October 10th, 2016


Read the Comments

A few nights ago, I got another comment on my Fake Bi Girl post, and as I was responding to it, I thought about how every comment had been positive about both the post and my decision to label The Moon Etherium as LGBT. And then I thought, "But that makes sense: comments are almost always supportive."

Followed by, "No, wait. LiveJournal comments are almost always supportive."

The first time I saw the "don't read the comments" meme, many years ago, I was actually confused by it. Comments were the main reason I blogged! I loved reading the comments! Why wouldn't you read the comments? Is it just me? Am I just lucky?

And I think luck is a factor, though less of one than my comparatively small audience and that I rarely post on controversial subjects. But Livejournal is, itself, a huge factor. Specifically, one of the factors about Livejournal that eventually made it a niche product with a small if dedicated audience: that Livejournal's basic concept was of people who not only kept journals, but who read each other's journals. That the Friends List was not named "Friend" by accident.

We used to complain about that word, "Friend", because it made the business of following and unfollowing LJs a lot more dramatic than it needed to be. But the truth is when I started on LJ fourteen years ago, it's because my friends were blogging here. I read Livejournal to keep in touch with my friends, and I wrote in it to keep my friends updated on my life. People have drifted away from LJ over the years for many reasons but I think the largest part of it is that mot people don't like to write the essay-style posts that the LJ environment encourages.

But the sense of community has somehow persevered anyway. People on LJ are less likely to hate-follow, less likely to search out things they dislike to complain about, than Twitter users. People on LJ are more likely to stay silent if they disagree than to leave a comment. The vast majority of LJ users treat blog posts as if they were written by other human beings. Elsewhere on the net, on Youtube and Twitter and personal-domain blogs, there is a much larger fraction of the community that treats posts as if they were written by content providers. By some thing, some entertainer who is not a real person or who will never actually see the comments or who otherwise doesn't matter, doesn't count, doesn't merit respect.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think it's just chance or size. It's that LJ, having been used for so long as "a way to keep in touch with your friends", has held onto some of the corollary: "so of course you'll be kind to them, because they're your friends." Places that were designed as broadcaster-to-audience don't have that benefit. The audience feels free to heckle.

I'm glad this space still has that. I wish I knew how to export it. :/