Like Texting on the Toilet, You Know You Comment Without Reading, Too

4 years ago

By now you've probably heard of NPR's brilliant experiment that they ran on April 1st. They posted an inflammatory headline, but then placed in the body of the post an explanation of how they suspected that the vast majority of angry commenters rarely read the article they are debating. They asked people who actually read the body of the post to simply hit "like" and not comment, and left the comment section for those who were going to jump immediately into having their voice heard rather than taking a moment to listen.

Sure enough, the self-righteous responses poured in. And a lot of people looked like idiots.

Image: Attila Malarik via Flickr

It's natural to start formulating your response while the other person is still speaking, though it's a little surprising how many people start formulating their response on the headline alone.  I mean, the average BBC headline is only five words comprised of 34 characters.  Even tweets give you more to work with. 

Still, when we're face-to-face, even though our brain may start cataloging the points we want to make, we still pause (for the most part) to allow the person to finish before we launch into our diatribe.  Do people interrupt?  Yes.  But we also have the good sense to keep our interruptions for those times when we really think we have heard enough to grasp the speaker's thesis.  That's not true for people who comment based solely on a headline.

And yet, we all do it.

Even though I've purposefully kept this post brief, I'm willing to believe that some people in a fit of irony will skip the end of the post in order to jump to starting their comment.  Therefore, if you've made it this far, I'd like to ask you to discreetly begin your comment with the letter "A."  Just make your first word begin with an A.  The people who don't read this paragraph will never notice this discreet hand raising to prove you read the whole post, and the people who do can get a good sense of how pervasive this is even in the BlogHer community.  I have a feeling we have a much more thoughtful community than the ones that frequent the comment section of the New York Times or NPR.  Prove me right.

Commenting without reading is our new texting on the toilet.  It's something that no one wants to admit to doing, but the evidence proves that it's much more pervasive than we admit.

Do you comment before you've gotten to the end of a post?

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.

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