I’ve been thinking about blogs a fair bit recently, and about the torrent of comments that they receive. I have also been thinking about what I would call the act of reading those comments: and I can describe it best as “snorkelling”.
Often, as a blogger, you are reminded by your peers that you should not “look below the line”, that you should “avoid the bottom half of the Internet”. Gary Younge, writing in the Guardian, recently revealed that he had long ago stopped reading comments below his online posts, since he had grown weary of sifting through the bile to find any constructive criticism that might be nestling in the effluent.
I tend not go snorkelling all that much anymore, at least not when it comes to my articles: this is due to a pretty unpleasant insult against a family member, which served as the tipping point for me. But I had a good read of the thoughts posted underneath Mehdi Hasan’s compelling and important piece on Islamophobia, and it’s some of the most productive snorkelling that I’ve done in months.
There, I found – amid the bile – a notable number of people offering balanced critiques of the post, who were anxious that their concerns over religious dogma should not be interpreted as racial prejudice. It was the type of response that tempted me to go and read the comments under my own work, in the hope that I might benefit. I don’t have that fortitude as of now, but it definitely made me think. Who knows – I may submerge myself again, before long.