First of all, this is not a complaint, but simply my musings about commenting here and my own beahavior as a commenter. I love and appreciate everyone who reads and who comments here. Thank you for visiting and reading my words, whether you ever add a comment or not!
Most of us who've blogged for a while have observed a gradual decline in the number of comments. Many of us have also noted that we, too, don't comment on the blogs we read as often.
Social networking is often blamed for siphoning off a lot of the interactive energy that used to happen on blogs, and that's probably true to a large extent. We chat and interact elsewhere, and long-form exchanges, whether on blogs or by e-mail, are a lot less common than they used to be.
I think there's a definite "taken-for-granted" factor: certain blogs, like mine probably, have been around for a long time and readers assume they'll continue to be, with or without the encouragement and conversation that comments add. That may or may not be true: it depends on the blogger. Perhaps it's even assumed that the writing is more important to the author than the conversation. In my case, yes, I'll probably continue the blog, but no, what I write is not at all more important to me than your own thoughts. I write and post images in order to share things I'm interested in, but primarily because I hope others will have a reaction or be moved somehow or think more deeply about that subject. It's a happy bonus when I hear back: when a reader has a thought or story or experience of their own to share with me and with the other readers. So for me the posting will always be about sharing. While there's a certain amount of esoteric stuff here, I try to write about subjects that concern all of us, not just me. It's great when that leads to a conversation.
My husband was saying the other day that as we've become more and more used to the internet being a big part of our lives, we've gotten used to the idea that content is free, and that it's simply going to be there for us to find, and to consume. Society pays for objects, but expects and consumes a great deal of free content, especialy artistic content. I'm reminded of public radio on-air marathons, which usually convinced me to contribute a little bit so that the shows I loved would keep happening. Blogs are free, so readers don't even have to contribute except by indicating once in a while that they're present! I'm amazed and deeply appreciative of the generosity of near-daily blogs like Language Hat, Via Negativa, or Marja-Leena Rathje -- longtime friends who just keep going, giving away intelligent writing and beautiful images, without the expectation of any particular return.
As a commenter myself, I know that I don't leave comments as often as I used to. When I ask myself why, the above justifications come up -- along with the fact that my online life is spread out over many more sites and many different types of interactions now. But there's also another factor that prevents me from commenting as often. It drives me nuts to have to jump through a routine of captcha-entries or elaborate sign-ins designed to prevent or reduce spam and potential hacking. So many times I've written a comment only to have it disappear after some sort of failure in the authentication routine. I tried to sign into a blog I love today, in order to leave a comment, and finally I just gave up! Have we perhaps gotten a bit too paranoid about this? At Cassandra I require only an email address and don't moderate comments; I have advanced virus software on my computer. Spam is extremely annoying, but I don't get excessive amount at all; I delete it and add spammers and their subjects to my "block" list. My site has never been hacked; perhaps I've just been lucky, perhaps that's a function of TypePad -- I'd like to know. I've always felt that I wanted to keep my site as friendly as possible, and have probably erred on the side of less caution, and convenience for the readers rather than for myself.
Is that naive? What's your experience been, and how do you feel about this whole subject?
Note: There are so many comments on this post that they are split into two screens. At the bottom center of the first set of comments, look for a teensy-tiny double arrow. If you click it, lo and behold, there are the rest of the comments.