I little while ago Jjiraffe wrote this post about Unrequited Blog Love.
Today Mel posted this in response. Basically she doesn’t believe anyone ever has any obligation to comment on another person’s blog; comment reciprocity is not something that should be expected. To make this point she uses the analogy of enjoying Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s movies but never expecting him to watch her own homemade YouTube videos in return.
I have to admit, I look at the situation differently than Mel does and I left a comment explaining my disparate point of view. Here is what I said:
I have to admit, I don’t think your Joseph Gordon-Levitt analogy really works here. First of all, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a HUGE movie star. I doubt any blogger who reads a huge blogger, one that gets hundreds of comments, ever expects reciprocation from said big-name blogger. Second of all, actors are in the business of making movies to get paid and there is no community built off of the self-expression in their movies. Also, that self-expression is not of a personal nature in the way a blog post is. Watching Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s movies is not like reading an entry in his personal journal. He is not sharing his inner most secrets. He is not asking for support. And third, your hypothetical YouTube movies have nothing to do with the big-budget box office hits that he stars in. The two are totally incomparable except that they are both, technically movies. Whereas two smaller blogs, written by woman going through similar experiences, and read by a similar amount of people, are very comparable. It makes sense that one would feel hurt if the other failed to acknowledge their existence.*
I guess I do think it makes sense that one small blogger reading the personal thoughts of another small blogger and time and time again leaving her own thoughts in return, might feel somewhat slighted when she doesn’t receive any form of reciprocation, ever. If you know you stand out to that blogger, because you are one of the few people who comments, and you know that blogger doesn’t take the time to read anything you’ve written, well I think it’s totally understandable that you would feel a bit discounted.
Having said that, I don’t think any blogger owes it to their regular comments to become a regular commenter on the other’s blog. I’ve had people who comment quite frequently and when I’ve gone over to their blog (after the third or fourth comment) to check it out, I’ve always left a few comments in return, but if their blog just isn’t for me, for whatever reason, I don’t feel obligated to keep reading. Having said that, I do feel an obligation to go over there in the first place and see who they are and what they are about. That only seems fair.
Of course I have much few readers and commenters than someone like you has, and I certainly wouldn’t expect the same from a blogger who gets 30+ comments on every post.
I think there is third category of blogger that you interact with, besides the “friend that you communicate with outside of your blog (via email for example)” and the “person you just randomly read and comment on” that you mentioned. I think there is a third category of blogger that you wouldn’t consider a friend, but whose blog you read regularly, or semi-regularly, and who you comment on once in a while. I feel like I fall into that category. I don’t consider us “friends” outside of blogging (thought I’d love to!) but I do get comments from you every once in a while and I comment on your blog a good portion of the time that you post. I notice many other regular commenters on your posts and have seen you comment on their blogs from time to time too. I think that is the reciprocation that was being discussed in Jjiraffe’s blog and while you may not think others should feel obligated to participate in that kind of reciprocation, you do seem to engage in it yourself – which I think is awesome! And which I think is one of the reasons you are such a pillar in this community.
I know that it’s dangerous territory when we start declaring there is and is not a “right” or “courteous” way to blog. I’m not trying to espouse a strict form of “commenting etiquette” or to push any set of rules on this community. But this IS a community and we are engaging in a form of communication and, as with all forms of communication, there are ways in which we can be polite and inclusive and ways in which we fail to be those things. I’m not saying that anyone should feel they need to be polite or inclusive here, or that they should feel there are expectations of some kind of them, but it is important to remember that behind every thoughtful comment is a real live human being who has taken the time to reach back out of the ether and say, I’m here, I’m listening, I’m valuing what you have to say. If we have the capacity to do the same, I think it’s a shame when we don’t.
What do you think? If this is a community, should we look to the rules of etiquette in other examples of community to guide our actions here? Should we treat posting and commenting like we would a real conversation, where it is always expected that both parties participate? Or is the point of this (anonymous, electronic) forum for everyone to proceed as best suits their wants and needs?
* Mel emailed me after I left my comment and said she added this on her post. Evidently her Joseph Gordon-Levitt analogy was actually quite appropriate and my naiveté made me ignorant to that fact.
I picked Joseph Gordon Levitt as the example (instead of, let’s say, Brad Pitt) because he is a someone who does indeed make movies, BUT he also is the blogging equivalent to a movie maker, running the site HITRECORD which is an open-collaborative production company where regular people work together to create art. He is down there in the writing trenches with everyone, and so it does make sense to have that translate into “I worked on his project and I watch his movies and why doesn’t he take a look at my YouTube vidoes.” And this is a comment I read about him on a website. Again, I think if people get something out of HITRECORD, they should do it — it looks like a lot of fun. But if they’re doing it because they expect something back specifically from him, I think they need to reassess if they’re putting themselves in a position to be deeply disappointed and frustrated.