Tuesday, 28 July 2015

The voice on the page: Do internet comments ruin everything?

Something has bugged me about internet comments for years, and I've never been able to put my finger on exactly what it was... but I think I've just figured it out.

I saw Jerry Seinfeld talk about the relationship between the comic and the audience, and how critics, no matter how they may try, cannot get in between their bond. The comic has a direct link, artist to audience, that cannot be interfered with. In the moment of the performance, two people are connected.

Charlie Kaufman has talked about the importance of this same connection, about how hearing a voice revealing some shared truth makes us feel less alone. (You might even argue that's the function of art itself.) Stephen King has also written about what he sees as a genuine form of psychic communication, an almost magical connection, between author and audience, that allows for the sending of ideas from one brain to another.

That connection, the one we all feel while experiencing a piece of art that touches us, is sacrosanct. It's important, holy, ancient. It's the deepest parts of two people having a conversation that can't be put into words. At that moment artist and audience are connected.

And then someone forces their way into that conversation, sharing their opinion before you've had time to fully appreciate the experience.

Imagine going on a date with someone. The two of you are hoping to find a deep connection with another. Now imagine having a third-party sat nearby commenting after every sentence. Unless it lead to mutual frustration and the desire to go elsewhere, that person would completely prevent any chance of connection forming, and to me, that's often what internet comments do.

Don't get me wrong, debate is important and it's healthy, but it has its time and place. Do we really need the ability to comment on everything? Do we really want people interfering with our deeper connection to things? I think we need time to find our own thoughts and opinions about what we've just experienced, our own connection with it, and only then can we enter a debate about it -- should we feel the need.

But I worry that all this superficial conversation is just making us more lonely for a deeper connection.

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