Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Why there were no comments

In the early days of this blog, I allowed comments, but rapidly problems developed based on what is, perhaps, the somewhat unique nature of this blog. The main problem was that people either failed to grasp or refused to consider the nature of this blog no matter how meticulously I went out of my way to explain it. What was more, when I pointed out the explanation, people got angry at what I'm sure they felt was my tapping some arbitrary sign on the wall to shut them up. I understood their frustration, but I'd like to explain mine here.

The main problem was that the short nature of the posts, which was my absolute intention when creating this blog, created issues. Those issues were as follows:
  • The need to infer things that were neither said nor implied was overwhelming. My words were not taken at face value. To give a neutral example, it would be as if I said,  "I like my pants in dark colors," and the comment would be, "you hate light colors!" There is a profound difference between saying I like something and saying that I hate the opposite, and I didn't want to waste my time constantly defending or re-explaining myself against statements I neither made nor implied. I also didn't want to feel pressured to expand the nature of the posts in order to prevent erroneous inferences.
  • Some people felt a(n) (exhaustive) social, cultural or political context should always be offered concurrent with an assertion. If I said that I wouldn't miss being refused service in Japan, I was attacked for not saying that other minorities suffer from similar problems in other countries. This isn't a blog about broad issues or filled with extensive commentary. It's a list of my feelings about life in Japan. Commenters could not or chose not to respect this and went on the offensive.
  • Comments were made expressly to invalidate my experiences without consideration of the circumstances. This is actually quite common among a lot of foreign bloggers in Japan in particular. This is because there is a weird sort of "turf war" about life here. There is competition for who is offering up "the truth", as if there is only one real experience that can be distilled through dispassionate and scientific observation (which no blogger is capable of). I've been in the Japan blogging world long enough to have no patience for this type of thing anymore. If you can't grasp that your physical countenance affects how you are treated everywhere (including and possibly especially in Japan), and that your experiences may greatly differ from mine as a result of that, then this blog probably isn't your best reading option. I can acknowledge repeatedly that my experiences are mine and I don't expect others to share them because they don't live in my skin in my neighborhood, but people will still feel it's necessary to say, "that isn't what life is like in Japan." It is what it is like for me. This need to invalidate is not commentary of value and just adds to the noise ratio.
Mainly, I took away comments because I've got a goal for myself to write 1000 posts and another blog I write for. I currently do 8 posts a week without fail and I generate all of the content alone and entirely from scratch. I'm not riffing on other people's blog content, news articles, or recycling content. I have neither the time nor inclination to deal with people who are acting on personal agendas or their needs to be mad at someone about something.

In many ways, I regret that I can't allow comments because I think that there definitely is the potential for input of great value from readers. For instance, I would have welcomed people from other cities or rural areas adding in their own subjective experiences which differed from mine. I know from limited experience visiting Osaka that some of the problems I experience in Tokyo (such as people not looking where they are going) did not occur there. Unfortunately, early commenters weren't able to offer their parallel experiences without including the invalidating statement or tone of "you're wrong because my experience is different than yours". The opportunity for this blog to be a repository of many people's varied experiences of life here was lost because of the tone and behavior of early commenters. That would have been a "bonus", but ultimately that wasn't the original intent of this blog and I quickly concluded that commentary adding in different perspectives without an agenda of invalidating my assertions simply wasn't going to happen. 

Perhaps in the future when I've got my 1000 posts done, I will open things up for comments because the self-induced pressure to do a set number of posts will be relieved and I may have the time to deal with all comers regardless of the types of comments they make. I would welcome mature, intelligent, insightful and positively motivated input. I'm just not prepared to be the dog people want to kick at the end of a bad day or to waste my time kicking back.