On comments

Brain things / Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

Hi. I try not to write logistical posts, but I’ve wanted to say a few things about my comment section for a long time, and now seems as good a time as any.

First, thank you.

Thank you for talking to me when I write. I’m grateful every time. Did you know there’s a small hold-your-breath moment of panic entailed in hitting Publish on anything? I’m s.o. r.e.l.i.e.v.e.d. when you say something back; the first two comments on any post enable me to breathe again. Especially if they’re nice.

Second, I try to get to know you.

If I don’t know you as a commenter, I try to place you just a smidge – did I go to Bible school with your sister? what are your interests? do we have a mutual friend? You develop a little personality in my mind, and if you leave a URL I look you up. I don’t stalk, I promise; I just prefer to know who I’m talking to. I like when you show up often enough for me to recognize your name. Some of you have been reading for years, and I consider you friends. Thank you.

Third, if I know you in real life, my interest in your comment roughly triples.

Several groups here mean the most to me…

  • I have some prized friends and family reading this blog: my parents, siblings, in-laws, and friends from childhood or teenage years. Sometimes this group is shy, and prefers a private response to a public comment. (I’m slightly mad at the rest of you for scaring them away.) If you are in this group – listen up now, I’m talking to you – your words mean the world to me, because they come from someone who’s known me for years, and I love you that much.
  • If you live within twenty miles of me, your words are incredibly important to me because you are part of my real-life community: my fellow church mates and local friends. I care more than I should about your opinion. If you are in this category, say more. {grin} The names Amy and Marie and Shaunda and Carla and Anita and Irene and Kayla and GrandmaKitty Brown and Gladys, among others I could list, make my world light up. Your voice matters to me. Don’t stop.
  • As far as I can tell, I am writing mostly to Mennonite women between the ages of 20 and 50, and I’m happy there. But if you fall outside that demographic – if you are teenage, white-haired, male, or not Mennonite – your comment means a great deal to me. I prefer writing to a diverse group. You can see with fresh eyes and I’m glad for your perspective.
  • Then of course if you’re The Boss, who fits into every VIP camp and then some, you make my spine tingle. Especially if at the moment, you’re Not The Boss. That’s even better.

Fourth, I love when you are thoughtful and creative, even if you disagree with me.

My favorite comments add something meaningful to the conversation – they connect to me personally, respond to another commenter, or offer a new angle of thought. My least favorite comments (don’t laugh) praise my writing style and say nothing else. If you did that I forgive you. To me it means I’m still an amateur and I distracted you from the real thing by the way I presented it.

But it’s okay. It may lower my opinion of your brainpower but I don’t hate you for it.

(I threw that in just for fun. I’m sorry.)

Fifth, I almost never remove a comment.

I’ve taken down a guest comment only two or three times in my five years of blogging, and only when I followed up with private dialogue to explain why.

Except – If you add a correction to your own comment, I often make the edit you requested or join your second thought onto your first, removing the second comment which is then redundant.

Sixth, I don’t offer a personal reply as often as I could.

Honestly, I prefer to stay out of my own comment section. It feels like I already had my chance to talk, and this is yours. I don’t want to interrupt, interrogate, or micromanage. But does that bother you? Is it frustrating or disappointing if you say something to me and I don’t reply directly? I really want to know.

I try to reply to your comment if it asks a specific question. I also give priority in responding to close friends, and to especially brave comments—people who risk something, in disagreement with me or in honesty with themselves. And people who comment for the first time, and take a moment to introduce themselves.

I like that last item a lot. In fact I like it so much that I’m going to try an experiment. Tomorrow I am going to publish a post to which only first-time commenters may reply. So if you’ve been dithering and tempted… Won’t that be fun? It will be a very quiet space, and no one will hurt you. I hope.

Thanks for listening.
What do you wish for in the comment section?
What intimidates you? What do you enjoy?

65 Replies to “On comments”

  1. Actually your picture distracted me. Is it always that cleaned up in your living room and how can you write in the afternoon slump? -distracted in VA

      1. Best time is when the baby is taking her morning nap and the children are playing. Occasionally the afternoon is doable.

    1. My reasons for not commenting are many! I have that same panic before I click the post comment button. Sometimes the comment that is in my head has already been said. Other times I’m worried about my grammar. 😉 I have no insecurities.

      1. Giggling. You remind me of Shaunda – in a few funny words you capture a Very True Thing. I had no idea you would worry about that stuff, but now I do. So thank you…

          1. I know. We say nice stuff about you even BEHIND YOUR BACK. It is time for another threesome event, if I would not be crashing ya’lls party – don’t you think?

            1. I like the combination of personalities. Count me in. (Shaunda, just ask me anytime and I’ll get that self esteem where it needs to be.)

  2. This was interesting! I’m different than you, and that’s fine, but I like when a blogger replies to my comment. It makes me feel like the writer actually read my comment; actually cares that I took the time; actually is a real person that I could be friends with ☺ I think I wish I knew you in real life (the whole interest tripling thing) ?

    1. 🙂 I know. That probably sounded like if I don’t know you in real life, I don’t care… oops. You are one of the readers who has stuck with me since the early days and I feel like I kinda do know you a little. Thanks so much for your thoughts, many times. <3

      1. I might add, I do get it. As a blogger, if I start replying to comments, I soon feel obligated to reply to all of them and who wants an obligated response??

        1. But then, some people who might possibly have an inferiority complex, might start feeling like it’s a popularity contest to try to write the best comment so as to snag a response… (just a vague thought that crossed my mind) And, hmmm. Never knew commenting on a blog was so complicated. No wonder comments are so hard to come by.

  3. I fret when a blogger doesn’t reply to my comment. Lol I think, she must think what I wrote was weird or didn’t make sense, or is insignificant (it just might stem from being child number 8 out of 13) 🙂 and yes it can tend to keep me from commenting. 🙂

    1. I get it. 🙂 I am embarrassed to admit that until you guys started discussing this (Bethany, Alison, Ruth, Linda, I am talking to you), it never occurred to me that you would feel the same panic in commenting. This is an excellent point.

  4. I’m happy to know your feeling about replying to comments. I admit I have commented on blogs and refreshed the page multiple times to see if the blogger responded. I view the comment section as a conversation. Albeit mostly between other people! 🙂 That said, I’ve also seen comment sections where it appeared to me as though the blogger laboriously tried to enumerate on every given thought whether or not he or she had anything to say on the matter. That feels superficial, too. So, I enjoy a response to my comments but only if you want to say something.

    A many, many years ago, we ate Sunday lunch at your folk’s house. It annoys me that I can’t seem to remember a Shari and I have such vague memories, I can’t place a time frame on it.

  5. Hi. I have kids and teach school. Not a 20 to 50 Mennonite woman. I like to read your blog. I used an old posting of yours in class the other day. Fair use and all that. I don’t usually comment because I often see humor even in serious postings. I think thus and thus are funny but then all the 20 to 50 year old women respond with sympathy and understanding and I wonder if the outside demographic can post something cause it might spoil the mood. For example…… No that probably wouldn’t be a good idea. Have you noticed your commenters are as scared of you as you are of them. Please comment on my comment or my self esteem will take a serious hit. I will follow this post just so I know when you post back. I will only share which post I shared with my students if you comment on this and ask to know.

    1. Your response cracks me up! I know you aren’t talking to me, but I’m going to interrupt here to invite you over for coffee while we hash the problems of the world. And laugh!

    2. See? That’s what you get for posting anonymously. Getting invited over for coffee by a lady. Make sure to tell your wife, son.

      I hate to admit this, but you are one of the people who keeps me sane because you refuse to take me seriously.

      1. We were discussing free verse and I used your post from ’14 about a visitor to your pantry. They enjoyed it very much.

  6. I’ll post a comment here as I dont know if I qualify for a comment tomorrow– I may have commented before. I’m the 24 yo Mennonite girl that had a brief email correspondence with you on foster care here several months ago.
    I respect the reasons you choose not to comment frequently, but I think a response is nice for all the reasons already mentioned. You listed the first- the holding out breath till you get a comment; in our case that would be the response to our comment.
    Part of the reason I don’t comment is the fact that I don’t know you nor did my sister go to bible school with you. I enjoy your blogs because we think the same way about many things. But I’m young.
    And inexperienced.
    And opinionated.
    And unsure if you’d “get” my comments. Cuz I don’t know you….?

  7. I am one of the silent ones because I don’t know you and you know me even less. I must say though I like your blog and miss you when you are silent. I also follow the comments because I like to get the perspective that others get of your posts.

  8. I always love your blog posts for two main reasons. A. I happen to know that you fit into that category of the 20-50 Mennonite woman, but I could never tell that by your writing. You constantly surprise me, in a delightful way. And B. You/your blog are a rare specimen of genuine honesty that I can relate to. I’d love to re-connect with you & your family again.

  9. Ok, sorry for that random comment. I thought that because of an internet blocker that we have, I would be unable to comment. Hmmmm….I guess not. And now I am without excuse…bummer! –Your crazy sister

    1. Well HIIII!!! I sorta thought you weren’t *permitted* to comment at this particular season, but now … Well, you will be held accountable before the Lord from now on. Hehee. Let the games begin.

  10. I suppose I would fall into the “silent reader” category because I read your blog, but basically never comment. But you write well, and I enjoy your blog! And if you wonder who I am…I’m one of Shaunda’s nieces. 🙂

  11. I’ve struggled with the comments on my own blog. Like you, I breathe a sigh of relief when someone/anyone comments. Then I worry that I’m just completely self-centered.

    Like you, I hesitate to comment to every single comment, mostly because I weary of just saying “thank you.” I typically save my comments for genuine questions. But maybe I should try to join the conversation more.

    But (finally getting to the point) I’ve always been impressed at how your “prized family and friends” and your community comments. I’m not sure what I do wrong, but VERY rarely do the people who know me in real life comment. (Like, only when I do a giveaway! If then. And never my husband or mom!) And though I know that many “20-50 Mennonite women” are reading the blog they don’t comment much either. Most of my commenters are non-Mennonite – which is totally great. But I’m not sure if I do something wrong that those who know me don’t comment. Or if my community is just really shy. Or if my blogging topics just don’t prompt much discussion.

    I rarely even read comments on other blogs – but yours is an exception. Thanks for making it a fun place to visit.

    1. I always love to hear from you, and this time your comment sums it up perfectly from the blogger’s perspective! Thank you.

      The “commenters who know you in real life” piece is puzzling, and I never get enough of it myself. If I were to take a guess based on what I’ve heard from mine, I’d say their reasons split between these three: a) Shari Zook is a normal person to them, not a celebrity. b) They’ll just talk to me about it in person the next time they see me. And c) (this one hurts a little) They feel their contribution gets lost in the crowd. Suddenly instead of being a close friend with an inside track they’re reduced to being a Commenter like everyone else.

      (On my side, I love your blog and envy you your slice of not-Mennonite responders.)

  12. I was delighted when I found your blog because I especially like reading blogs of people I “know”. I have mostly been one of the silent audience. I don’t remember if I’ve introduced myself or not, but I went to Maranatha with Ryan and I think I may have beat him at one game of ping-pong….

    I was friends with your brother John and was in a bridal party with him in Puerto Rico years ago. I don’t think I really knew you as an adult. Oh, and my parents (LaVerne and Virginia Hoover) cooked at Deeper Life a number of years and loved your parents….

    How’s that for a random trail of thought intro?

    1. If you beat Ryan at a game of ping-pong this is a memorable trophy indeed. 🙂 Are you a cousin to the Jessica-Ryan-Melissa-Hoovers or am I confused? I think I might remember your face from that.

      1. Second cousin to those Hoovers and that is probably where you remember my face. And I wish I could remember if I did beat Ryan, as he was one of the best players at MBS and that would warrant a trophy…I remember playing him with the masses lined along the wall giving their encouragement to both sides!

  13. I’m getting braver. You got my last name this time! My reasons for not commenting are many. First was my filter. When that mysteriously disappeared, my reason looked like a stanza from Emily Dickinson: “How dreary to be somebody/ How public, like a frog,/ to tell your name the livelong day/ to an admiring bog.”
    Now that one’s wearing thin, and my thoughts are the next problem. I need to think about what to say till it seems irrelevant, but it’s the “post-post” thoughts that are really uncomfortable. Why did I say that I was brought up on Zook stories? “Stories” can mean anything. So change stories to the warm interest and kind regards that grow out of shared roots. That’s your family, too.
    What really bothers me is if I see comments that ascribe perfection to a blogger. Because, as you say, a pedestal and a doghouse are equally confining. In the end, I think the doghouse is more comfortable. It has walls, which lend privacy and props. And a doghouse door is easier to navigate than the four-sided abyss around the pedestal.
    Oh, and I really REALLY like your writing style. 🙂

    1. You have a talent for making me laugh. I will permit you the final sentence because of the thoughts that came before it.

      Post-post-cogitations are the pits. Sometimes I wish readers could edit their own comments, but then too many would second-guess themselves and remove all the good stuff that was worth saying. And you are right: from any viewpoint, perfection comments try one’s soul. If I receive one, I have no idea what to say except “I’m not as good as you think I am, so hahaha.” You have a lot of good points about that doghouse.

  14. So, besides sharing a potato soup supper in your parents’ Ohio home…. My husband Chad & I officially met John @ Craig & Kari Myers’ wedding in Puerto Rico. Then, after growing the friendship for a couple of years, we were honorary attendants in John & Rose’s wedding. (I still remember the duet you sang at the reception, although not the title of the song. ☺)
    I am 6 days from turning 39 + not a Mennonite… German Baptist, though. I have a love for writing myself but do not blog. Your writings get me every time.

  15. And I do not reply very often because I am not witty or original. I read and enjoy every blog you write. My computer tech put them in my computer so I never miss a single one. I love them.

    1. This made me smile big. I love your computer tech, and I love when you comment! Witty and original are not the only virtues – what I like in you is faithful, comforting, and very wise.

  16. One thing I appreciate when commenting on your blog is that there is NO ‘are you a robot’ mess to work through. I wonder if I’m the only one that has been very annoyed by those things? Does the blogger realize what a deterrent it really is for those who would like to comment but don’t want to write something and go through the process of writing and then never get the code right?? That’s a letdown.
    So, thank you!! (And thanks too, for allowing me to rant like this on here.:)) I thoroughly enjoy your blog. Many blessings to you and yours.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Tina. The robot question always makes me laugh. What do robots do when they get to that point? “YeS, i aM a ROboT. hOpE tHAt Is oKAy.”

  17. Hi Shari, this is my first time commenting on your blog. I’m 29, a wife & mom of three little girls, and I live in rural Maine. I’m outside the Mennonite demographic but I really, really enjoy and am encouraged by your writing here. I love your heart for the Lord and how you unpack what you’re learning from Him with honesty. I appreciate that your blog makes me think! I used to blog a few years ago, but I gradually let it go because it seemed many blogs I had followed were turning into a marketing venture. I always felt like somebody was trying to sell me something instead of just sharing their heart on a matter. I love that you just write because you enjoy writing. Goodness I hope that doesn’t put pressure on you to feel like you have to write something heady each time you post, because that’s not my aim haha! I just enjoy your writing 🙂 I think I’ve been reading your blog for a little over 6 months. The reason I haven’t commented before is because I’m usually reading on my phone on the go, or busy tending to a child or making food. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Kendra Mae! I feel joy and not pressure in what you said. Thank you so much for saying hello. Isn’t it a lovely and terrible thing how much we can hear from other people while we are tending children and making food? I’m so glad to be able to communicate more easily than in the old days – our great-grandmothers would be shocked. 🙂

  18. Now I feel OK about not commenting last night — I’d have added more pressure to the whack-a-mole game. You made me laugh again!
    I don’t know how long I’ve read your blog, but your account of your depression journey is one that meant a lot to me. I remember you writing that Jesus is up to something and nearly weeping with that hope. And one of my favorite posts is the one about the room of your mind. You also interviewed me once 🙂 about blog reading.
    I don’t comment as often as I feel like, and I’ve written a few comments that I end up deleting. I don’t know you except through this blog, and I don’t know how you or anyone reading the comments will take what I say. And I can come across as fatuous when I just wanted to tell you how much your blog speaks to me. See? Fatuous AND cliched.

    1. Thank you for saving me last night. 😉

      I had to look up both fatuous and clichéd, if that’s any comfort. Oh look! Autocorrect added a dash thing above it, how cute. Thanks for your words. They do not sound silly to me, and I’m delighted to hear that someone remembers that post on the mind. I’ve always liked your comments.

      1. Ah, your cliched looks better than mine! If my auto correct were as good as yours, you wouldn’t have had to look it up. 🙂

  19. Others have said just what I was going to say. A superficial comment in reply to everyone’s comment makes the comment section long and irritating to read… though I understand bloggers don’t want anyone to feel excluded. On the other hand, I do care a lot about a reply when I leave a comment! And I don’t see replies from the blogger as invading the space- I always read them with interest. Good luck with walking that tightrope. 🙂 I will say, if a blogger doesn’t often comment, it does make me wonder less when they don’t reply to mine!

    I do find it a bit scary to leave a comment, but another big reason I don’t is lack of time. Sometimes it takes a bit to take what I’m thinking and put it into words, and if I don’t have the extra time, I just don’t. However, if it’s something I really, really want to contribute to, I usually make the time!

    I can’t remember if I have ever left any kind of introduction here, but if I did it’s been quite a while ago, because I’ve been on a bit of a blog fast. I’m a mom of one completely lovable three year old boy, I’m 37, I was a teacher for seven years, I have a secret dream to run my own business from home, I love books and love to write, and my chief joy is one-on-one or small group discussions of all kinds of ideas. I married David Eicher, who loves to discuss and analyze as much as I do, so we do it a lot! He was a teacher too, till this year when we moved away from Lima (Elida), Ohio to Salem, Ohio, so he could get his master’s at a nearby college. He will be an Intervention Specialist, so will be able to assess and work with children with learning problems.

    One of the biggest ideas that has changed me in the past few years is waking up to the fact that I am very judgmental of other people in many ways, and working bit by bit to change that. The biggest idea that is changing me currently is what a friend told me recently: “When we think that we can’t be happy if someone doesn’t stop hurting us, we are functional atheists. If God isn’t everything to you, he is nothing.”

    1. I totally understand about limited time to formulate thoughts into words! Sometimes it’s like spinning straw into gold, and takes a little more time or magic than I have on hand.

      I really appreciate your last paragraph – it takes courage to see ourselves accurately, and even greater courage to work toward change. Thanks for sharing! and don’t let that business dream die. 😉

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