Lost in the Comments

20130324-sss-brene-brown-4-949x534I remember watching Brene Brown for the first time.  I saw her on SuperSoul Sunday, one of my favorite shows in the world.  Brene, who researches and is an expert on vulnerability, was talking about her first TedTalk (which is a definite must-see).  Now, the entire talk is amazing, but that’s not what caught my attention at the time.  Oprah was interviewing her about the TedTalk and how she felt afterwards.  I’m paraphrasing in my own words, but basically when she did the talk, she didn’t think anyone was going to watch it.  It was recorded and shared online and soon after it had thousands of views.  Her friends and family told her about this, but they warned her not to read the comments.  And she did anyway.  And people are cruel in comments.  She talked about how devastating they were, how viciously people attacked her from the anonymity of the youtube account.  They attacked her weight and her looks and her parenting.  And afterwords she went into a deep spiral of sadness.

This stuck out to me because I find myself reading an article that I think is interesting and then, as if I can’t help myself, I scroll down to see the comments.  I am drawn to them.  I feel the need to know what other people thought about this article.  And then I get caught up.  I want to argue.  I want to agree.  I want to fact check for people and let them know how stupid they are.  I get very close to being the anonymous asshole.  Luckily my mama taught me to think before I act and I often type something out, read it over and carefully press the backspace key.  I have a rule that I will not say face to face or anonymously any statement that is meant specifically to hurt someone.  I will not hold back the truth if it actually needs to be said, but generally, a comment thread on an article is not a place for this.

Right before I decided to post this, I was reading a beautiful Facebook post sharing.  The heart of the post was to teach your daughter about how beautiful life is through sports and activities, through hiking and dancing and enjoying food and having experiences.  It was said through the lense of avoiding any conversation and comments about your daughter’s weight and looks.  The message was to focus on other aspects of beauty and not to focus on body image.

As I do, I read this beautiful post and then I scrolled down to read the comments.  There were so many commenters talking about how dumb the post was because if you don’t talk to your daughter about your weight, then who will and then she will get fat.  So you have to teach her about dieting.  Oy.  And I had to wrench my attention away.  This is what reminded me of the interview with Brene.  The comments can suck you in.  You know you shouldn’t read them and you just continue scrolling and scrolling.

I’m not sure why I read the comments.  I ended up responding several times to comments on the above example page.  Maybe I want to get a feel for how many people agree with me and how other people feel about it.  It’s like I’m taking a poll.  That seems to be my initial reason for reading on.  Once I get past a couple though, I feel myself getting sucked in to arguments.  I read mean remarks and I read the replies to see if anyone has taught them a lesson yet.  I read the back and forth on and on and on.  Religion, politics and dieting always get nasty arguments.  I am floored and amazed by the level of racism, elitism, and machism that get tossed in.

As I write this I’m thinking to myself, “New rule!  Never read the comments!”  And I know that’s a great idea.  But it’s a rule I have a very difficult time following.  Does anybody else have this issue?  I want to commit to avoiding comments, but I feel in my mind I am waffling.  I think if I promise I won’t do it, I might break that promise.  How do you all feel about this?  Advice?