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December 06, 2010

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As a fellow nobody, I agree with you on this one, David. It's all part of the current culture that bestows newsworthy and noteworthy status to anyone who inhales oxygen.

I see it as part of the reality-TV phenomenon, in which a nobody with no particular talent or other distinguishing trait becomes The Situation and is deemed worthy of occupying a slot on the morning news shows before 7:30 a.m.

We're in the midst of a populist movement where mass media are concerned. It isn't very pretty.

Well, "The Situation" does have a hilarious name.

But yes, you're right; in Public Speaking, the great new Scorsese profile of Fran Lebowitz, she says the problem is:

"Too much democracy in the culture, not enough democracy in the society."

And from the documentary, it's clear that she is more worried about the over-democratic culture than the under-democratic society.

Self-validation through online commenting. "I comment, therefore I exist." It may be a form of self-expression similar to the characters of peopleofwalmart.com.

I wish online comments had to be verified like in the past when they would actually call you before placing your letter in the opinion page.

Now, except for a small group of blogs and forums where I know or know of the people, I don't pay attention to people like tooldude. If you can't put your real name on something, you shouldn't say it or post it. That drives me crazy.

Agreed, Mike, but the point I'm making is that it doesn't matter if it's tooldude or Mike Brice or David Murray commenting at Time.com: If you're one of a couple hundred comments and nobody has ever heard of you, no one is going to read you and they won't remember you even if they do.

And yet every Huffington Post item draws 1,700 comments if it draws one.

Who are these poor people? And: No wonder they feel ignored. They ARE ignored!

Okay, here's Allison's take on this:

As a writer, when I am inspired to comment on a story or post, I take as much care to craft that response as I do when I have a paid assignment. Every chance I get to write, especially when that writing voices my own opinion, is a chance to polish my craft as a persuasion peddler.

For those who aren't pro writers (the other 99.9% of commenters), I can only assume that they want their voices to be heard as well. I would bet it doesn't matter as much to them whether anyone reads it, as much as the fact that their name is up there in the comments section, trailing after the pack of words they let loose on the post. I agree with Yossi - it's a form of self-validation. And, believe it or not, I actually have retained some of the comments I've read by "nobodies." There are some smart people out there who aren't professional writers, whose wisdom I happen to stumble on occasionally. For that I'm grateful.

Of course, there are comments and then there is nonsense. If you're talking about the people who can't spell or organize a coherent thought, then all bets are off. I don't think there are enough years left on my life span to figure them out. And I've got better things to comment on.

When I've felt passionate about sharing my opinion or experience, I haven't cared that my comment would be, for example, the 486th comment buried deep in the comment section of a Roger Ebert post.

Sometimes I was hoping for a moment of recognition. Sometimes I was offering some side of an issue that wasn't being addressed.

Sometimes others responded to my comment, and it made a small difference in the discussion.

Kind of like my work in corporate America.

Well, the Ebert site is a little different, Tom, because Roger appears to read every comment. And, he's beloved by his audience, so we love each other and we love him. So there's a real community there, even if it's a pretty big one.

We make only a little difference in this world, even when we do spend our energies wisely. So I'm suggesting that we ought to spend them wisely.

I don't have much to contribute here, other than to say that I agree with David's perspective on this topic.

If it makes you happy and like you've made a contribution that feels right, then by all means go ahead and comment on an online story that already has hundreds of comments. So long as you understand that it's highly unlikely anyone other than you will note your contribution.

I personally get much more out of participating on sites - as David notes - where there is an established community of people I know and who know me. I want reactions if I'm going to comment somewhere.

Although, depending on the topic, I will admit to occasionally reading some [certainly not hundreds, but some] of the comments posted, to get a sense of the reactions and the proportions of response to that particular topic as a point of interest.

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