3 Reasons for ‘No Comment’

This is a blog that allows people to make comments. It doesn’t have to be. But it is. That may have something to do with the fact that I haven’t yet worked out how ‘Word Press’ can stop people from having a voice! But mainly it was down to the fact that I got badgered a while back for not having this facility in place. And I’m a man pleaser at heart.

But for a while I’ve been operating a policy of not commenting on comments. And I’ve enjoyed that. I’m in a better place. Once or twice I’ve broken that self imposed discipline. For example, someone kindly corrected me on a couple of factual details in a recent post. I was grateful for that. It was right to thank them and admit my error. A couple of times I’ve e-mailed the person directly and made contact just to respond in a more personal way. Not to acknowledge what they’d said just felt rude. When someone at CCB comments, I often try to speak to them directly; usually to placate them or apologise! But I’ve settled on the policy of no longer commenting on comments. And I’ve done so for the following three reasons

1. it’s time consuming

I could spend my day responding to comments. And then responding to their response. And so on. But I simply don’t have the time. I have a job, and a family and a life, for that matter. I can’t spend all my time consumed by the reaction to my posts. It’s nice that people feel free to interact. I’m happy to let people respond and have their say. Others are free also to get involved. It’s just I won’t. I’d far rather say my thing and leave it at that. I try and be as clear as I can in what I say so that even if people don’t agree with my opinion, at least they know what it is. They’re free to respond as they choose. But I’ve found that I quickly get outnumbered and overwhelmed. It’s one thing to have an exchange with one person back and forth. But it’s quite another thing if a handful of others get drawn in. I lose track of who’s saying what and why. To get my head round everything takes intellectual effort. And I need that for other things; like sermon prep and so on. I like conversation and dialogue. I don’t mind a bit of robust discussion. But I just find it awkward and slow online. The way I tend to work is to think about a post, write it, upload it and the move on to something else. But comments keep me coming back to something that I’ve moved on from. And that gets confusing. And time consuming.

2. it’s emotionally exhausting

I’m a sensitive man. I get affected by what people say and how they say it. In my experience, people can be much more forthright and strident in online ‘debate’ than they would be in person. I recognise that in myself. I don’t like that. I don’t think it’s healthy. I don’t think it encourages us to be godly in the way we respect those in authority over us and those who are older than us. The comment box gives us a voice. We get to say what we want to say. And sometimes we do so with inadequate thought, using improper language and with insufficient generosity of spirit. That unsettles me. I find it affects me. And I’m especially affected by criticism and people can be very free with that online. Of course, some of the comments I get I really appreciate, especially the ones that like what I’ve said! Some are just out of left field and are best ignored. Others rile me. They get under my skin. They dominate my thinking. They unsettle me and once or twice they unsettle others. Sometimes comments cause division. And I worry about that; especially amongst the congregations I serve. Since adopting my new policy I’m coping much better!

3. it’s irresistibly tempting

If someone has a go, I can’t help myself. My instinctive reaction is to retaliate; verbally not physically, you understand. If I can formulate a witty retort or a derogatory put down quick enough, I usually say it. I struggle to let things through to the keeper. I’m usually tempted to swing. And that’s not good. It’s ungodly. It rightly gets me into trouble. Always has; even at school. You’d have thought I’d have grown out of it by now but I find maturity harder to achieve than you’d imagine! And so I feel it’s best to let people have their say, read it, ponder it, take what’s good and let the other stuff go. And so, not commenting on comments is a way of dealing with that temptation.

The downside of not commenting on comments is that it looks aloof and dismissive. I’m sorry about that. It’s not meant to be. It’s an act of self preservation!

4 thoughts on “3 Reasons for ‘No Comment’

  1. Guy July 7, 2011 / 8:39 pm

    St. Helens > Harlequins

  2. Andy July 8, 2011 / 1:34 am

    Replying to comments and engaging in online debate is time consuming and I’m glad that your professional and familial priorities take precedence! Internet debates have the ability to drag on and consume much more time in a way that a healthy chat over coffee that is broken by the need to eat or sleep doesn’t.

    I also commend you for continuing to post on the blog, its not easy standing up on issues and taking knocks from nameless, faceless people on the other side of the world (or street!). I completely understand your reasoning to refrain from entering the fray for the sake of self preservation and usually there’s enough people who land on different sides of the fence with time on their hands to debate each side ad infinitum!

    However, I wonder if much of what you have said regarding the personal nature of comments can’t also be applied to your posts. You say you are a sensitive man and like any of us are affected by what people say, especially because people can be more forthright and strident in online debates, but doesn’t that work both ways? Is it possible your online posts can come across more forthright and strident than you might do offline and that criticism not nuanced by other forms of non-verbal communication/body language can be damaging and hurtful for sensitive readers? When you make a post that gets under peoples skin are you surprised when their instinctive reaction is to retaliate when you’ve said that about yourself?

    Posting on the internet, whether that be on Facebook or a blog, should carry a health warning. It carries the lasting weight of the words in a letter but with the heat of the moment response of a conversation and without the subtleties brought out in the face to face.

  3. Tom Stanbury July 8, 2011 / 3:35 pm

    When you explained to me that the posts are for the benefit of a wider readership than your immediate congregations at CCB that a big difference to the way I read the the blog. I was pleased you told me.
    It seems like the no comment approach is a wise one.

  4. Peter Kirk July 11, 2011 / 9:07 am

    If you want to build an audience and get more readers for your blog, for whatever reason, this is bad advice. You need to build relationships with your readers to keep them coming back. Of course if you don’t care if no one reads what you write, then don’t bother!

    But I take your point about those critical comments getting under your skin. I try to respond graciously to defuse the negativity. But it’s difficult and doesn’t always work.

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