The importance of thinking before submitting your comment

thinking before submitting

I confess I do not always do what I preach. I am guilty of not thinking before submitting a comment, only to find it has upset someone afterwards.

This is becoming a common phenomenon of the 21st century.  Look around and you can see plenty of comments which would make you, as a by-stander, take a sharp intake of breath.

And yet the person who wrote them was oblivious at the time. This is not an excuse, this is a trait which should be brought to the fore. People need to be made aware of the hurt they are causing, or the undermining results their throw-away comment creates.

Not taking the time for thinking before submitting your comment will cause implications. This is addressed in the infographic below:

The importance of thinking before submitting your comment

And here's some code you could paste into your own posts (via the text mode) if you want to share this Infographic with your readers.

Being careless, thoughtless, oblivious?

We live in a throwaway society. However, it's not just plastic, litter and other general waste we need to be worrying about. It is those people who are so totally wrapped up within themselves, they fail to notice the reactions of other people around them.

We all have our own opinions and view points. For some these are extremely important to them. They cannot abide other people having different thoughts, aspirations, lifestyles, material possessions or whatever. It is as if the whole world should revolve around them, and conform to their way of thinking.

This is dangerous. Many a troll has materialised from such a person. The pandemic has also exasperated this, from people being locked up glaring at their screens all day, believing the fake news which is so readily thrust upon them, glamorised to make it seem more true.

It's how we view the world

Inward focusing is detrimental to moral health. This is a dog eat dog world, where every man is out for himself. And yet the pandemic has brought to the fore so many good people willing to volunteer their time to help people in need in their community.

Why doesn't this good will extend to the commenting world? We are happy enough to smile and extend a greeting to a stranger, but not so online. There are always people who always see the world wearing rose-tinted spectacles, and these are the ones who will offer an olive branch of help. It's just a pity this example isn't absorbed and enacted readily elsewhere.

OK, I'm not trying to spread doom and gloom about the commenting world. There is plenty of excellent commenting going on to inspire and entertain us. Ideally we should be learning from this and using it to format or reinvent our own engagement techniques.

Has consideration gone out of the window?

When was the last time you considered how others would perceive your comment before you posted a comment? All that is required is a fraction of a second to spend time thinking before submitting. Hardly erroneous for our poor brains to cope with.

And yet with the majority of comments we rush off, this activity is hardly ever performed, let alone contemplated. Without even realising the repercussions of neglecting this could be huge.

Is this because people have become careless of their actions when the process is so easy to do? If an effort was needed to write and publish comments, this would slow people down and maybe force them to consider thinking before submitting. But the ability to comment has become almost become second-nature, as a mere extension of our thoughts onto an online device.

It's all about perception

What we don't realise is that what people read on the web has to be taken into context with them, or their own lives. How else are they able to interpret and understand it? If they can't relate to this subject, concept, information or whatever, they will not be able to process or absorb it to get any benefit from it.

We are naturally self-centred as a throw-back from being cave dwellers. It's all about self-preservation. If you don't look out for yourself, things won't go well for you. Thus we consider everything presented to us within our own perception of it.

The person who thinks totally about other people first is exceptional. Those who profess to do this probably do have a small voice in their head reminding them about who they are and what they prefer. It takes a lot of willpower to ignore or overpower this, and to focus purely on the common good.

Leaving everything in ruins

The repercussions of not thinking before submitting a comment is the damage this can do. You may ruin the relationship you had with the person who you have upset. You may ruin your reputation if you are stupid enough to complain to an organisation about something without suitable or relevant evidence to back you up.

Guilty on both fronts. I nearly lost a very good friend because of an offhand comment I made on her update. I thought it was funny, but she took offence to it. My comment was reminiscing about something in the past, but she didn't remember it so related it to the present. It took a short exchange privately to sort the matter out, but in hindsight it was something which shouldn't have been mentioned.

The other incident didn't even receive a reply, it was so crass. In a fit of pique I shot a tweet at a company about how disgruntled I was with their product. Thank goodness they viewed me as another crank and ignored it. I'm sure businesses get plenty of this all the time. But it could have back-fired on me, leaving me worse off like a tiny minnow in their huge lake.

Thinking before submitting within social media

Social media is a major contributor to the number of faux pas which are flinging around the web. Because it works in real-time, allowing spontaneous responses to be instantly published and received, it is all too quick, easy and available to dash off a reply with the utmost minimum of forethought.

Laziness has been bred from this, along with how we use devices. Spelling has been abandoned, along with focusing on getting people's names right, or thinking of more appropriate words. Skim-reading to glean the gist of a subject results in misconstrued opinions, tainted by self-perception of what is important to you, not the author.

Without the necessity of thinking before submitting, arguments can be created for the sake of it, conversations can go way off tangent so the original concept is forgotten, and even a general observation can be taken the wrong way. Mental health also plays an important part, and should be taken into consideration when it comes to interpretation and perception of a comment.

Should we play it safe then?

Actually yes. You need to think how relevant and important it is for you to stand out above the other commenters. If so, choose your words carefully. It's no good being the wise-crack if nobody else thinks you're funny or they don't understand the underlying meaning you are trying to convey.

Take a look at what the other commenters are saying. Even though the majority of them will be saying the same thing, this is probably what the author of the post wants to receive. You can tell by the number of likes given in return. Only a clever wordsmith would get away with popping in an alternative comment, as long as it's a pertinent observation relevant to the situation.

Avoid referring to yourself all the time. Not only is this boring, it can be seen as being rude and intrusive. A worthy comment will always focus on the other points of view, how the subject relates to the author, and mirror the general mood presented by the post and the general reaction to it.

Bite your tongue

There is no need to say whatever immediately comes into your head. You're not on the spot in an interview watched by an audience of thousands. You are probably in isolation when you give your answer. Thinking before submitting allows you enough time to compose your response to make it more suitable.

Think about who would read your comment. Not just the post's author, but their readers as well. Who would take it the wrong way? Would your message be totally understood? How necessary is it to say this particular point? Are you focusing totally upon relevance rather than sensationalism?

Many people confuse their feelings with facts. We are bombarded with conflicting information designed to bamboozle the ordinary mortal who deigns to go online. Avoid repeating anything like this unless you have sufficient evidence to back you up. And then you need to relay this as honestly and clearly as you can.

Below is an infographic outlining what you shouldn't do when commenting if you wish to avoid any unpleasantness later:

The importance of thinking before submitting your comment

And here's some code you could paste into your own posts (via the text mode) if you want to share this Infographic with your readers.

Allow for thin skins

Not everybody is equipped to cope with a comment which they think is directed at them. Even when it isn't supposed to be. There is this kind of paranoia which hovers around sensitive people with low self-esteem which can be easily triggered.

There are going to be certain words, sentiments or subject matter which will always provoke an adverse response. Not everybody will know what it is, but you can certainly get an inkling from reading between the lines or looking at what other people have written. Once found, avoid like the plague!

Even if you meant well, what you say can be misinterpreted. Some people are so wired up, anything could set them off. In this case it's best not to comment at all, leave the situation be and let sleeping dogs lie.

Focus on the positive

If in doubt in what to say, think of something positive. What nice thing could you find from the situation? Analyse what other commenters have said and latch onto it. If the post's author approves, you know you're on safe ground.

All comments should be polite and kind. What are you going to gain by being horrible anyway? What is momentary fun for you could have a much longer impact on the recipient. Undermining people is never a worthy tact, as it will certainly get you noticed for all the wrong reasons.

Try being helpful and considerate towards the other person. Carefully and tactfully offer a solution which you know would solve their problem. Acknowledge what they say and praise any good outcome or news. Positivity can go a long way.

Avoid being seen as a spammer

I always recognise a spam comment because of the language used. Not only is this totally empty of any meaningful content, the general focus is on being over ingratiating towards the post's author.

I did mention about being nice when commenting. But then there is being over nice. Spammers are notoriously cringeworthy and smarmy in their attempt to get their comment accepted. But what happens is actually the reverse.

Most bloggers and social users can see right through a spammer's exertions. These are not the sort of comments authors want. They are looking for a comment which provides an opinion, answers questions, offers an alternative view, albeit in a respectful manner suitable for the blog and subject used.

Being cocky isn't clever

There is a fine line between being familiar with the subject and coming across as condescending when showing off your wisdom. In this case it is important to acknowledge the author as the expert here. Overpowering them with your extensive knowledge won't be appreciated.

However, if the author as requested help by asking a question, then feel free to answer to the best of your abilities. Remember the information you provide needs to be helpful to whoever reads it, which means sticking to the main point and being pertinent to the subject.

It's also worth analysing the intellectual level of the post. Avoid coming across as pompous by using highfalutin words the majority of readers wouldn't use or understand. This display of self importance may make others look or feel stupid, and will not do your reputation any good either.

Learn from your mistakes

If you do go wrong with your commenting, never give up. Your little mishaps show you what not to do and how to do it better next time. If you have come across a thin-skinned person, avoid aggravating them. If your jokes aren't appreciated, take on another gesture.

Practice your commenting skills to smarten up your writing style, choice of words or putting forth your point of view. It is worth trying to understand the situation before expressing your opinion. People will notice your attempts to clarify the situation with a well reasoned theory.

Maybe grow a thicker skin yourself. You are bound to have some knocks along your commenting journey. As long as what you say is positive, forthcoming, kind, considerate and helpful, you will soon gain some friends through your continued interaction.

Never respond in anger

There will certainly be some posts or comments which will aggravate your ire. Now is the best time to do some thinking before submitting. The last thing you want is to make a situation worse, especially if you are doing battle with a hater.

Your first reaction will be to explode within the commenting area. My advice would to immediately stop. Vent your feelings elsewhere: in Word, on paper, as a recording. Getting it out of your system can be exhilarating and therapeutic, so don't hold back.

Then leave it alone. Go and do something completely different for the rest of the day. Let your brain subconsciously work it out for you. Then when you return, not only will you be in a better frame of mind, if you do decide to continue, the edited version will be more reasoned, polite and even practical in making allowances.

There are plenty of repercussions for not thinking before submitting a comment. The infographic below explores this more:

The importance of thinking before submitting your comment

And here's some code you could paste into your own posts (via the text mode) if you want to share this Infographic with your readers.

What will you gain from not thinking before submitting?

Actually you may gain more than you think, but not in a good way. Do you want to cause upset, offer a bad impression of yourself and be shunned within the commenting world? This sort of disruption means there is a good chance of being seen as a nuisance, even as a troll.

Launching into commenting like a bull in a china shop won't be doing you any favours. Neither will performing this action without due focus and attention. This should not be seen as a flippant occupation, but something which has a serious outcome if done right from the beginning.

Commenting deserves proper thought about the correct thing to say. More consideration is needed concerning who will read your comments and how they will react to it. Your opinions are more likely to be appreciated if they are relevant and see both sides of the argument.

There are many positive gains from good commenting

People have many reasons for commenting. This can be used strategically within your marketing activities as well as responding to what somebody has said in a blog post or on social media.

Commenting increases your visibility within the web. Providing a thoughtful and well considered comment is more likely to get you noticed above the other commenters who may not say very much, or are unable to articulate themselves as well as you.

It is also worth taking time to think how you should expose your expertise in the best possible light. A comment which provides a solution to a problem is highly valued. But it needs to be appropriate for its audience and relevant and suitable to the initial request.

Other ways how commenting can help

One really good reason for commenting is not only to get the author to notice you, but to aim towards forming a social relationship with them. This needn't be creepy or be seen the wrong way. It can be as simple as being recognised as a source of valuable comments and someone the author and other readers appreciate and get along with.

It's all about having conversations within your comments. Focusing on whoever reads them with a view for entertainment, education or just expressive thoughts. The art is to adapt what you say to encourage replies to continue conversing down the thread.

The more interaction you get from the author and other readers or commenters, the more popular the post, blog, social profile or group appears to search engines or algorithms. The more lively the discussions are gives an impression your content is worth indexing, or should be given a larger reach to more potentially interested readers and commenters.

All the more reason to stop and think

Everybody dreams about going viral. And there is no reason why your online conversations can't do the same. But this means it is even more vital to pause before hitting that publish button.

What you post in your comment has the potential to be seen by many people. Perhaps even thousands. Therefore you need to be aware of how it will be perceived, whether it conforms to social values, is the vocabulary suitable and will your message be easily understood.

The last thing you want is to be viewed as stupid, uninterested, only out to promote your own stuff, a spammer or even a troll. Thinking before submitting means you will be more likely to come across as relevant, forthcoming, helpful, someone to look up to and even having people impatiently waiting for your next comment.

Patience is a virtue

Why the hurry to immediately comment? It's not a race. And even if want to get your point in before others, thinking before submitting will stand you in good stead if you don't want to regret what you just said afterwards.

We all know people are time-poor, and that attention spans are diminishing. But this isn't an excuse for being impetuous when engaging online. Today's world provides instant access to real-time commenting, and this increases our eagerness to join in the conversation. Nobody wants to get left behind.

But the businesses which do best are the ones which wait before joining in. This is called social listening, and this allows for learning and understanding about their customers and their perceptions of their brand before carefully and tactfully entering the conversation to find out more.

The infographic below explores the reasons why people rush into commenting:

The importance of thinking before submitting your comment

And here's some code you could paste into your own posts (via the text mode) if you want to share this Infographic with your readers.

Is it too easy to comment?

Back in the heady days of Web 2.0, somewhere in the dark ages, blogs offered people the incredible chance to have their say in situ where they read the post. But for people nowadays this is so commonplace, nobody thinks twice about the ability to comment, and this is where the problem lies.

The facility is there, right at your fingertips, instantly accessible and with immediate results. It's as easy to use as breathing, which you do without thinking. But you don't need to ask permission from your brain to understand and respond to a piece of content you see on the web, surely?

Ah, but it would be better if you did. The old adage 'Look before you leap' is relevant here. This is the same as checking which way the wind is blowing before you spit. The coast needs to be clear before you can venture out.

Why put barriers in place?

All I'm asking is for you to stop and think first. Just a second to assess the situation. Or after you've written your comment, to read it back and visualise how people will receive it. Just pause for some thinking before submitting.

We are plagued with too many distractions in today's society. Social media is a constant presence, emails ping incessantly into our inboxes, adverts bombard us constantly. All this immediacy taints how we engage and interact with people.

When we wrote letters we had to think what we were going to say. When we typed on keyboards on to our computers this process still hindered us enough to allow time to ponder. But thumbs flying about on mobile devices makes responding so easy, this can happen without any thought at all!

Consider your social environment

If everybody else isn't making time for thinking before submitting, this doesn't mean you have to do the same. This isn't a competition. There's no need to join the rank and file of unwitting commenters.

Conversations on social media are notoriously bitty and disjointed. Real-time allows ping-ponging reactions so you don't have to write much, and can even get a way with emojis or moving gifs. This contributes to the spontaneous reactions such as liking without even having read the content, just letting the author know you've been there.

Another hindrance is being influenced by what others are saying, or even how they are responding. Stopping to think might mean showing you truly understand the subject, and allows you the chance to contribute something meaningful. Avoid writing anything just for the sake of it. Offer a real insight which could be valuable to someone.

Use thinking before submitting to curb spontaneity

Commenting is a spontaneous reaction to what someone has read or heard. Often this is triggered by emotions. If people feel emotionally aroused, such as saddened, angered or amused, they instantly relate this to their own lives, making them more likely to reply.

There are some traits which spark impromptu responses, such as anger, annoyance or pity. The last one usually results in benign and inoffensive comments, but the more volatile reactions are the ones which could cause trouble. This is definitely where time out is required (as I have mentioned previously).

It's all too easy to make yourself feel better by voicing your opinions as vehemently as possible. Getting things off your chest stimulates satisfaction, like throwing a punch. But the bloody nose which results could have implications which go much further than your initial explosion.

Understanding others before replying

The simplicity of thinking before submitting could be easier to accomplish if you were able to understand exactly what is going on. Now I say this because so many people fail to take enough time to properly read the post, and other people's reactions to it, before they offer their own.

Being time-poor or commenting on the hoof with multiple distractions doesn't provide a suitable environment for proper reading, comprehending, analysing, reading between the lines, and seeing the other's point of view. All this requires thought and therefore time to compose a suitable answer.

Sometimes something will benefit from being read many times, especially if it warrants a good comment in reply. Ask for more information to find out more about the person or the subject, before you can make a decision or judgement. Asking questions is always a good idea for comments, as not only does it guarantee a reply, it forces you to think what would be relevant to you.

Being in a suitable state to comment

How many people have downed half a bottle of wine and then have ventured onto to social media to comment in their drunken stupor? I confess I need to cry guilty here. The last time I did this resulted in a difficult situation which needed to be resolved privately offline.

It is never a good idea to be under the influence of any substance, regardless of its potency. Find a suitable time in your diary for commenting with a clear mind and a positive purpose. Treat it as any other sensible marketing activity. Not something done after the pub's closing time while tottering home in an inebriated state.

This is also the same if your frame of mind has been compromised, such as being upset, angry, hungry, worried, low in self-esteem or pressed for time. This also includes boredom. I met a girl on a train who confessed her uncle often trolled when he was bored, just to give him kicks and make himself feel better. I was horrified – she wasn't.

Forget to edit and repent at your leisure

Thinking before submitting isn't just before you start to write. Often the most destructive impact could be relieved if people stopped to properly read what they have written and then edit it accordingly before publishing it.

This could be as simple as getting someone's name right, or adding a 'not' into your content to diffuse the situation. If you type too quickly, or rely on the autocorrection on your phone, and don't check it afterwards, you could be inadvertently submitting a huge can of worms.

And it's not that easy to retract what you've said in error. Not every commenting facility allows corrections or editing for you to save face. The poison has been consumed and usually there is nothing you can do about it, except to own up and ask for forgiveness.

The infographic below suggests what is needed to be done before submitting a comment:

The importance of thinking before submitting your comment

And here's some code you could paste into your own posts (via the text mode) if you want to share this Infographic with your readers.

What is the itinerary for publishing a comment?

Now it stands to reason how important it is to thoroughly read the post or update you are commenting on. You don't want to miss out on something vitally important, get the wrong end of the stick, or fail to see the real argument or purpose of the content.

Another important fact is not only understanding the content, but also the author and readers. What can you glean from their blog or social profile? What personality do they have? Do they have a rapport with their readers? How deep is their knowledge of the subject?

If you have time, or the inclination, visit other posts or updates by the author. Get a feel for their thoughts, aspirations, objectives, expertise, sociability, foibles and preferences for a better idea about them. This will help towards how you frame your comment to them.

Stay on the safe side

To stop you from thinking I'm boring, I only want to save you from creating avoidable incidents because you failed to think before publishing your comment.

Take a look at what the other commenters are saying to get the general mood. Use similar words to what others are using. Always focus on the other person rather than on yourself, especially when it comes to showing empathy.

Consider who will read it and the impression it will give. Avoid exasperating the situation by making things worse. Edit your comment carefully. Apologise freely if you do get things wrong. Be responsible for what you say on the web – you did have a choice before you submitted your comment!

What do you think about thinking before submitting?

I have written at great length about thinking before submitting a comment. I have also admitted to my faults in this subject. Do you have any incidents you are willing to share? What about any mistakes you made? Did taking the trouble to think when writing your comments make a difference to you?

We are all desperate to hear your stories in the comments below.

Alice Elliott
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And let me know your thoughts about this post below...
  • I think everyone needs a chance to be heard and being kind in a criticism is important. I don’t mind crouches as much as those who jump on their bandwagon without first researching the facts and alternative perspectives of the post they are commenting on.

    • Hi Karen, thank you for commenting. Yes, you’re right, criticism is much easier to bear if it is accompanied with facts and examples which back up the point made, so the recipient can understand where (and why) the critique is coming from.

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