I’ve been writing for the fine people of the Interwebs since AOL was the popular kid on the block. After that much time, you’d think that I’d be used to the pitfalls of such a career, but some things humans do never cease to baffle me.
Topping that list? Commenting on an article without actually reading it first.
I mean, honestly, people. Isn’t this just common sense? I know it can be tempting to read a title or a headline and instantaneously react to it. But please, for the love of all that is good and holy, resist that temptation.
A while back, I wrote post called, “What’s Hard About Covering Up To Breastfeed?” Fistfuls of angry breastfeeding-in-public advocates let their fumes fly in the comments section on Facebook before being promptly humiliated by those who pointed out that the article was, in fact, a detailed defense of breastfeeding in public.
I’m generally not a fan of public humiliation. But if you insist on forming an opinion on an article without reading it, and then insist in sharing that opinion in the comments of said article — still without reading it — you absolutely bring that humiliation upon yourself.
Those of us who write for a living put time, energy, and thought into crafting the words you see in front of your face. We often pour hours into research, we agonize over finding just the right words to express our thoughts, and we think about you — the people who will be reading our words — as we do that. The least — and I mean absolute least — a person can do is actually read what we write before telling us what you think about it.
If you hate what we write after reading it? No problem. If you want to voice that disagreement, go right ahead. Most writers honestly don’t mind dissenting opinions. I personally value intelligent debate and diverse perspectives, and I appreciate it when people voice such things (without being a douchebag, of course). Though we are often advised against it, many of us do read the comments on the articles we write, and we know that, inevitably, someone is going to disagree with something we say.
That’s generally not a problem, as long as the person knows what it is they are disagreeing with. No matter what the title or sentence-long blurb that accompanies an article says, you have no idea what’s in it until you read it. It is an insult to writers to comment on something without taking the time to read it. It’s also rude, ignorant, and it makes you look like a fool.
I once had a reader comment on something I wrote with, “I haven’t read the article, but…” and then three full paragraphs about why she didn’t agree with my response to another commenter. As you might guess, much of what she wrote was actually addressed in the article, which she would have known had she bothered to read it.
I admit, I got ticked and responded with “I haven’t read your comment, but here’s why it’s wrong…” (I generally try to avoid getting snarky with commenters, but sometimes people are asking for it.)
If commenting without reading is bad, sharing without reading is worse. In fact, our very own White House recently shared an article about the president’s budget proposal in its newsletter, “1600 Daily,” clearly without reading it first. Oh, yes. Really.
The article, written by Alexandra Petri, was titled “Trump’s budget makes perfect sense and will fix America, and I will tell you why.” Sounds solidly pro-Trump, right? But it’s undeniably clear from the first paragraph that it’s actually a scathing satire piece making fun of the president’s budget proposal.
The section of the article referring to the Labor Department offers a taste of Petri’s satire:
“There will be no LABOR in the future. Labor is what women do, I think. All fetuses will burst out of wombs brandishing an Uzi on each arm. (Also, we will cut the funding to the people who would have explained that this is not how birth or labor works.)”
Yeah. There is no way anyone read that piece and walked away thinking it was supporting Trump’s budget proposal. Someone clearly read the title, made an assumption, and included it in the “News Stories” section of the White House newsletter. (The same White House that cries “FAKE NEWS” every flipping day. Ouch. The irony. It hurts so bad.)
So please, for the sake of all humanity, stop taking any action — commenting, sharing, or even forming an opinion — on online articles or posts without physically clicking on the link and reading the content first. All of the content, not just the first half. And click on the supporting links in the post, too, before attempting to refute any of its claims or asking where the author got their information.
And while we’re on the subject, please stop saying, “Do your own research,” when you assert an alleged fact in a comment and refuse to back it up.
And just for fun, let’s all learn the difference between their/they’re/there and you’re/your.
And can we drop any term that ends in “tard,” please?
If you are still here, thank you for reading this whole post before commenting. You are my people. High five.