Don’t Read the Comments

Last month I got upset. Several times, in fact. The reason: reading the comments sections of online articles.

Ever since I quit teaching I’ve had a lot more time to spend on the computer. In the past, I rarely had time to read articles, blogs, or much of anything. Now that I do have more time, especially since I now have the  iPad, I’ve been pretty shocked at reading the comments sections of just about anything I read.

I had no idea there were so many mean people out there.

Everyone has explained to me that some people go out of their way to write offensive comments just to stir things up. I now go out of my way not to read the comments section of anything political. Scary stuff, indeed, no matter where you stand on the political spectrum. Both sides are equally represented by some serious wackos. But sometimes it hits a little close to home and I can’t help myself. It upsets me.

I guess it’s like when people get behind the wheel of their car, and the anonymity and protection of all that steel makes them act, shall we say, not always considerate of other drivers.

But here’s where it really hit home for me. Last month I read two blogs, both of them ragging on runners and marathons. The first one was by someone who writes for a local, free, weekly magazine. He essentially makes his living pissing people off. He’s pugnacious, and goes out of his way to annoy. That’s what you expect from the guy. I rarely read anything he writes, even if I agree with his position, because I don’t like his style. I only read this article because someone shared it on Facebook, and it was just another one of his rants, this time against the city’s largest marathon and what he repeatedly called “positive runners.”

I guess deriding someone for being positive makes sense if negativity is your norm. And he obviously hasn’t run with me in the summer when it’s 105 degrees outside. I’m anything but positive. Just ask my friends.

What really got me going, however, was the degree of animosity from the people commenting, and not towards him, but towards runners and the marathon.

I had no idea.

I can understand being upset at road closures. Before I started running I forgot about the marathon one year and got stuck in traffic. I was irritated at the inconvenience, but mostly at myself for forgetting about the race. But these people commenting didn’t hold back, saying runners felt a “sense of entitlement” and calling the people who cheer them on “assholes.” When someone brought up the point that charities benefit tremendously from races, the consensus was that runners should just send in a check instead–which is kind of missing the point. The overriding sentiment seemed to be: not on my street, not in my city, and quit showing off.

The other incident that got to me was a blog post entitled “Running a Marathon Does Not Make You Mother Teresa.” It was supposed to be a humorous look at so-called self-involved runners. Again, it wasn’t the post that bothered me, it was the comments. Everyone seemed ready to jump on the Bash Runners Bandwagon. Quite a few people made comments about how runners were looking for attention by running marathons. Believe me, I can think of much easier ways to get attention than training for 20 weeks through the hottest summer on record just to put myself through hell for a 26.2 mile race. One commenter on another blog that linked to the article, a trail runner, made snarky comments about people running street races just for the attention it gets them, implying she was better than them because she ran on dirt. Even our own are turning against us!

People also made a lot of comments about those goofy 26.2 stickers people put on their cars after they run their first marathon. (Yes, I have one. Could this be the adult equivalent of the stickers we got in grade school for good work? I did love those shiny gold stars I got for getting 100’s on my spelling tests . . .)

I had no idea that pounding the asphalt ticked off so many people. I didn’t think anyone else really noticed.

Once I ran into a substitute teacher from my school when I went to pick up my race packet for our local Turkey Trot. She was one of the volunteers giving out race t-shirts. When I saw her again a few weeks after that, and asked if she ran, she went on a rant about runners always running down her street, and how she can’t get out of her driveway on Saturday mornings because there are so many of them. I had to really think about that. I’m guessing she has to wait 30 seconds tops to let a large group of runners pass her driveway.

What is this really about? I pondered this all last month, trying to figure out what people had against runners. Finally, I realized, like always, I needed to lighten up. It wasn’t really about me, or runners, or any type of inconvenience.

It’s about anyone who is different from us.

People like to gripe. We all do it. Guilty as charged. How many times have I made disparaging remarks about people who take too long in the checkout line at the grocery store? How many times have I cursed the cyclists who don’t let me know they’re passing on my left when I run at the lake? How many times have we all looked down on someone for doing something we think is stupid?

Maybe the runners I know, myself included, talk about running too much, especially to people who aren’t really interested. Maybe we talk about our races, our training, our nutrition, and it irritates other people. Maybe we tell people who don’t run what they’re missing out on, how running will change their lives, even when they don’t want to hear it. Maybe we put those 26.2 stickers on our back windows as a beacon to other runners, a sign of kinship as we drive around doing nonrunning things. Maybe we’re positive because running makes us feel good. Maybe we just really like running, and forget that not everyone is as interested as we are.

Everyone has a right to their opinion, and it’s not personal if someone writes mean things about what we do for fun. It’s only running. It’s not going to stop us, though, and that’s the bottom line. The human body was made to run. One day a lot of those people complaining about the marathon that inconveniences them so much now may decide they need to make a change in their lives. They may decide to push themselves mentally and physically beyond any limit they’ve ever known. When they do, my running friends and I will be there to encourage them and push them and cheer them on, no questions asked.

I’ll still read articles online, and I’m sure I’ll still get irritated at the rude comments. Oh well. At least I can always go for a run afterwards to cool off. Or to get attention.

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15 comments

  1. thesinglecell

    One of the best things I’ve found about WordPress is that you generally don’t run into comments sections that make you lose faith in humanity. I did see that “Running A Marathon Does Not Make You Mother Teresa” post, but didn’t read it. I thought the title was funny, but really… what’s the point of all the animosity? Then again, my perspective is culled from having close relationships with no fewer than four marathon runners and tangential relationships with several others. We all have our “obsessions.” Sorry the comments made you feel hated for yours!

    • Mind Margins

      I just skimmed the article and didn’t find it offensive, just a little silly. It was the comments that surprised me. I had no idea some people felt that way about people who run. Again, to each his own, but some it was pretty ugly!

  2. Christina Hughes Babb

    Good evaluation Angela. There’s something comforting about teaming up against people who do things we don’t understand or things we know we can’t/won’t do ourselves. I, for example, make fun of my husband and his best friend for their obsession with sports stats, but secretly I am a little envious of their impressive ability to store such massively excessive amounts of minutiae in their brains. ‘Are they smarter than me,’ I wonder? ‘No! They are DUMB for caring about that stuff!! Just who the hell do they think they are talking all the time about stuff the rest of us don’t care about?!’ Then I feel better. Yeah. It’s like that.

    • Mind Margins

      Yeah, I’m just as guilty myself for not understanding other sports, especially football. The “teaming up” aspect of mean comments is spot on.

  3. Genevieve

    I like to believe that at the heart of it all people are still generally good despite the nasty comments. I know for me sometimes I just have to rant and say what I think no matter how bad it is just as a release. I agree with you 100% don’t read the comments. Ever.

    • Mind Margins

      I honestly believe the same thing, Genevieve, that all people are intrinsically good inside. Sometimes people just go overboard with their rants. I guess I just have a hard time understanding how heated people get over something (a marathon) that has such a small impact on their lives.

  4. Blanca Gonzales

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who gets so mad when I read the comments on blogs and even on the news websites, it feels like they can say whatever they want because there is no one in front of them to confront them and say why? Why would you say that? Sometimes I just have to walk away…

    • Mind Margins

      I really do try to avoid the comments as much as possible now. Sometimes I’ll skim them, but I almost always regret it. Sometimes they’re good for a laugh, too.

  5. A Wanderer

    Great analysis!

    A few years ago I was a little too close to a major local news story and while not involved in the drama (thank goodness!) I knew those who were. I remember reading the articles (very biased and inaccurate for a supposedly “neutral” news agency) and being horrified by all the people who came out of the woodwork in the comments with vile snarky remarks. It made my stomach churn. Since then I rarely read the comments section of a news article because I think it brings out the bad in people while the good is sidelined. I feel the similarly about local news in general. I rarely turn on the local news because all it ever seems to be about is the number of houses burglarized, businesses that had fires and who shot whom. You would think that we live in the most violent world but violence and tragedy sell and level-headed reason doesn’t (or at least not as well).

    As for anti-runner sentiment, I haven’t encountered much of that (anti-cycling is a different matter). Mostly people just think we are crazy. People do like to be part of something though. SO I suspect if they can’t be (by their own choice) part of the “running” club, it is quite convenient to be part of the “anti-running” club. Now if only we could get past those desired divisions and realize that being part of something positive is better than the alternative.

    • Mind Margins

      Thanks! I don’t watch the news much, either. It’s mostly celebrity news, advertisements cloaked as news, or fluffy stuff. The anti-runner comments really don’t bother me so much now, I was just taken back because I had no idea some of those feelings were out there. I was never athletic when I was younger, but I always loved watching the Olympics and the Wide World of Sports on Saturday afternoons, and really looked up to those who were physically gifted because I was such a skinny little ninny. Most importantly, I love it when people push themselves at anything, and work hard to overcome obstacles, and I think that’s what bothers me the most about the haters. Even if a marathon inconveniences you, or you find runners irritating, how can you not help but be a little inspired?

  6. yearstricken

    I enjoyed reading your commentary on comments. I haven’t been blogging very long, but I like reading the comments on the WordPress sites I visit. Maybe it’s the kind I visit, but people often offer insight, or say something funny, or tell a story related to the post.

    I have read the comments on news sites and other websites that devolve into name-calling and baiting. You don’t have to scroll down far to see the word “troll” mentioned. I usually avoid reading comments on those sites because they add nothing to the writing or the discussion.

    I find it odd that people have so much online anger against runners. I think you are right that many of them don’t like anyone who is different than they are. Given the opportunity (the anonymity of the web) people can be awfully petty at times, even cruel.

    On a lighter note, I enjoyed your last line a lot.

    • Mind Margins

      Thanks so much! I also love to read the comments on other WordPress sites. It’s also a great way to discover new blogs. If someone’s comment is insightful or interesting, it usually points to a great blog as well. I avoid most comments on news sites now as well. It’s depressing, and most of it is pure rubbish.

  7. pithypants

    Don’t even get me started. Last night I was browsing shipwreck videos on youtube, and someone had posted a racist comment. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the comment had absolutely nothing to do with the video. It was clearly just a racist trying to spread some hate around. And using the comments section of a video with 1m+ views to do it. Sometimes I just shake my head and wonder how we’re all made from the same basic ingredients.

  8. Pingback: Movie Quote Monday – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone | steadily skipping stones

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