This past week, I had two rude comments come through my moderation cue. They did not make the cut, so you won’t see them.
I’ve always wondered what people think they get by leaving rude comments on someone else’s website.
Most of us who blog — at least those of us who still allow them at this point — occasionally receive nasty comments.
For years, many bloggers struggled over whether moderating comments was the right thing to do. For years, some blogging experts argued that you should never turn off comments or moderate them: let people have their say.
Over the years, many of those “experts” who opined so strongly against any kind of moderation have since rid their blogs of the option to comment at all.
So much for letting everyone have their say.
I made my comment policy as clear as I could make it from the start and I was able to sum it up in two words: Be respectful.
That is not, as I see it, too much to ask.
But for some little keyboard warriors, particularly the type who like to hide behind false emails and/or false names, it seems to be.
I used to worry about moderating comments.
There was a time that I felt bloggers shouldn’t turn off comments. Even as they whined about receiving fewer of them, I felt that those who were still willing to actually leave a comment should have the right to do so. When I had a solid commenting system, one which went the way of the dinosaur a few years back, I even felt that moderating them was a sin.
After all, you could always go back and handle a problem when you got around to it.
But several years back, a funny thing began to happen online: people began showing their true colors. The newness wore off on social media and blogs and with that, the gloves began to come off.
Twitter was one of the first places where people started, as the saying goes, “showing their asses.” But Twitter didn’t require you to post a photo of yourself or even use your real name. So you could almost see the temptation to act like a jerk since no one knew who you were.
But Facebook, which does at least expect its users to use their real name and not create fake profiles, likewise began show exhibit the same problem. Even with their real name and often either a genuine photo of themselves on their profiles, people began to adopt a policy of “tell it like it is” no matter how rude their expression sounded. Honestly, it seemed, as time went on, that people set out with a primary goal of rudeness as if acting that way was actually more important than even telling it like it was.
Some people seem to pride themselves on being blunt, or worse, “brutally honest.” So when they leave rude comments across the internet, they seem to be thinking they’re performing some service.
Fortunately, most of us understand that rudeness is not a requirement for telling the truth.
I changed my mind on moderating comments years ago.
I don’t recall the specific moment that made me shift my thinking toward moderating comments. My site’s commenting rules were updated a few times over the years as different issues appeared.
I do remember seeing a Facebook video that compared rudeness in comments to dumping manure on your porch. The man, who looked as if he might be a kindly grandfather, spoke with an Irish or Scottish brogue. He made an eloquent pitch. I’ve searched for that video over the years and still haven’t found it again.
I’ll paraphrase, but he essentially asked why you’d feel compelled to allow someone else to defecate on your front porch.
No reasonable person would allow that. If the commenter wasn’t well-mannered, the homeowner can certainly remove it himself.
I didn’t change my mind on moderating comments because of that video. I had already changed my mind on the subject shortly before I saw it. But the video’s appearance came in time to give one more vote of confidence that it was the right decision.
So what does it take to turn comments into ‘rude comments’?
No two people are going to agree 100% on that. If everyone agreed on everything, I suspect no one would have ever started a blog in the first place. That first blogger would have had to pry himself away from the circle of friends singing endless choruses of “Kumbaya” to craft that first blog to begin with.
My comment policy mentions things like profanity. I don’t mind “mild” cursing, the kind of thing you might hear on broadcast television. But when it escalates past that, to things that George Carlin liked to use, I draw the line there. You may think it’s unreasonable to dictate where that line is. But this is my blog so here, I reserve the right to do so. I’ve always said that it’s not about controlling what you say or which position you take; it’s about trying to keep the discussion civil.
My policy also mentions another key requirement: staying on topic. One of the two comments that wasn’t posted last week began with an insulting tone. But it spiraled into a lengthy rant on a conspiracy theory that had nothing to do with the post. The commenter included a link and mentioned people worth looking up to confirm his point of view. Sorry, you don’t get to come onto my site and promote your conspiracy theories (or anyone else’s). You especially do not get that chance if your theory isn’t about the point of the topic. You can start your own blog for that.
But sometimes rude just means rude. You know it as soon as you see it. Someone starts off with an insult and just piles on more on top of that. They wouldn’t talk to their minister (if they even have one) that way. They wouldn’t talk to their boss (if they even have one) that way. And they certainly wouldn’t talk to a loved one (if they even have one) that way.
They’re certainly not going to talk to me that way.
The point is, if you’re the blogger and you’re paying for the site, you’re the one who gets to decide where the line is. Likewise, you get to decide whether to tolerate someone else’s manure.
I choose not to.
What do visitors think rude comments actually accomplish?
That might be the $64,000 question. Recently, CBS’s Late, Late Show host James Corden came under fire after being accused of bad behavior at a New York City restaurant. He and the restaurant’s owner appeared to have worked out the problem. Then there was a sign that all wasn’t worked out after all. You can Google the drama if you wish.
USA Today recently weighed on the bigger issue of what it calls “toxic behavior.”
“When you’re rude, you’re calling attention to yourself in many cases and also you’re making other people feel terrible and you’re sometimes making yourself look bad,” etiquette expert and founder of a protocol school Jacqueline Whitmore said.
I’ll give her the first and last of those.
I suspect those who leave rude comments have no issue with calling attention to themselves. That seems to be what they’re looking for from the start.
They certainly make themselves look bad. This is not the type of person, I think, who’d be particularly fun at parties.
But as for making other people — specifically me — feel “terrible,” that’s where I have to respectfully disagree. When it comes to denying publication to comment rule breakers, I’m denying them the attention they seem to crave. That doesn’t make me feel terrible at all. It actually makes me chuckle a bit. That was especially true for this one, where the guy didn’t even have the guts to leave his name: he hid behind an obviously fake name. It’s easy to be brave when you think you can’t be traced!
If they want to act like angry little 5-year-olds on a tantrum, that’s their problem. But if they think they’ll be allowed to do it here, I’m happy to shut that notion down.
I have too many readers who, when they do decide to comment, can do so respectfully. They are even able to disagree respectfully. That’s a powerful thing in today’s society. Respectful disagreement is how conversations happen and the forum in which minds might actually be changed — or at least opened to new ideas.
Those who wish to display their toxic behavior in my place will be in for disappointment.