What We Comment About When We Comment About Commenting
July 9, 2015 10:14 PM   Subscribe

Queer women's web magazine Autostraddle, one of the few sites where it's safe to break the rule of "don't read the comments", muses about online commenting culture and how the move to social media commentary affects communities on comment-heavy sites like itself.
posted by divabat (12 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
Yup definitely relevant to my interests. It's something I've struggled with in the online communities I run, just how to build community there rather than have everything happen on Facebook, which is a rubbish platform for doing anything community based.
posted by invisible_al at 2:32 AM on July 10, 2015

We feel confident, after ten years of total immersion in internet dialogue, with stating the following: productive conversations only happen when we assume good faith and treat each other with the patience and kindness that we devote to conversations with our friends and others we know and respect.

This is great. I haven't read anything better about call-out culture and what is a more productive version of that impulse.
posted by heatherann at 4:25 AM on July 10, 2015 [8 favorites]

This is good:
Many of you have your own communities where everybody is identified by name and face and nobody is anonymous — a class, a closed Facebook group, a book club — where you’ve been able to flex newfound muscles and try out your ideas; where people have given you the space to fuck up, try again, get it wrong before you get it right. You have family and friends who give you the benefit of the doubt, and you give it to them, and y’all help each other figure out the hard stuff. But even more of you do not have that community. A comment section filled with nitpicking and accusations of bad faith and language policing is unwelcoming and intimidating. Callout culture, pile-ons, and basic rudeness to each other and to writers can and will drive readers and writers away, people who are still learning and don’t have a community to be their sounding board and help them figure out the hard stuff. That’s why Autostraddle is different, and why it must continue to be accessible to as many levels of education and understanding as possible. We believe that if you can, if you have it in you, you should try to be that community for someone who needs it.

And fuck it, like, we honestly believe in kindness.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:10 AM on July 10, 2015 [12 favorites]

Wow. Clearly I need to get myself over to Autostraddle and set up a rss feed for their work or something, because this sounds really good.
posted by sciatrix at 6:06 AM on July 10, 2015

Autostraddle's comment policy is a good read as well.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:35 AM on July 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

I really like Autostraddle but I mostly just read it via RSS feed. I don't wade into the comments. Because - ew, comments.

Sounds like in this case I may have made a mistake, and should investigate. I really like this piece - thanks for sharing it. Now I'll go tell them that.
posted by Stacey at 6:52 AM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I <3 autostraddle 4 evar
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:25 AM on July 10, 2015

I appreciate Autostraddle's commitment to building community online for folks who may not have an in-person support system. That's a laudable goal. I just wish folks would quit creating a false binary between "call-out culture" (that term? just ... ugh) and kindness. People at the 100-level on social justice topics absolutely need spaces where they can be educated in a safe environment. The problem is, spaces that are kind and friendly to people at the 100-level can be incredibly frustrating for (and, yes, unkind to) people who are past that level and want to have a more nuanced discussion. Sometimes, I need to just be able to hang out and talk with my fellow queers without constantly being expected to educate onlookers.

(Not to mention the implications of race and gender on who shoulders the burden of doing the educating, and who gets to be known as kind.)
posted by zebra at 8:00 AM on July 10, 2015 [5 favorites]

zebra, some of your totally understandable frustration over "constantly being expected to educate onlookers" in discussions about social justice topics might be addressed in the section of Autostraddle's comment policy titled "On Truths We Hold Self-Evident":
We’re really sick of having the same fruitless debates over and over again. So, if you’re commenting on this website, please keep in mind that the following facts are not up for debate here (anymore):

There is no such thing as “reverse racism.”
Queer trans women belong in the queer women’s community.
Bisexual and other non-monosexual women belong in the queer women’s community.
There is nothing wrong with being fat, nor is there anything inherently unhealthy about being fat.
A member of the oppressor group is not qualified to tell a member of the oppressed group that they’re not entitled to feel oppressed, offended, discriminated against, bothered or threatened by something or someone. (Or empowered by something or someone, for that matter.) A cis person cannot tell a trans* person that the trans* person’s assessment of transphobia is wrong, a white person cannot tell a person of color that their assessment of racism is wrong. Listen.
Like Stacey, I may have to rethink my reflexive avoidance of comments on articles on Autostraddle (a site I really like, especially "Things I Read That I Love" and "read a f-cking book").
posted by virago at 9:29 AM on July 10, 2015 [5 favorites]

productive conversations only happen when we assume good faith and treat each other with the patience and kindness that we devote to conversations with our friends and others we know and respect.

This is undoubtedly the golden rule for internet discussion. Although, without looking too hard, I'm willing to wager the quality of the comments on that site owe more to the rules that frame the acceptable topics than patience and kindness.

Support/kindness and debate, productive or otherwise, are fairly mutually exclusive in my experience.
posted by Maugrim at 2:27 PM on July 10, 2015

Heh. I read a lot of articles there but never really read the comments. If I want to interact with an author, I email (or tweet at) them. MeFi's the only place where I read the comments pretty much, and that's largely because it's a website built with commenting as a significant feature from the beginning.
posted by klangklangston at 3:57 PM on July 10, 2015

That's an exceptionally good piece.

There's a note in passing about how visitors who experience the site through Facebook shares versus visiting the home page get directed towards the most incendiary and controversial posts, and that defines the site's out for them: "for readers getting all their Autostraddle from Facebook, Autostraddle likely seemed like a burning bush fanning the flames of its ongoing war."

The only way to offset that, apparently, is to set up a Facebook page and promote all new posts, which makes it feel like FB is running a protection racket on standalone content-rich websites.
posted by holgate at 9:36 PM on July 14, 2015

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