Drive-by commentaries and social media

Something I find a tad annoying about online behaviour these days is the ‘drive by comment’ on social media platforms. This is a remark triggered by a headline that flows by as a link. The commenter doesn’t click the link but merely posts a response based on the headline alone.

Actual photo of a drive-by comment on social media. (Public domain)

I’ve been noticing it happening, of late, with quite a few articles or blog posts I’ve written: they’re promoted on (say) Facebook by the publishers or magazine editorial staff. Sometimes it’s a post from this blog, in which case I’m the one who put it up.

Either way, two things seem to happen:

  1. If the title has the form of a question, somebody will answer it as a comment on the social media platform that promotes the link, clearly without looking at the article.
  2. Somebody will judge the article based only on the title and write a remark, often derogatory or a put-down.

Of late I’ve noticed this happening more and more. Why? Is it indicative of the way attention spans continue to dwindle? Does it reveal something about the way social media has become a zero-sum platform for self-validation and expression – not constructive discussion between people who respect each other? What does it tell us about why people use social media?

What do you figure? Let’s have a discussion about this issue in the comments on this blog.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2022


7 thoughts on “Drive-by commentaries and social media

  1. A lot of people seeking validation troll FB, Twitter, etc. to drop their “pearls of wisdom and wit” for passersby to admire, hoping for a few likes to their comment to prove they are as brilliant as they hold themselves to be.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Back when I was still getting high blood pressure on Twitter, I noticed something odd. When I followed the links provided to validate an argument, the ‘proof’ was often anything but. For example, there was one making the rounds about 100 or 500 scientists sending an open letter to the UN? about climate change or climate science or something. As the post was by a climate denier, I followed the link, read the letter and then had a look at who these scientists were. What I discovered was that the person spear-heading the ‘letter’ wasn’t an independent scientist at all. He had worked for the petroleum industry for most of his life. I didn’t check each and every signatory, but I suspect few would be either climate scientists or independent.

    Did the climate denier know all that and not care? Or did he/she just see the headline and use the link as ‘proof’ of his/her argument? Did any other Twitteratti follow the link and actually ‘research’ the proof? Or doesn’t it matter because no one ever /looks/ for the proof [except for oddballs like me]?

    I have a feeling that social media is exposing a kind of herd instinct that the sociologists have never seen before. And it’s based on trust. I believe X. You believe X therefore if you say Y, I’ll believe you without question.

    That’s one side of the equation. On the other side are the trolls. Some are just malicious individuals seeking attention any way they can get it. Others are…professionals, paid to muddy the water. The latter are the ones to watch out for as they’re often smart and know how to marshal their supporters against you.

    I suspect your commenters are either malicious, or simply one of the herd. I also suspect that we’re the last generation to respect facts and logic. More frightening still, I fear we’re the last to know how to /look/ for facts.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. VJM sums it up perfectly. I do think people are becoming increasing angry, with times getting more difficult. Social media is an ideal way to offload that anger with no consequences, so people are lashing out. I’ve had it quite a bit more recently.

    But then there’s just the usual sect of obnoxious trolls and far-right maniacs who just do it as they’re repellent.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. These are difficult times and the nature of social media enables behaviours that wouldn’t happen face-to-face. Apropos trolls, I’ve got a small library of screen caps of what’s been said about me and my work on various places. I’ve never bothered engaging the moral vacuum so displayed but it’s worth having as a demonstration of just how obnoxious trolls can actually get online. The underlying issue, as far as I can tell, is that I am actually a qualified expert in a particular field; but the online community for the same field consists of autodidact enthusiasts who aren’t aware of the methodologies, but who have weaponised data-collection and believe they are greater experts than those qualified in the territory. I’ve obfuscated the details, but it seems to happen in every territory. My sister, for instance, runs a lifestyle magazine focusing on crafts, and it’s there too.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve had several comments during the week like this. My policy is to trash them and that’s that. If they can’t be constructive, they’re not being acknowledged. I think the worst thing you can do is engage with them, as most are just attention seeking.

        “who have weaponised data-collection and believe they are greater experts than those qualified in the territory.” – Yes! Like myself. I have a passing knowledge in crafts (I knitted a scarf 30 years ago in class), therefore I know best and must spout caustic commentary about it. I should be running that lifestyle magazine, with a CV like mine!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I think that it is particularly difficult to discuss on facebook because there is little moderation. Of course, comments can be cancelled if they violate guidelines and pages ban profiles, but it is not the same thing as a moderation. Under any facebook post published by a newspaper, there are a lot of comments clearly showing that the person hasn’t read or understood the article but still wants to express an opinion. In order to be able to comment an article on facebook, one should answer to two or three question showing that they have at least understood what is written in the article.

    Liked by 2 people

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