A couple weeks back, I announced that I was temporarily turning off our comment section as a desperate attempt to help keep my head above water. With an overwhelming amount of feedback from a couple of pieces I’d written still generating emails, direct messages, and comments, and a brand new baby in the house, along with my own stated fedupitude having reached critical mass, I needed a breather.
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with the commbox. I started my online Catholic activities in BBS forums in the early 1990s; in the early 2000s, I moved to blogging and leaving comments on the big Catholic sites of the day — blogs like those of Amy Welborn and the at-the-time-still-sane Mark Shea (Shea having now tragically become the paradigmatic example of online Catholic toxicity). In a very real sense, you could say I “came up” through the commboxes, refining my rhetorical style through a bit of online pugilism with others. And because of this, I’ve always sought to stay engaged with my audience via the same — I try to pop in to commboxes, reply to tweets and Facebook threads and emails and messages, etc.
And truth be told, I have often found the feedback received via our commbox on articles we publish to be helpful in evaluating whether our content is hitting the right “notes,” as it were.