Only three types of people comment on articles
I dare you to comment on this one.
You might have noticed the Tab has a comments section. If you are reading this then you are presumably someone who likes leaving comments down there.
There’s a ‘share’ button at the top, too, but this one is not for you, is it? You’re the sort of person who prefers to scroll down to the bottom of the page and drop some enlightenment bombs. Maybe you also like to pick up on a few phrasing errors you diligently spotted while you’re there. You probably think you’re doing a helpful job, don’t you, you little social crusader?
You are mistaken.
The problem with leaving a comment on an article is that that makes you the sort of person who leaves comments on articles.
THE INSANE ONES
When Durham Theology Student Charles White published a quintessentially Tab-esque guide on How To Sleep With Your Lecturer, he discovered that a few of his readers failed to get into the spirit of things. Courageous commenters, courageously using pseudonyms like ‘Brapmaster’, began flinging homophobic abuse at the writer and ordering him to give up writing for the Tab.
Leaving this sort of comment demonstrates that disagreeing with an article all on your own is not enough for you. You are the sort of person who needs to ensure that no one else likes it either, and prevent the person who wrote it from expressing their opinion publicly again.
Internet columnist David Wong recently remarked that if this is your goal, commenting on an article is the least effective way to accomplish it. He observes that if you want to erase the existence of an article or opinion, then you already have the power to do that simply by closing your laptop and getting off the fucking internet.
Hurling abuse at the author does not diminish the lifespan of a Tab article. It enhances it.
For a succinct example of that, check out this article in the Newcastle Tab about going for a drink with the EDL and the ensuing debate about how ‘classist’ it was.
The author of How To Sleep With Your Lecturer has also admitted that the vitriol of insane commenters has boosted both the efficacy of his articles and the profile of his writing. White’s follow up to How To Sleep With Your Lecturer, entitled Being Gay At Durham Is Terrible, accrued such an excessive quantity of personal attacks and homophobic slander that the writer said they were proving his point.
Ok, you might be saying, but I’m not one of The Insane Ones. I’m above that. My comments are always balanced and constructive and I never comment under a pseudonym. I even use correct punctuation and everything. Promise. If this describes your commenting habits, please do not think that this article is not about you. It just means you’re one of these:
THE SANCTIMONIOUS ONES
While its nice of you to descend from your lofty perch every now and again to adjudicate in the comments section; I’m afraid that your opinion is not actually as valuable as you think.
The article has already been through an editor. Someone more qualified and more invested than you has already deemed every word that you are reading acceptable for publication. You are adding nothing to this equation besides your own ego.
Last week another fairly innocuous article, this time about about going vegan for January, was uploaded to the Warwick Tab. Helpful commenters helpfully suggested that she might have ‘brain damage’, because she was not 100% au fait with vegan food after a thirty day experiment. Thanks guys.
You think you are not part of the problem; in fact you are the worst of it. You are the acceptable face of bullshit comments. The UKIP to an Insane commenter’s EDL.
If, however, your comments usually express ambivalence at who exactly this article is ‘for’ or why it was written in the first place, then congratulations. You are, personally, my favourite type of commenter.
THE ONES WHO REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY DON’T CARE
Check this guy out. The comment was posted under the aforementioned Charles White article, and sees the brilliantly self-righteous commenter explain, in over two hundred words, that he does not care about the article. Thus declaring nothing other than that he might care about it a little bit.
This is also a very toxic and spiteful sort of comment to leave.
As White himself points out, this sort of response seeks to enforce the opinion that whatever is being written about is not an issue. But, especially in the case of topics such as the prevalence of homophobia at University, there is no downside to writing about it.
Stamping out this discussion with your dogmatic comments, meanwhile, can be damaging. There is a very real downside to not letting people discuss their issues on the Tab.
Cowards who want to have all their fights online tend to make their complaints personal, but people do not tend to make things personal in person, meaning that writers will not take online criticism seriously. So if you are compelled to leave a comment under this article, may I suggest you have a long hard think before you do?