, here's a hand out." Most people just feel entitled to it and never notice your existence. An article is nothing more than a commodity these days. Even a great one.

I remember dreaming of being a writer one day, while bagging those groceries. Now I am one, and I sometimes dream of those simple times at the grocery store, bagging groceries.

So, there is an article field after this. If you want to leave a comment and talk with me, I'm open. But if you act like a privileged asshole, I'm going to treat you like one.

"Shitstorm" key image © kebox

This page created 05 Jan 2016 02:31
Last updated 29 Feb 2016 23:23

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