Please read the date that something was posted before you leave a snarky comment.
I read every single comment that I get online, flagrantly violating the most oft-quoted Internet Rule of “Don’t Read the Comments.” It’s because I’m ridiculous and a glutton for punishment.
Often, I write stories that are tied to the context of the time and place I’m writing them in. I can only exist at one specific point in the spacetime continuum, and that’s the only point I can write in as well.
I’ll offer commentary on a new product release, or speculate about an upcoming slate of technology…things like that.
Inevitably, anywhere from 6 months to a year later, I’ll start getting comments as if I just wrote that article, asking me questions about something I haven’t even thought about since I was much younger, sending me scrambling to remember what on earth I was talking about.
Sometimes it goes even deeper than that.
I’ve been known to rant from time to time about product marketing I don’t like. I’ll calm down between announcement and release, review the finished version, and then add an update to the original article pointing people to the finished review.
Without fail, people will come on in to comment on the original rant article and ask me why I haven’t tried the product yet. I don’t know if they’re not reading the giant bold text I added to the original article, or if they’re just reading the title and deciding to comment, or if they’re ignoring my edits just to prove their “point,” or what.
And look, I get it. It’s easy to derive a perverse sort of satisfaction from correcting people on the internet. It’s something I was guilty of a lot in the past. We live in a chaotic world in which we so rarely get to be “right,” especially once we leave the strange confines of academic life.
But nobody’s perfect. And no one can go back and edit all their old pieces continuously to update them for a modern context.
Don’t get me wrong. I heartily support the ever-evolving nature of the internet. I think that ongoing commentary and criticism is ultimately a good thing, because it allows us to revisit things in a new context. It’s really cool that game/tech/movie/literature/music reviewers can come back to things months after launch and see how their views have changed, or how updates have affected the product.
That’s why end of the year “Best Of” lists are so popular. They engage debate in a new context.
A new context. Not the context of the original time and place of the first piece.
Context is so important. If I were teaching a literary criticism class, this would be the first thing I’d write on the board in big letters on the first day.
Do classrooms even have “boards” in them anymore? What year is it?
Every single piece of content on the modern internet has a big date stamp right at the top of it. Sometimes, you even get a timestamp down to the very second it went live. This gives you more than enough information to understand the context of a piece.
If I write a story about how HyperX hasn’t launched any wireless headsets yet, and then they launch one 4 months later…the original story is now wrong.
But it wasn’t in its original context.
You can bet someone money before clicking that link that folks have shown up to tell me it’s wrong, and you’ll win.
I don’t have the time to go back and update every single thing I’ve ever said anywhere to keep them accurate for all future times. And no one should have to do that. What kind of life would that be? I have over 1000 pieces of content online. I’d need about ten separate lifetimes just to keep that library “up-to-date.”
Context is what helps create engaging discussion, and the internet has a weird way of staring at a thing for one week then moving on. Like an attention-deficit-Eye of Sauron.
But when old things come back, it’s important to notice that they’re old.
I feel like this is the most patronizing thing I’ve ever written, but it happens to me so much that I could no longer be silent about it! And I’m basically a nobody. I can’t even imagine how much this happens to the more established writers out there.
I don’t want to live in a world where I have to stop reading comments and no engaging discussion ever happens. I understand that hatred and rage are always going to be present in comment sections. It’s easy for me in those moments to click the delete button if I need to…but if that rage is at least properly contextualized…I’ll leave it there and try to engage.
If I can tell you haven’t read the article I’ve written, including its date of publication, before you comment, my brain goes into meltdown mode and I start writing things like this.