Right up front: I’ve been guilty of this before and probably will be again.
As I was working on a Zeitgeist piece, I looked at a nicely-done 1,300-word essay. On a national newspaper website. About one aspect of social networking. With some interesting and slightly controversial things to say, some of them certainly open to argument.
The very first comment detailed the length of the essay–how many words, how many characters, how many sentences, average number of letters per word, length of longest sentence–and ended with a note suggesting that there was no content, or at least that the commenter hadn’t read it.
Understand: The commenter didn’t disagree with what was being said–the commenter was trashing the essay based on its length (apparently). Several other commenters offered variants of the old “tl; dr” brushoff–that is, “too long; didn’t read.” (I rarely see that on liblogs–maybe library folks actually have more than ten-second attention spans, or at least believe that “tl; dr” leaves one open to accusations of subliteracy.)
I’m not going to argue that people damn well should read longer essays. After all, 1,300 words is just a bit less than two pages of C&I, or three or four pages of a typical trade paperback, or one-third of a typical In the library post, or nine Friendfeed posts. If that’s so much text it makes your brain explode or your eyes hurt, who am I to argue.
If you didn’t read the article or post, why are you commenting on it?
Equally, if you read the article or post and have nothing to say about the topic or the substance of the post or article… why comment on it?
Because you know the writer hangs on your every word so much that she will at least appreciate knowing you dropped by? Because you’re so damned important that you must respond? Because you’re a frustrated graffitist? Because you have no life?
I think all of usmany of us do this sort of thing–or equally vapid responses–once in a while. (Yes, that’s a preventive strikeout: I was about to commit a universalism, and I damn well should know better.)
It works both ways. I waste time on FriendFeed. (I also use FriendFeed, and maintain friendships on FriendFeed, and gain valuable insights on FriendFeed. And sometimes I waste time on FriendFeed–the activities aren’t mutually exclusive.) As many categories as I’ve hidden, as rarely as I Follow anybody new, I still see dozens of posts (mostly from Twitter, but not all) of the “what’ll I have for breakfast / I just had X for dinner / I just posted from Y” flavor, stuff that for me is almost exclusively in the “who cares?” category–just as some of my posts here fall into the “who cares?” category for some, maybe most, occasionally all readers.
I don’t believe I’ve ever found any reason to comment on a “what I had for breakfast” FF item by asking who cares or saying “don’t clutter up the feed with that crap” or anything of the sort. If I don’t care, why would I take the time to comment? (And, for that matter, if I don’t care, how does that imply that nobody else could possibly care?) I’m dead certain I’ve left equivalent responses on some posts and FF messages, however, and I’m sure I will in the future.
And I’ll be (trivially) wrong to do so.
As of that last period, this post contains 570 words. That’s probably too long for some of you–but I suspect that people who can’t handle 600, 800, or 6,000 words aren’t among my audience anyway.
By the way: I’m tagging this “Net Media”–but I no longer believe that term has much of any meaning, and I’m also doubtful about “Social Media.” That’s an essay I’ll be writing one of these days, probably in C&I. 636 words. My work here is done (645).