Come out of the Closet!

I am intrigued by the phenomenon of the closeted blog-reader. You all know who you are. You read By Common Consent religiously (and maybe occasionally stoop to visit BCC-lite), you stay home with your computers on Saturday nights just in case something profound pops up on this site, but you never actually dare to make a comment yourself. Why is that? I mean, it’s not that difficult to chime in, folks. All you have to do is push the “comments” button, provide your name and email address (which can even be anonymous, don’t you know), and say hello! It’s not like your every utterance need be profound or thought-provoking (though that would be nice). I really do occasionally run into people who say they visit the Bloggernacle, but haven’t ever left a comment. And we all recall the occasional commenter who says: “I’ve been reading this blog for a long time, but I haven’t commented until today…”

What is going on here? Why are there so many passive readers who haven’t yet morphed into active participants? Some theories:

(1) The intellectual sophistication of those participating here is so impressive that most readers are intimidated into awestruck silence.

(This is quite flattering. I hope this is it. Alas, though some of Nate’s philosophical ramblings might qualify, I doubt that my latest screed would pass muster. (Although Steve E. tells me my recent observation on “Turner & Hooch” was quite brilliant, thank you very much)).

(2) People read BCC as a guilty pleasure, but most don’t dare participate in such an edgy forum for fear that the ecclesiastical repercussions might be severe. A corollary of this view — BCC is really, really important, and those of us who participate here are unusually brave and stalwart souls, ready to defend truth and righteousness, no matter what the consequences!

(I really like this one. But it’s probably false.)

(3) We are collectively perceived as vicious enemies of orthodoxy, ready to pounce on any dissent that doesn’t conform with our enlightened “liberal” views. Hence, people are afraid we will make fun of them and make them cry.

(Not true, folks. We’re all about peace and love around here. Really. Besides, the only blogger I feel compelled to pick fights with is Lile).

(4) Our pretentiousness and self-importance is so mindboggling, that it’s all that most readers can do to just sit dumbfounded in front of their screens, fingers paralyzed.

(Impossible. This can’t be it.)

(5) Everyone who reads this blog does comment here! We’re flattering ourselves to think we even have any other readers! We don’t! Most of our blog traffic is simply a function of Steve E. not having enough to do at work and visiting the site like 40,000 times a day.

(I fear this may be it.)

In all seriousness, though, I wonder what it is that prods a reader into taking that first step towards full participation. How long does it take the average reader to make the leap? Why does it take as long as it does? Why don’t those of you who typically visit here in silence finally break the mold and say something? Tell us about yourselves! Now’s your chance.

Aaron B

P.S. Yes, this means you Peter Dittmer. :)

Comments

  1. #1 – probably not, but at least on this blog you don’t see as much of the philosophical babble as on bcc-lite.

    #2 – come on, this blog is still pretty orthodox. i’ve rarely seen anyone really push the envelope, it’s not like you’re exmormon.org or anything like that. no one’s going to get in trouble with the church for talking about caffeine or rated-r movies or even SSM.

    #3 – see #2, like i said, not much here really is too far outside of lds orthodoxy.

    #4 – maybe, but i’m not going to go that far.

    #5 – ding ding ding! the blog authors need to stop compulsively hitting to refresh to see how many comments they’ve gotten.

  2. …or fear of typos. (my this)

  3. You think there is pressure for commenters. Try writing a post, and having no one respond.

    Yep, that is why I rarely comment on this blog anymore, not that I didn’t get flamed good and solid once ;)

    Though I am working on my own blog.

    http://ethesis.blogspot.com/

  4. Aaron Brown says:

    A piece of uninteresting trivia for my “cult” followers:

    You’ll notice that whenever I post or comment, here or elsewhere, I always sign my name “Aaron B,” even when my full name is bound to appear right below it in the comment identifier. Why do I do this? One reason, obviously, is that I’m very pretentious, and I want my name to appear as often as possible. However, another reason is that years ago when I was a frequent commenter on LDS-Law, I needed a way of distinguishing myself from that other Aaron … Aaron Eddington. Thus, I was “Aaron B” and he was “Aaron E.”

    So … imagine my dismay to see Aaron E. actually post a comment here without designating himself properly. Shame on him.

    Aaron B

  5. Aaron B –

    I don’t think that I would say that I perceive the bloggers and commenters here as a clique at all. The difference for me is that in real life I can give signals that I am interested in joining the conversation — such as physically approaching the group, making eye contact, etc. The internet makes this a little more difficult but perhaps just diving in has other advantages.

  6. Aaron B,

    I believe the pamphlet came from a family in Santa Rosa whose daughter had lived with the author while on a study abroad trip to the States. He just wanted her to get in on the ground floor of the intellectual movement that was sweeping the nation … I guess. Or maybe sales were low.

    Unlike this particular anecdote, many mission experiences have universal application — the evils of yogurt, for example.

    John W

  7. john fowles says:

    Aaron,

    In all seriousness, I really think that it is a combination of your numbers 1 and 3 (even though you meant both of them facetiously) and Rusty’s comment.

    As to # 1, I think that it is fairly well known that most of you are Ivy-leaguers. Somehow, it has an intimidating effect on many people, even if there is no reason for that to be the case.

    As to # 3, unfortunately, I personally have felt like that has happened on occasion when I have commented and I think it is likely (unfortunately) that many readers who lurk instead of commenting figure that that is the reaction they will get if they post their own honest thoughts, if those thoughts happen to differ from the “enlightened” thoughts of the permanent bloggers and like-minded commenters.

    Rusty was right on, as was Karen. I definitely understand Karen’s observation about posting and having no comments (yes, that is worse than simply having a comment ignored in the course of a discussion)–believe me, I know from my own blogging at a bird’s eye view.

    I think there might be one more reason that many might lurk but not comment on a blog like this. Those that refrain from commenting might do so because of a perceived elitism or cliquishness (sp?) (I am merely trying to think of other reasons and making an observation, I do not mean this in any negative way towards BCC). What I mean is that it is apparent that the permanent bloggers all know each other and are friends, and sometimes it seems like you are talking to each other with your posts, so the lurker might not wish to interrupt your discussion. I suppose this sort of outsider mentality is only natural on a blog like this where there is a relatively large group of permanent bloggers and a core of regular commenters, who also appear to be inside the network. So it is not a negative observation about this “clique,” just a natural consequence of such an endeavor. Longevity, however, it seems to me, has invited more people to comment lately than at earlier times.

    I read BCC often and enjoy doing so. I admit that I only comment a fraction of the times that I actually read (probably to your great relief!).

  8. Aaron, I am fairly new at this stuff. I discovered the Times and seasons, (where I think I have also seen your name) by typing in Mormon Democrat.
    You see I was so depressed for the past year or so because of the treatment I have gotten by some in my ward when they discovered I was a Democrat that I was seriously pondering leaving the church. I just couldn’t believe that the church could be true if it was limited to only republicans and a very few closet Democrats.
    I wanted to see for myself if there were any other Mormon Democrats alive. I am happy to say that I have found some so I think I’ll stick around.
    You see its not that big a deal with me, I like people whether they are Democrat or Republican. But when people in my ward found out that I was Democrat, there are actually some who avoided eye contact with me in the hall ways and refused to speak to me. One brother even told me to my face that he didn’t see how I could consider myself a true LDS priesthood holder and Democrat at the same time.
    There are some really stupid people in this world.
    Anyway thats the way I found this site and T&S.
    Now having said that, I also discovered that most people on these two sites must either be Lawyers, Doctors, or professors and so I really feel uncomfortable letting you all know how uneducated I feel but what the hell, we’re all brothers and sisters.

  9. Ahem. This post didn’t mention DMI as an option. I comment there because Dave is My Hero. He’s actually created a neutral Mormon blog.

    I do a lot of writing elsewhere on Mormon topics, but it’s not anything anybody here would want to read. If I’m wrong about that, you can just click on my URL.

    I do sometimes wish for the opportunity to write about being an unbeliever to a believing audience, but I haven’t been asked, and I don’t really know how that would be received. There’s a whole website devoted to remaining a member when one doesn’t believe (www.newordermormon.org), so I don’t know that I’d have anything original to say.

  10. Ann,

    I’ve caught you in another lie–I’ve seen you comment over at Dave’s Mormon Inquiry! Just what I would expect from an apostate:)

  11. Aside from what has all been said here I think there is another reason: fear of being overlooked. I think everyone has written something they felt profound, they check back and more people have said something and not responded or referenced your comment at all. It kinda makes you feel stupid about what you just said. I know this is just a natural consequence of blogging and not every comment can be commented on, but I know I’ve felt it.

    (someone pleeeeaaaaase respond to my this comment…)

  12. Blog commenting to me is a commitment to enter in a conversation. Once I comment on a topic, I feel compelled to check back periodically to see if there’s anything I should respond to. I can’t do this everywhere, so I pick and choose my spots.

    I’m more likely to comment on a site that has tools like RSS feeds or email notifications of activity on a thread that reduce the need for me to check back.

    I actually feel guilty because I left the Honor Code discussion a while back without finishing my thoughts. Oh well.

  13. For many of us, the web is not really a participatory event. Sure we can choose what to read and what sites to visit, but the experience is more like TV with a super remote control than anything else.

    it is somewhat liberating to lurk/snoop on another’s conversation.

  14. Hey AB, look out for a mammoth post soon from yours truly.

    Intellectual/spiritual content: 0.
    Pop culture value: infinite.

  15. Aaron Brown says:

    Hey Davis,

    Be grateful that you can even use the word “Prozac” over here. I tried using it over at T&S and my comment was prohibited. I finally had to type “Pr*zac.” I guess we differ from T&S in that we actually believe in free speech over here. :)

    Aaron B

  16. I agree with Heidi.

  17. I am a relatively new lurker and can only really attribute my reluctance to leave the closet as feeling awkward about entering a conversation where no one knows me. I just can’t imagine doing this in real life :) So thanks for the invite Aaron B. ( as she puts one tentative foot out)

  18. I am admittedly a lurker of the Blogernacle. I’ll tell you exactly why I lurk. I am at work. I only have a few times in the day when I can (or have to) sit at my PC and wait for a program or query execution. I don’t have enough time to compose any decent, thoughtful response.

    Sure, I could make smart remarks or joke around. That doesn’t take much effort, but sometimes (oftimes in my case) jokes and teasing come across hurtfully. So, here I sit, reading learning, occasionally shaking my head and chuckling to myself, for only a few moments each day…

  19. The other Aaron - not Aaron B says:

    I am probably now at the height of my blog notoriety having being specifically identified by Aaron B. Until I develop (if ever) my own blog personality I will identify myself appropriately by reference to the great blogster Aaron B.

  20. I got an email from an old friend/neighbor of ours who I take it has been lurking at T&S for some time now. I don’t recall ever reading a comment from him over there. He figured out that danithew was me and just wrote me an email.

    It’s interesting what someone said here, about writing a post, not getting any comments and how that feels. Sometimes we have huge long-winded discussions where people get worked-up and heated and all that — but I think it’s the silences that are most difficult to deal with — because one is left wondering what people are thinking.

  21. I never comment on that other blog, but do sometimes here. You’re just irreverent enough here that an apostate can feel comfortable. I’d like y’all to consider that a compliment, though undoubtedly some will feel rebuked.

  22. I think it depends on the post. If it’s something where I, as the reader, can provide some sort of constructive response I will respond right away. But if I don’t have anything to say or if I disagree w/a post I will not comment right away or at all. (Mind you these “rules” don’t apply to friends blogs, only those blogs written by people I don’t know.)

  23. I won’t speak for other lurkers, but I usually don’t comment for a couple reasons:

    1-I’m often holding/breastfeeding a baby while I read, which makes it difficult to type even if I wanted to comment.

    2-I don’t want to commit to anything in writing (in fact, my impulse is to delete this comment, but I’ll refrain just this once).

  24. D. Fletcher says:

    I’ll just state the obvious — it’s a lot more work commenting than just reading. If I don’t comment, it’s because I don’t feel I have anything particularly worthwhile to add. Both here and at T&S, I feel … at sea … in all the legal jargon.

  25. I’m not a silent lurker, but I probably comment on every 10th or so post that I read. My blog commenting policy is the same as my policy for commenting in school or at church: comment only if you have something relevant and helpful to say that hasn’t already been said. When I read a post, several comments come to mind. Typically, though, I then read the comments and find that the things I had to say have already been said. I could probably rack my brain to think of something else that hasn’t been said, but then I’d be commenting for the sake of commenting — a trait I find really very annoying in others.

  26. I’ve refrained from commenting on this thread, to avoid fulfilling Aaron’s option #5…

    I think a lot of people feel like BCC is a bit clique-ish, and that’s why they don’t comment. But T&S was also that way, back in the day. It took some major big-time guest bloggers to catapult them squarely into the public domain.

  27. McKay Curtis says:

    It’s all opportunity costs, man. Think of what other productive activity I am missing out on because I spent the time to type this comment. It’s just too costly to write a comment.

  28. Aaron Brown says:

    John W,

    Thanks for chiming in, but how dare you tatter my good name by associating it with “Futurelogics”! Was I the one who loaned that nonsensical pamphlet to you, or was it the other way around? Anyway, at least you’ve confirmed my “green pants” story, since some of our dear readers tried to accuse me of making it up.

    Uh-oh. Are we being clique-ish?

    Aaron B

  29. Aaron Brown says:

    Ken M,

    Thanks for sharing your story, and I really am glad you found us. Yes, there really are some stupid people in this world. I really think it’s unfortunate that the political posturing of so many members serves to make Church uncomfortable (or intolerable) for so many others. I am fortunate, I think, to live in a ward where politic-ing is minimal, and political diversity seems to reign. I also find it odd that for a ward that is socio-economically struggling, and is certainly not “intellectual” in any sense of the word, the number of bone-headed comments week-to-week seems minimal.

    And I say this as a Republican.

    Aaron B

  30. Kris, you’re doing just fine! I think you’re a pretty good communicator.

    Generally, if people want to show their interest but aren’t up to full-fledged commenting, little comments like LOL or ROTFL or “shut up, loser!” are a good way to give a shout-out without diving in full-force.

  31. Let me describe, claim, and copyright a simple model of blogging: First, one lurks. Then one comments. Then one forms one’s own blog. Then, as the pinnacle of achievement, one is invited to join a group blog.

    So . . . congratulations to all those who have moved up a notch recently!

  32. My brother sent me an email last week in which he mentioned he had been reading my blog. I didn’t know he knew I had a blog–I guess that’s why google is so great for stalkers and nosy siblings. But still no comments from him–I don’t know why.

  33. Oh, oh, definitely choice number 1!!
    As for BCC-lite, I’d have to say some conbination of 3 and 4.

    But seriously, it’s time, my friend. I honestly don’t know how those of you with billable hour requirements, spouses, kids and pets do it. I barely find time to read, let along formulate a comment and actually type it up.

  34. OK, Aaron B, I’m commenting. I hope you’re happy.

    I suppose one reason I haven’t commented before is that visiting this site feels a little like riding a subway surrounded by strangers — you try not to make eye contact, etc., but it’s sometimes interesting to listen in on what other people are saying. Without revealing that fact.

    Aaron B and I served in the mission together all of those years ago, though, sadly, never as companions. Perhaps President F was inspired after all. Still, Aaron kept me stocked with such quality literature as “Futurelogics,” “Adam God Theory” and the like. Who knows where I’d be otherwise….

    By the way, it took serving in the Navy to do it, but I do own several pair of green (the BAD color) pants — well, woodland camo, at least. Black and brown are mixed in. As such, maybe they wouldn’t draw the gaze of President B’s lidless, all-seeing eye … wreathed in flame.

    John W

  35. oops, typo.
    That should be “let alone formulate a comment and actually type it up.”

  36. Davis Bell says:

    Prozac.

  37. Aaron Brown says:

    Rusty, your comment exudes brilliance! I’m moved beyond words! Do you have a fan club, and where do I sign up? :)

    Actually, your point is well-taken. I hadn’t thought of that, but come to think of it, I have experienced just what your’e talking about over at T&S on occasion. Fortunately, I am able to lie to myself and conclude that my prose is just impenetrably rich and profound, thereby precluding the other commenters from even beginning to know how to respond to it. :)

    Aaron B

  38. Steve Evans — LOL :)

  39. Thanks kris — didn’t notice it until now!

    :)

  40. Aaron Brown says:

    Welcome Kris! We hope you stick around. Incidently, John Fowles raised the issue of the perceived “cliquishness” at this site, and I think he probably has a point. Perhaps it is off-putting when some of us talk to each other like we’re old friends (which some of us are). But we’re always happy to hear new voices. Really!

    Aaron B

  41. Davis Bell says:

    Who moved up recently?

  42. Davis Bell says:

    Word. Nothing worse than to come back after commenting and find that either the conversation continued with no reference to your comment or, even worse, that your comment is still the last one on the conversation and may well have ended it. I did that once on a really hot and active topic at T&S. Now I’m on Prozaz.

  43. You think there is pressure for commenters. Try writing a post, and having no one respond. That’s harsh. (Even worse is writing a post on dating, and having it forwarded to everyone in your singles ward….leading to not virtual, but real social ostracization….The nacking life is a life full of peril…) :o)

    I think the point of blogging, at least for me, is to be forced to organize my thoughts in a way that can withstand rebuttal and criticism. If no one responds, you can’t measure the success of the process. Basically, I get your point Rusty.

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