I’ve been blogging for quite a few years now. I run a busy site called Age of Autism, and we moderate comments – like most blogs. There are a lot of reasons to comment mod. It keeps trolls at bay. Helps the flow of the site. Builds the theme and tone of the site. And you can use comment moderation to make sure the site is a safe haven for a particular community. Oh the whiners call it “censorship.” But moderating out comments isn’t censorship. There are many tricks to comment moderation. Some public, some not so much, and for good reason. But there is one thing I’ve learned through reading the 50,000+ comments on Age of Autism and the thousands I’ve seen on HuffPo is that it’s REALLY HARD TO DISGUISE YOUR VOICE in the comments.
Huh? No, I’m not talking about the old pantyhose over the phone receiver during a childhood prank call to a neighbor to ask if their refrigerator is running. Not that kind of voice disguise. Of course I’m talking about everyone’s writing voice. (Caution, one brief swear in the video.)
We all have one.
Go into any blog and read the comments. You’ll see what I mean. You start to see patterns of speech, spelling, syntax and content. In some comments at AofA we get a yellow light feeling with a new commenter, although the comment is civil. Someone responds via comments. The commenter then comes back, this time with a bit of an arch tone that brightens the yellow light. Our moderation team watches. Carefully. Again, there’s a comment in response to Miss Yellow Light. And then the troll inadvertently drops the mask – and becomes passive aggressive, apologizing but getting in a dig at the same time. The voice is unmistakable, but until you realize voice exists, these trolls are oblivious to their fingerprints. After a few more volleys we have a full fledge jerk on the site and reach for the “ban” button. This keeps AofA a strong community of peers – who share opinions which often differ greatly – but civil discourse is different from pugilistic denialism.
I admire writers who can write under pen names – it takes real skill and thought to find a separate strong voice.
Have you ever tried to comment anonymously on a blog that you usually comment on by name? It’s darn hard to change your voice – try it.