Matthew Reddin

About Matthew Reddin

Matt Reddin has been writing nonsense about film, TV, books, music and live theatre for a touch over 20 years. He’s gone from the halcyon days of street press in Perth, to regional dailies, national magazines and major metropolitan newspapers. Now, in between bouts of sporadically yelling at clouds, he vents his creative spleen at www.lessercolumn.com.au

(Why I) Never read the comments section

Today’s unlimited free-press has birthed a condition where everyone feels they need to duke it out in the comments section. Well, they don’t. I’m biting the hand that needles me. 

 

 

Another byproduct of the Internet age: everyone thinks their opinion needs to be heard. Fun fact: it doesn’t.

The Internet has done many things. It has brought us together. It’s created a global village. At the same time, it’s killed print journalism, the music industry and the “Mom & Pop” adult book store, may it rest in smutty peace.

I’m one of very few who can endure a commute without the aid of a device. I read books, and can – at a pinch – simply look out the window (thank you for reading this on your way home, and for contributing to irony). No judgments, there are certain things that demand your attention, be they Tweets, Instagram pics, Hoolio grabs, Facebook status updates, YouTube videos, Doozits, Vines or Snapchats, keeping in mind that at least two of those things don’t actually exist. But I’m the only one who isn’t fidgeting with a piece of technology. You can’t get into an elevator without someone automatically filling in the 12-second ride by checking their “likes”.

Why? Are we that starved for information? Are we that intellectually curious? Do we need constant stimuli; do we need to constantly express our thoughts and opinions?

The Internet is the world’s first truly free press. Anyone can have their voice heard (anyone with access to the technology, that is…not many in sub-Saharan Africa currently weighing in on #Brangelina). But with the advent of the blogosphere and social media, people will express every last thought they ever had, without the burden of editorial guidelines, publishers, prerequisite journalism qualifications or consequences.

The comments section is what the Letters to the Editor page used to be, except there is no quality assurance. So it goes that everyone wants to weigh in on everything that’s published, from global politics to showbiz gossip.


Also on The Big Smoke


There was an article in entertainment bible Variety about the box office prospects of the new version of The Magnificent Seven. It was opening about 48 hours from the story’s publication. It wasn’t an earth-shattering read, just a speculative numbers piece for those who like watching the money.

In the – frankly unnecessary – comments section, the first thing that cropped up was an aside from a reader calling themselves “Cadavra”, wanting his two cents: “…why not simply try an original screenplay, or an adaptation of an unfilmed novel, or at least remake a western that’s rather less iconic?” he asked, to nobody in particular.

This was, perhaps, at best, a valid comment about 18 months ago, when the film’s production was first announced. What did Cadavra think would be accomplished from it? The film was two days from general release. It cost $90 million, was complete, and was about to open at 3,665 locations throughout the US, and rolling out in the UK, Australia, Germany, Spain and Russia.

Its existence is not up for debate.

Nevertheless, Cadavra thought it pertinent to vent his spleen about Hollywood’s obsession with sequels and remakes, assuming his voice on the subject would be the straw that broke the culturally bankrupt camel’s back.

 

The comments section is what the Letters to the Editor page used to be, except there is no quality assurance. So it goes that everyone wants to weigh in on everything that’s published, from global politics to showbiz gossip.

 

Had he reached a different conclusion about ticket sales, sure, weigh in! It’d be fascinating. But he doubtlessly hadn’t even read the article, much less got what it was about (finance!). He just felt he needed to share the juice of his mind grapes with Variety’s readership, bless his cotton socks.

In all sincerity: Shut up, Cadavra, nobody cares what you think! (I didn’t enter into the discussion in the comments section to say as much, because I experience cognitive dissonance.)

This is – by far – the lightest side of the public’s desire to have their say. The bilious vitriol that can be found out there can, and probably will be the subject of doctoral theses about what unchecked access to electronic media can do to the ids of the unwashed. The unlimited free press has created a monster, which needs to be caged, although I’m the wrong person to speculate as to how this can be done. Zuckerberg probably knows.

In the interim, I just don’t read the comments section, and would impart this truism to the rest of you. What other people think is none of your business and the less you read among the throng, the better off you’ll be…on close to every imaginable level.

(And yes, I do see the irony in writing a piece about perils of the comments section and the wrath of the public’s unfiltered mind bilge on a website with a comments section. I get it. Let your mind bilge spew forth…)

 

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