Sometimes, short really is sweet – and I’m not just saying that because I’m short myself. I’m saying that as one of those nitwits who scrolls through the online answers people post on Quora or Yahoo “news” articles.
I’m sorry, but Kim Kardashian is not real news. Plus, Yahoo’s stories in particular are horribly edited far too often. I’ve never been one of those editors who needs her smelling salts every time someone mistakenly writes “it’s” for “its” or “affect” instead of “effect.”
People make mistakes. We are human, after all.
But when it comes to Yahoo, the amount of mistakes it publishes in supposedly professional pieces is unacceptable. I don’t even click on its articles anymore. They’re that appalling.
Back when I was still reading its “news,” however, and even now with other sites – whether worthwhile ones or not – I sometimes get this masochistic urge to read the comments.
During these crazy journeys into sometimes painful levels of pointlessness, here’s what I’ve found:
Nobody listens to anybody unless they already agree with them. Consider it this way: How many times have you actually changed your opinion based on something posted online in the comments section? Or on social media, for that matter? Honestly now…
People really need to read their own replies before they push the publish button, and not just for spelling and grammatical issues. Logic, lovelies! It’s called logic! Try it out sometime.
Some people are really longwinded. Like really, really, really longwinded. Like I’m falling asleep just thinking about them.
That fact struck me good and hard last month while I was on Quora, one of the many non-Facebook social media sites out there. This particular venue is all about asking questions and answering them, whether on the meaning of life or how to write like a pro or the definition of quantum physics.
And while I’ve made two really great connections through it, overall, it’s proved to be exactly the same as most other social media sites: a giant waste of time.
Though I do have to say, it’s most certainly more of a giant waste of time for the people writing those crazy-long answers I see so often.
We’re talking about in-depth stuff here that can easily amount to 500 words, which – just for the record – is a pretty decently sized blog post. Who knows: Maybe some of them are actually trying to be helpful. But they don’t come across that way.
They come across as insufferable know-it-alls who are writing just to read the “sound” of their own online voices.
There’s also the issue of people’s attention spans. These days, we’re not likely to actually read through a whole news article, much less a 500-word comment or answer. And that’s especially true if those 500 words are contained in two or three ginormous block paragraphs – a topic we’ll be going further into depth about next Thursday.
But for now, here’s what it boils down to: If you want your online comments to have a prayer of making a difference, here’s what to do:
Think it through before you write it down.
Read it over before you press the publish button.
For the love of all that’s reasonable and right, keep it short, sweet and to the point.
Otherwise, your chances of making a positive impact are going to go from 0.1 to -6 in about 10 seconds flat.
Understanding that fact can most definitely make you a better writer – with some very happy readers (or at least more engaged ones) to boot.