I’ve been regularly writing and posting stories online since I was twelve, and I can honestly say I’m glad I do. Through writer’s blocks and dwindling interest, through insecurity and panicked Nobody-will-ever-read-this-what-have-I-done’s, online communities have proven me wrong time and time again. I’ve found endless support, constructive criticism and invaluable friendships on various sites and forums. And frankly, I don’t think I would still write if it wasn’t for them.
With all that said, we all post content on the internet in the hopes that someone else will read it and — if we’re really lucky — comment on it. Comments mean interaction with us, the writer, but also with the content we post. In that sense, comments are worth more than gold.
For the most part.
Unfortunately there are comments that are neither encouraging, nor helpful, nor good, nor do they possess any other, redeeming quality. Comments that don’t aim to help, comments that leave you feeling raw, hurt, and uncomfortable. Comments that may cause you to stop writing altogether.
Comments that really, if you ever find yourself writing one of these, don’t post them. Just don’t. Here we go:
Number 1: Flames
Those are really just a nice term for comments that contain insults, threats, and no redeeming quality whatsoever. Prime examples include “This is worthless,” “My cat could write something better,” and “You’re stupid.” They’re known to include swear words and rarely even deal with the actual content of the post in any significant way. They can also contain homophobic or racist language, religious or self-righteous condemnation, and lots of other fun stuff guaranteed to ruin an unsuspecting writer’s day.
Number 2: Non-constructive criticism
This one definitely earns its place among those dreaded comments. The bad thing about this type of comment is that, often enough, the person writing them thinks they’re actually being helpful. This encompasses every comment that can essentially be summed up with “I don’t like your story.”
You can be as polite as you want and list as many reasons as you want, that still does nothing but tear the writer down. And for what? Because you didn’t like it. Which is your right, but it’s also your personal opinion. If you don’t like a story dealing with magic then I could write the next Harry Potter and you’d still think it sucks. Here’s the thing: a negative opinion that offers no helpful criticism only serves to discourage the writer. They don’t learn anything from it — except that you don’t like it and they should probably just give up.
Number 3: Demands for more
Now this one’s a little trickier because many consider them compliments. After all, when you beg a writer to post the next chapter or write a sequel, you do it because you love their work, right? You’re just being appreciative, right? Funny because when I post an 8k long chapter and fifteen minutes later I get a “MORE” or “UPDATE PLEASE“, I don’t feel very appreciated. At. All.
Here’s the thing: Yes, it’s nice to know that your readers are interested and want to see more of your work. But demanding it — or worse guilting the writer into it — is a shitty thing to do. Especially when the writer is only doing it as a hobby and you can read everything online for free.
There’s a difference between saying “I love it, I can’t wait for the next chapter.” and “Where’s the next chapter? When are you gonna update?” Both express your desire for more, but the latter makes you sound like a bratty child.
Number 4: If you don’t continue I’m going to kill myself.
This one is such an outrageous example that it deserves an entire category of its own. Because. What. The. Ever. Loving. Fuck.
Let me make one thing very, very clear: Threatening to kill yourself is not funny. It’s never funny, and especially not on the internet where the recipient of your threat doesn’t know you and has no way of guessing exactly how serious you are. It’s a shitty, inexcusable thing to do. I don’t care how much you love a story. I don’t care how much it’s helping you cope. I don’t care what other excuses you can think of.
Your mental health does not hinge on the continuation of some story on the internet. Your mental health is not someone else’s responsibility. Especially not that of a total stranger, who’s been doing you a favour by sharing their writing with you for free. Do you have any idea what you put the author of your favourite story through when you write such a comment? Any idea at all?
If I ever see another comment like that again it will be to soon.
Number 5: Spam, self-recommendation and the likes
Out of all types of comments listed, I consider these the least harmful ones. Sure, they can be annoying, but the worst they cause is the disappointment of the writer, when they realise the comment they were looking forward to answering has nothing at all to do with the content they’ve posted.
Writers don’t need these comments for obvious reasons — which is why they made the list — but I wouldn’t rain down the fires of hell on you for leaving them either. (Honestly, I have nothing against self-recs, as long as you offer useful feedback before leaving it. But I think every writer has their own policy on how they handle these comments.)
What’s the point of this entire post? It’s a simple one. Despite what a lot writers say, not every comment is a good comment. Writers are allowed to defend themselves against their readers too. They don’t have to sit back and take it. And they especially don’t have to be grateful for any comment at all. The list above is the reason why.
No, I’m not trying to convince you to stop commenting. As a writer, I know how helpful and encouraging comments are. What I ask of you is only that you think before you write.
Ask yourself if you would be glad to receive a comment like the one you just wrote. And please remember: This is the internet. You don’t actually know who’s sitting on the other end of that line, reading your comment, and taking every word to heart. You don’t know if it’s a twelve year old who just posted their very first story ever, or a sixty-four year old with multiple published works. You don’t know.
Comment. Be honest. But don’t be a jerk. It’s that simple.
Do you have experience with negative comments of this kind? Was there ever a comment that ruined a story or post for you? Or is there a type of comments I forgot about? I’d love to hear what you think!
a.k.a. The one who has spent more time thinking about comments than writing content lately