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.


Unknown said...

Totally agree with you. Actually I also see that the comments usually are all so one-sided. And usually if it's something I enjoy there's always those comments from people running their most negative opinions on everything they can poit their finger at, and usually they know nothing about it.
From now on to keep myself mentally healthy and prevent myself from constant anger, I just never check the comment section.

Johnny Walker said...

Reading this again, I believe this is precisely what we see with the younger generation today. They don't know what to believe in, and it also explains the inexplicable rise of people like Jordon Peterson. He's not especially brilliant, he's just very hard to criticise (because he talks in circles). And people need to believe in something...