It’s no secret that I have a long list of pet peeves. I often vent about them in my blog. One topic that occasionally comes up in this rag I write, is how irritated I get when people chime in on things they haven’t deigned to read. As a matter of fact, I wrote about this topic in December 2019, and I KNOW I’ve written about it multiple times on my old blog. Well… I’m about to write about it again, because goddammit, I get pissed.
Yesterday, I read a poignant article on The Atlantic about a man who spent 306 days in the hospital after contracting COVID-19. Yes, that’s a really long time to be hospitalized. After I read the beautifully written article, I looked at the comments, and so many people were aghast at how large the hospital bill must have been! Comment after comment was left about the hypothetical size of this man’s medical expenses.
BUT— the man in this story was not from the United States. He lives in Britain. In Britain, they have the National Health Service, which covers the costs of everyone’s healthcare (although one can also pay for private care). So no, there was no huge hospital bill for him or his family to pay.
I must have read over a dozen comments about the perceived size of the guy’s medical debts until I finally saw a comment from a woman who commented on the size of the bills, and then openly admitted that she hadn’t read the article because she didn’t want to pay for a subscription. Against my better judgment, I left this comment for her…
“Why would you comment on something you haven’t read?”
I know… it probably comes off as peevish and bitchy to many people, but it seemed like a fair enough question to me. I didn’t use exclamation points or all caps. I didn’t swear at her. In fact, it was a perfectly reasonable query, in my opinion. ESPECIALLY since she could have taken a minute to read just a few of the many comments on the Facebook link and found out that the man was from Britain and didn’t have huge hospital bills. Even if, as an American, someone doesn’t know that most countries don’t have an insanely and inhumanely expensive healthcare system like ours, he or she could have gotten that information about Britain’s NHS system by simply reading a few comments left by those in the know.
But you know what she did? She went to my Facebook page and noticed my tag line, which reads “My life is basically one long Maalox commercial.” I used to have “Wake me in 2021” there, but changed it after Biden won the election. Anyway, after visiting my Facebook page, she wrote:
“Oh, go take your Maalox.”
Well… that WAS a bitchy comment, wasn’t it? So I responded thusly,
“Why don’t you support journalism by purchasing a subscription to The Atlantic and reading before posting. Then, your uninformed comments won’t prompt me to need Maalox.”
Which leads me to my next point. Why did she feel the need to stalk my Facebook page just because I asked her why she’d comment on something she hasn’t read? My question to her wasn’t that unreasonable. I mean, she openly admitted she hadn’t read the article and, apparently, didn’t even bother to read any of the many wrong comments about the guy’s “huge” (and non-existent) medical bills, which were corrected by more informed readers. And yet, she still felt she had something to add to the conversation. Tell me. Why should anyone read and respond to her comment if she hasn’t read theirs, OR the article that has prompted the discussion? What makes her so goddamned special?
I suppose she was disappointed that there’s not all that much public on my page. I think my last public post was one from a few months ago, asking former colleagues the recipe for the savory cheesecake we used to sell at the restaurant where we worked. Not all of my former colleagues are Facebook friends, so I made the post public to allow non-friends to respond. That post has been liked by two creepy guys who tangled with me in the comment sections of political posts. I blocked both of them, not that it matters.
The lady I ran into yesterday also went looking for information on the public part of my Facebook page. I wonder what she seeking? Was she wanting to know my political proclivities? Did she want to know if I breastfeed zoo animals or take opium rectally? Was she looking for evidence that I live in a cave? I mean, I’m just an ordinary person who gets irritated by people who think they need to comment on things they haven’t read. If you haven’t even bothered to read what you’re commenting on, why should I read your thoughts?
After getting good and annoyed by that exchange, I decided to research the Internet to see if I’m the only one who gets irritated by non-readers who spread their stupid egotistical shit in comment sections. Sure enough, I found several impassioned articles about this sad epidemic of a phenomenon. The first one I read was especially interesting.
Back on April Fool’s Day in 2014, NPR decided to play a trick on its readers by an article entitled “Why Doesn’t America Read Anymore?” That is a very provocative title, isn’t it? The people who came up with it knew that it would prompt discussion. Sure enough, it did.
I hasten to add, however, that Amelia Tait, the writer who quoted the NPR article in her article, got the NPR article’s title wrong, calling it “Why doesn’t anyone read anymore?”. I guess she’s not a careful reader, either.
Notice that there are over 2200 comments on that original post. If the people who commented had bothered to read before opining on the headline, they would have read this.
Notice in the directions, it says “If you are reading this, please like this post and do not comment on it.” Sure enough, of the many of the people who did bother to read, quite a few didn’t follow directions. Or, I can also assume, they didn’t care what the directions were, like to ruin practical jokes, and spoil other people’s fun. 😉
I decided to experiment on my own page with this article. I shared it, and not five minutes later, I got a comment from someone who offered an opinion, admitting that he hadn’t read the article (props to him for that, at least). Then he read it and promptly ruined the joke. I decided not to delete his comment, though, because I wanted to see if other people chimed in without reading the comment section. Someone did, although, she wasn’t tripped up by the fake article. However, she also didn’t follow directions, and commented when she was requested to only react to the link.
The next person simply liked the post, which earned her the grand prize. In this case, the grand prize is my admiration, respect, and good wishes. It occurred to me that if I were a teacher, this exercise might make a great object lesson in the classroom. Because, if you think about it, it’s the rampant liking, commenting, and sharing that people do WITHOUT reading first that helps get dangerous idiots like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Donald Trump elected and conspiracy theories started. THIS IS HOW FAKE NEWS AND MISINFORMATION GETS SPREAD, PEOPLE. The NPR April Fool’s article probably just made people feel foolish. Imagine how some of the people who fell for QAnon and later regretted it feel (sadly not all of them yet realize QAnon is total bullshit). Doesn’t life present you with enough opportunities to feel foolish without making a basic mistake like not reading before reacting or commenting?
I totally get that we live in a hyper-paced world right now. People are busy, stressed out, and broke. People are also kind of lazy, and don’t want to spend their precious time reading things, especially when they could be writing lengthy posts about something completely non-sensical and irrelevant. But they DO want others to read what they write, otherwise why would they comment? And it seems lost on them that if they don’t even take time to read whatever has prompted the discussion, it’s pretty arrogant and disrespectful to opine about it.
As someone who writes and has actually made money doing so, I am asking you, for all that’s good and holy, at least take a minute to read a few comments before popping off with a comment that makes you look dumb and/or lazy. I realize that not everyone has the money or the desire to subscribe to every magazine or newspaper whose content they want to read, but a lot of times, there are people who HAVE read and left comments, and you can glean a more informed opinion or at least have some of your misconceptions corrected before you post something irritating. I think Annie Reneau, who wrote this excellent piece for Scary Mommy, sums it up nicely. I encourage you to read and heed her fabulous rant, which is NOT behind a paywall.
Also… journalists have to pay bills, too. You don’t work for free, do you? So don’t expect them to work for free. Show some respect. If you didn’t read, please try not to comment. Or, at least take a minute to read a few other comments before you chime in and post something ridiculous. My Maalox swilling lifestyle will improve if you do.