Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I Accept Feedback Alternatively

I'm writing this because people have occasionally either tracked me down or asked me various questions (one time the HRC found my email address so they could pester me about an essay I wrote trashing a poll they used to cut trans people out of their agenda, that was an entertaining one).  I have had a couple marginally popular blogs, and after certain experiences happened I stopped allowing comments.

I decided to write this essay to explain why, because there's a perception on the Internet that literally everything is more a conversation than a display.  Which is one of the great things about the Internet, don't get me wrong, but after a while it wasn't worth it to have comments right on the blog.

Take, for example, a big newspaper outlet like the Huffington Post.  There are a lot of excellent articles on there, but when I post something that deals with, say, transgender issues, I'm often warned "don't read the comments."  This is because so many of them are ridiculously offensive and sometimes triggering.

In the same way, when I was running my most popular blog (which has since been dismantled due to changes of opinion big enough to justify not having it public anymore), comments tended to fall into a few distinct categories:
  • Offensive statements about the people I was writing about, including myself, by trolls and bigots.
  • Spam.
  • Bizarre theoretical rambles.
  • Well-meaning comments from mainstream LGBT people and allies that are from an entirely different lens than the predominant one at the site.
  • Complaints that I wasn't using their very obscure linguistic preferences.
  • Self-congratulatory messages by people who already agreed with what I had to say.
  • Later, when comments were moderated, whining about how I'm only going to post things I agree with.
After I let the comments fly for a while, I decided to start moderating them, just to get rid of the spam and the offensive statements, but every time I got a comment alert I simply dreaded clicking on it because there were times I'd get sent something so angering I'd be shaking, and so much of the criticism was either based on an oppressive lens or not constructive.  Even some compliments are something I really don't like... although I stand by what I write, being gushed about is something that really gets under my skin.  Even worse, most of the comments were advertisements.

So I decided to just get rid of the comments altogether.  And it's been that way for most of my blogs ever since.

However, this does not mean I don't get feedback or don't accept criticism.  It means that the ways I get feedback are different.  For example, I advertise my blog on my Facebook and Twitter, and replies to those posts have in the past given me valuable criticism and things to think about.  Monitoring where my site traffic comes from has also in the past led me to blog posts criticizing what I've had to say.

But to get back to the original point, the fact that I don't allow comments, there's a tendency to  present this as "quashing free speech" or somehow "going against the first amendment."  This is a bizarre way of putting it to me, because this blog is my space; if somebody sticks a note to my car criticizing a bumper sticker (which believe it or not I've had happen), I have every right to pull it off.  Talking about free speech and the first amendment is implying that there's some legal restriction against me not allowing comments, which is simply ridiculous.