When I started this blog, I knew very little about blogging. Not just about being a blogger but about blogs in general. I had participated in some forums but when it came to blogs, I generally read the post and moved on. To be honest, it took me a while to notice that blogs even had comment sections. To be fair they were often hidden in the blogs I read.
So, when I first started my blog, I had no idea what to expect when it came to comments. To be honest, I mostly expected that I wouldn’t get any, so I didn’t think about it at all.
To my delight, I did get one! And then I got some more and continued to get more and even started to get to new people through the comments. It was great.
For years, I kept my comment section as open as I could figure out how to make it. Anyone could post in my comments and the only rule I had is to not go after other readers. You can insult me or the post or disagree with everything, as long as you don’t attack fellow readers, I was going to leave you be.
And that worked for me for a long time.
The first incident that made me rethink this policy was when I got a troll that left somewhat unpleasant comments but worse than that, they would add links to some very suspicious sites in those comments. I can’t say for sure those were virus-laden, but they did make me suspicious. And a lot of them redirected to some very hateful stuff that I wasn’t comfortable linking to, even if it was in the comment section.
That was the first time I actually took a comment down. I didn’t like doing it but I felt it was right. And then I added the first bit of restriction to my comments. I made it so that comments with links to other sites needed to get approved manually before they got posted. Basically, they just stay in a waiting for moderation folder until I get the chance to go through them. As long as they don’t link to anything seemingly dangerous, I approve them all but I notice that a lot of people get impatient and just repost the comment without the link. Which is fine.
If you ever wonder why one of your comments disappears, it might be because you had a link in it and now it’s waiting for moderation.
And for years after that, this was more than enough t keep me happy with my comment sections.
I did occasionally get commenters that really disliked me. And I can’t pretend that it doesn’t bother me at all. But it doesn’t bother me much. Certainly not enough for me to do anything about it. And I also have this very unhealthy notion that hate comments are a sort of sign of success. For the blog to get popular enough that someone who isn’t interested at all in what I write about can still find it and take the time to comment on it, that’s something I thought I would never achieve.
I know that I’m probably adding a pretty huge pinch of wishful thinking in there but let me have this one.
So the occasional trolls and even less frequent haters came and went. I post every day and mostly reviews, it’s tough for anyone to be motivated enough to insult me on every post for very long.
I want to take a minute here to say that I have been fortunate. I think I’m fairly good at accepting unpleasant comments. Not exactly thick-skinned but not thinned-skinned either. Somewhere in the middle. A nasty comment isn’t going to ruin my day. I’m also rather privileged so there isn’t that much to punch down on. I get some sexist remarks now and then but let’s face it, I’m more than used to those and no one is ever going to make me feel bad about being a lady.
However, there are some bloggers out there who get some absolutely vile comments. Hateful rhetoric that hits home and hits hard. Stuff that can be downright frightening, even to me and it’s not directed at me. I think bloggers are perfectly justified in getting rid of those types of comments on their blogs. It’s their blogs after all. I hope I never have that type of situation myself.
Lately, I have restricted my comment section once more. I had a troll which, to be honest, I thought was fairly entertaining as far as trolls go. They would drop random comments that had nothing to do with the post or conversation here and there. I didn’t mind. It was mostly non sequitur vague insults nothing to write home about really. And I was happy to just let them rant in their little corner.
The problem is that one of my readers told them off and they were obviously just waiting for that chance. After that what I can only describe as a minor incel meltdown all in caps took place. And like I said, my one rule is to not go after the readers. I had warned them about that previously.
I could have simply banned their IP but I found that WordPress is a bit unreliable when it comes to that. I did some tests and it still let a bunch of comments through. I didn’t want to put in too much effort to pick out and moderate each comment. I do have a full-time job already, I don’t need another one. And because my comment section was open to anyone, making it possible to comment anonymously, I couldn’t simply ban the user.
So, I tried something new again. I made it so that people have to give a name and email to comment. Of course, anyone with a Gravatar account can continue to comment through Gravatar so I figured most readers wouldn’t even notice the change. But people that just randomly want to hurl an insult will now have to at least give a made-up name and go to the trouble of giving me an e-mail account. I figure that anyone who is dedicated enough to do that earned at least one comment.
Disappointingly, this very minor hurdle seems to have been enough to dissuade this latest troll and despite getting several comments a day before the change, I haven’t heard a peep from them since.
All in all, I would say this change is a net positive. Yes, I would like to encourage comments as much as possible but there’s no point in creating a toxic environment out of my own blog. I kind of wish I had done it sooner to be honest.
Do you moderate or restrict your comments? Have you had any issues since I changed my comments settings? What are your thoughts on this?