The idea of a comment section is wonderful; the opportunity for mass, instant feedback is exciting, useful and totally unique to the internet. Unfortunately, what ends up in a comment section is less "instant feedback" and more "fart noise fart noise racism fart noise."
Almost every video, article and comic on the Internet has a place for comments and it is shocking how consistently horrific commenters can be. They're not just saying, "I want to knock your teeth out with my dick" to some woman singing a song on YouTube, they're saying it after movie trailers, charts, pictures of cats and Wall Street Journal articles. Everywhere.
No one knows why comment sections across the internet are largely negative, vulgar, vaguely racist wastelands of misspelled horror, but that's just how it is. Years and years ago, when the first comment section was invented, some 14-year-old set the tone with racism and vulgarity, and the Internet hasn't really looked back since. Except here, of course, we're actually pretty lucky here. The commenters at Cracked are, for the most part, generally intelligent and fairly thoughtful, in addition to being attractive, dynamic and talented (sexually speaking).
"Darling, there's a new Brockway column. Quickly, let's leave some encouraging comments, and then make love in our vineyard."
But let's say you're not writing for Cracked, and you don't have a built-in fanbase. Let's say you're just starting out, (because getting depressed as a result of negative comments is typically more of a problem for new writers). If you're just a person writing for the Internet, you're leaving yourself open for awful comments, private messages, emails, and attacks and, sure as your born, you will get them. You're also technically leaving yourself open for really great comments but, for some reason, it's much easier to say, "I HATE YOU" than it is to say, "THIS WASN'T TERRIBLE!"
Here are the two things that are true right now: 1) There will always be shockingly offensive comments on anything posted to the Internet. 2) Those comments will always, always be emotionally painful for new writers. No matter how many times you tell yourself "Ignore the commenters" or "they're just being bullies, trolling for some kind of reaction" or whatever, if you're a new writer and you've just spent a week working on an article and the only thing someone says in response is "This is the worst piece of shit I've ever read," it's going to hurt. You can try to act as cool and aloof as you want, but it's never easy to have something you worked hard on shat upon by a few hundred strangers.
"What if the Internet's right? What if I AM a fagosaurus who can only type with my butt?"
At least not at first, anyway. You can get over it. I've been doing this long enough that I've gotten plenty of comments from both ends of the spectrum of Internet Commentry, from the lows of "You're the worst thing to ever happen to writing, I fucking hate you," all the way to the highs of "This article wasn't a piece of shit like your others, I fucking hate you." I've read both of those comments and everything in between them enough times that it's all basically white noise at this point. So there's a possibility that you'll eventually become immune to all comments. Or you could just develop a thicker skin. Or just not read comments at all. Or you can read and intensely focus on every single comment, (though only a total lunatic would do that). Whatever. The point is, you can get to a place where comments don't affect you at all.
And then you'd be fine, except comments are not the worst thing to happen to Internet writers. Not by a long shot ...
You did it. You wrote a thing. You wrote your thing, and it was good. And it found an audience, a big audience, an audience that loves you and is hungry for more of your work. You spent 30 hours researching and 40 hours writing something that was so specifically born out of your tastes, and your experiences, that it could have only come from you.
In the time it took you to read that paragraph, over a hundred blogs stole your article and claimed it as their own.
It happens to us all the time. Someone will remove the "Cracked.com" logo from one of our infographics and repost it on Reddit and Tumblr. High school kids copy and paste our articles into their Wordpress blogs, changing nothing but the byline. "Writers" in foreign countries will sloppily translate our articles for their own sites without permission. On many occasions, popular morning radio DJs have read whole articles, word for word, on the air without so much as a passing mention of Cracked, let alone the poor author who wrote the thing. It happens so often that we have a thread dedicated to it in our forums, a thread that, as of now, is 26 pages long.
Ian Fortey (a former writer of ours and the current Head Honcho over at Holy Taco), recently came across a blog full of articles that the writer had been stealing from Cracked for over a year. The owner of that blog, whose name I can't reproduce here because the button on my keyboard that is just a picture of a flaccid penis weeping over a typewriter is broken at the moment, copy and pasted a bunch of our articles and images onto his site and claimed them as his own. There's a lot more to the story, (including the fact that the guy is hilariously offering to give writing workshops, provided you pay him money), and I encourage you to read all about it over at HolyTaco, but the bottom line is that our writers worked hard and spent a lot of time writing thoughtful, original articles and some shithead with a blog spent less than three minutes stealing them. When something similar happened three years ago, I lost my shit, wrote a long rant about it and replaced all of the images that the guy had stolen from our site with pictures of male genitalia. When one of our writers told me about this new rip-off site, I just shrugged and said, "Whelp, that's the Internet."
It's an unfortunate reaction to have, but it's true. Publishing on the Internet means you run the risk of having your work seen but also stolen by millions and millions of people, all the time, every day, forever. Even if we got this guy's blog shut down, I guarantee you three more blogs would take its place, all of them piloted by writers who have no problem stealing other peoples' material, because starting a blog and stealing are two very easy things to do. To a lot of folks, the Internet is still just the Wild West, lawless and open, and full of shockingly filthy people. There are no rules, and if anyone's caught doing something wrong, the go-to excuse of "Relax, man, it's just the Internet" isn't stale enough yet that people won't still casually throw it around. And maybe the Internet will always be this way, with fickle audiences, impossible-to-please commenters, distractingly endless pornography, and shameless plagiarists.
But even if those problems never get fixed, it won't be too big of a deal. I mean, it'll suck, but all of the bad stuff can't compete with the good stuff. The best thing about writing for the internet? Even a total idiot like me can do it. Even though there are sites that exist just to steal your content, there are also sites like Cracked that exist just to help new writers build a portfolio and find an audience, regardless of their experience. Sites that will pay me real American dollars to, occasionally, make a joke about a dead president farting into a dead actress' hand.
I mean, I think that pro alone outweighs the cons, but that's me.