What We Comment About When We Comment About Commenting

by riese but also some of this is by laneia

tell-us-everything

It’s Tell Us Everything Week on Autostraddle!


“It started as a little whisper last year. Are people commenting on your posts anymore?” Grace Bonney wrote in 2014 on Design*Sponge’s State of the Blog Union. “And then those whispers found other whispers from trusted blogging friends to join. Oh they’re not? Yeah, mine either. It’s like people just stopped talking.”  

Even on sites with strong readerships and increasing traffic, a distinct shift was happening in these previously thriving comment sections. The shift was, basically, that people weren’t engaging how they used to. In the old days, comments were the sole location for discussing a blog’s posts, but social media has changed all that. Instead of discussing content on the website itself, users could link to it on a variety of social media platforms to discuss with their own friends and family. “Instead of coming to hang out at our houses, they were dropping by quickly, taking a few key pieces with them and leaving to comment and discuss those things in their own living rooms,” wrote Bonney.

This wasn’t necessarily an inherently negative shift for the readers, but it was a tough shift for writers to swallow. When I started blogging in 2006, I responded to every single comment left on my blog, and when we launched Autostraddle in 2009, I asked our writers to do the same. One of the many reasons I tapped Laneia to help me build this website is because she had extensive community-building experience from her own blog and moderating forums for The Planet Podcast. From Day One, we wanted it to be clear that we weren’t just here to talk AT you, we were here to talk WITH you, because that’s part of what we love about the internet to begin with. Sure, we had our fair share of conflicts, ignorant asshats and flame wars, but most of the time our comment section was full of empathy, support, and education.

We always cite what Autostraddle has accomplished when we talk about the kind of online community we want to build around our books. They are a site with a much larger, broader scope, but we live in awe of the vibrant health of their comments and forums — people treat each other with such respect and care, without being sanitized or sycophantic.
Emily Gould of Emily Books

Needless to say, by the end of 2013, when our comment counts were lowering and our traffic was increasing, we weren’t quite ready to let go. We still aren’t, and we know you’re not either.

The Big Shift

We disagree

We disagree

Other sites, less reliant on or engaged with their community, adapted quickly to this change. Sites like Popular Science and The Week shut down their comment section, the latter because comment sections were too often hijacked by trolls. So did Re/Code, Reuters and Mic, who are focusing instead on social media comments. Everyday Feminism actively hosts all their conversations on Facebook and doesn’t allow on-site comments.

The possibility of an ideal comment ecosystem existing was also revealing itself to be a fallacy. Ta-Nehisi Coates‘ commenters on The Atlantic were famous for their genuinely progressive dialogue, but even Coates is now considering shutting down his comments altogether. “If there’s a lesson to be taken away from the story of the [Coates’ blog] Horde, it might be—depressingly—that trying to build a comment section that truly adds value to a writer’s work will inevitably become more trouble than it’s worth,” wrote Eva Holland on Longreads. This summer, The Verge shut down comments to give its writers a break from negativity. The New York Times recently decided to only enable comments on select articles to ensure they had suitable moderation resources to handle it. Slate is currently hosting a conversation on whether or not they should kill their comment sections, which are often overrun with negativity.

“Small sites are too poor to pay human moderators, and large sites have too great a volume of comments for human moderators to keep up with,” wrote Slate’s Senior Technology Editor Will Oremus. “The result is that moderation across the Web tends to be insufficient at best and nonexistent at worst.”

That moderation problem applies here, too. We don’t have dedicated moderators — almost every single comment that isn’t spammy or from a blocked user goes up without approval — but we do have a large engaged team of writers and we do have a increasingly detailed comment policy and we do have you. As a community, y’all self-moderate and step in when another reader is out of their depth or think reverse racism exists. You’ve helped steer derailed conversations back on track, while continuing to educate and support each other. Comments on Autostraddle aren’t always sunshine and hand-holding, obviously. Sometimes our comment section can get unpleasant: callout culture so toxic it’s often a parody of itself and people become unwilling to see the humanity in each other. When that happens, it can get harder to feel excited and engaged with a community that might appear to only speak up when they’re complaining or attacking other commenters. (Slate has the same experience.)

But even with these rare displays of callout culture, our comment section remains the most civil and empathetic we’ve seen anywhere on the internet.

So where does this leave us? A site that prided itself on a thriving, supportive commenting community, a site that aims to build community for its own sake as much as it does to inform and entertain its readers?

At first, we felt immune to the shift due to the specific nature of a queer audience: many of our readers weren’t out or else just didn’t feel comfortable discussing queer stuff on platforms accessible to their social network, or didn’t have queer people to talk to on social media. Requiring commenters to login with Facebook or Google Plus was never an option for us. We were, in fact, the first online magazine to launch a companion Tumblr, and our Tumblr community was strong and vast, but we didn’t think much about Facebook or Twitter. Until we had to, that is.

The Facebook Effect

Over the past two years, websites have became increasingly reliant on Facebook for traffic as many internet users began replacing “visiting the homepage” with “waiting to see what pops up on my Facebook news feed.” This has enormous and incredibly dangerous implications for the future of online media, but that’s an entirely different essay I won’t subject you to today.

Mainstream sites like Buzzfeed or HuffPo dominate the Facebook game, and their coverage of LGBTQ issues sometimes feels “safer” to share than the same stories from unapologetically indie queer sites like ours. Autostraddle readers who began using Facebook as a news feed were, by design, only being made aware of the most controversial or vapid posts we published, as whether or not something shows up in your feed is based on how much Facebook engagement, comments, likes and shares the post garners. We were baffled by readers claiming we had become a site solely for bisexual women when maybe two out of every fifty posts were about bisexual women and we were consistently being asked by bisexual women for more non-monosexual content — until we realized that if you’re only reading AS articles that show up on your Facebook feed, it could very well seem that way.

Regulars like Drawn to Comics and Things I Read That I Love are rarely discussed, liked, or shared on Facebook, despite having passionate and loyal on-site readerships. Personal essays and advice posts that provide the intimate experience our readers love us for often aren’t particularly ripe for sharing, either. The controversial or vapid posts usually also gather the most incendiary and obtuse comments, so for readers getting all their Autostraddle from Facebook, Autostraddle likely seemed like a burning bush fanning the flames of its ongoing war. Also: a semi-reliable source of information on Kristen Stewart’s romantic life.

This past fall, we surrendered to Mark Zuckerberg’s Higher Power and started “working on” our Facebook presence to ensure we kept our readers reading and aware of everything we published. Having good social media is just as important as having good content these days, and Heather and Carmen hit the ground running to ensure that we did, and we do. The more “engagements” (likes, shares, etc) we get with our posts on Facebook, the more people see those posts in their feed.

All this extra time spent on Facebook enabled us to witness another phenomenon at work: our comment sections were becoming 1-D victims of our 3-D success.

The Third Wheel?

As aforementioned, we felt blissfully immune to this evolution because of our queerness. Even when Facebook swallowed other websites’ comment sections, ours stood strong as the only place most of you had to connect with other queers on issues and stories that mattered to you. Then A-Camp started and the A-Camp Unofficial Facebook Social Group was born. Autostraddle meet-up groups started popping up all over the world with companion Facebook groups, as did specialized Facebook groups for different identities. Suddenly, Autostraddle wasn’t the only place you could connect online with other Autostraddlers, let alone other queers. These groups and networks have been an undeniably important and amazing development for our community (especially the QTPOC Speakeasy), but now we have to figure out how to maintain both while maintaining our sanity and on-site camaraderie.

This situation reached its peak after this past A-Camp, which, according to feedback surveys, was our most well-reviewed and beloved A-Camp yet. Usually our post-camp Open Thread gets 100 comments in its first few hours, but that’s been changing gradually over the years. This June, while the post-camp Open Thread languished in the double-digits, my Facebook feed was blowing up with heartwarming comments and testimonies from campers about their experiences. It made me sad, thinking about all the prospective campers who weren’t hearing the amazing stories I was reading on Facebook — not just the day that post went up, but ever.  Even though commenting had gone up site-wide since we first noticed the decline, we saw in action how on some posts, social media community replaced site community. It also made me sad because, well, hanging out on Autostraddle is fun and hanging out on Facebook can be a little, um, stressful? WE MISSED YOU.

Facebook is a giant corporation owned by a cis straight white man that makes money by offering advertisers dirt-cheap access to millions of tightly-targeted customers. We should all be wary of moving our lives entirely to this platform, or any social media platform!  Furthermore, not everybody has Facebook. Twitter conversations are great, but if a topic doesn’t have a hashtag, millions of readers (some who won’t even seek out the topic for several more years because they’re too young to care right now ) will completely miss out on the conversation forever.

“Twitter and Facebook have their merits, but they’re very poor venues for substantive, ongoing, multiperson discussions that are tied to a single, specific article or set of ideas. The ideal venue for that specific sort of conversation remains the comment section of the article itself.”
– Will Oremus, Senior Technology Editor, Slate.com

Why We’ve Dedicated This Week To Focusing on Comments and Community

Other web-writers we encounter are shocked we still read — let alone engage with — our commenters, but to us the comments are an essential element of the community we’re not looking to sacrifice. Social media is incredibly important to us, but it doesn’t replace our on-site community, and we don’t have the financial resources to hire anybody dedicated solely to social media like literally every other site this size does. So we want to engage on-site conversation and make connections here, in this space. Period.

Last year our traffic exploded as we became the world’s most popular website for queer women, but comments were lower than ever. This year, we disabled the login-only function and got our staff engaged in turning the comment culture train around, and the past few months have been going really well. But we think we could do EVEN BETTER.

Welcome To Our Queer Internet Commune

We’ve talked about how commenting culture has changed all over the internet and how connecting to other queers through social media has dimmed on-site discourse, but we also need to talk about commenting culture in general, and how many readers — including our own staff! — have become scared to comment, period. We have interview subjects request extensive edits to what’s supposed to be an off-the-cuff interview in fear they could be misread and/or taken out of context and swiftly declared offensive.

Laneia and Riese have been watching queer people talk to each other on the internet for almost a decade, beginning with our own blogs and then moving on to Autostraddle over six years ago, and we consider ourselves experts at this point. Over the past several years, we have seen an obvious uptick in the times that we’ve seen you cut each other down, assume bad faith, pile on people with less dexterity in social justice language and lose your damn minds over grey areas without clearcut solutions. We witness ourselves get rude and angry, too, and spend three hours in a comment fight instead of writing.

But more importantly — more telling of who you and we really are — we’ve seen you build entire communities around TV shows, support each other in coming out, make IRL friends and even find your future wives through the wonders of commenting. It’s been legitimately amazing. You’ve inspired people and changed their lives with your dedication to making this work. You’ve trusted each other, assumed good faith, reached out to newcomers, respectfully navigated grey areas that didn’t always come with obvious rights or wrongs, and generally changed the whole world, really. You’ve found a way to disagree with somebody while also making everybody laugh. We get emails all the time from readers who didn’t know anything about [trans issues, race issues, queer politics beyond marriage equality] and were grateful for the education.

We feel confident, after ten years of total immersion in internet dialogue, with stating the following: productive conversations only happen when we assume good faith and treat each other with the patience and kindness that we devote to conversations with our friends and others we know and respect. 

We know in our hearts that this space is different, and that this community is uniquely capable of navigating grey areas and keeping the space accessible to all types of readers, because we’ve seen you do it! Once upon a time, we were all ignorant and naive, unsure of our own identities and patient with one another’s self-discovery. Those of us with this knowledge are now often in the majority, but it’s on us to share — not flaunt — that knowledge. Even if your politics are sound, the way you express those politics to others can end up replicating the very power structures we all want to dismantle, endorsing righteousness and performance above genuine dialogue. We want Autostraddle to keep being a place that invites more commenting, more engagement, more people telling their stories and listening to others.

We don’t believe that everything can be self-taught. Sometimes you can’t just Google something. Sometimes you’d rather get an education from somebody you trust, and not the first Tumblr that pops up. A single mother who works two jobs to support her family and never went to college doesn’t necessarily have the time to teach herself queer theory before jumping into a community like ours. Teenagers in small towns without any queer resources and no access to feminist literature come here knowing literally nothing, and that’s actually totally okay. We have readers who are the only queer person of color in their town, the only trans woman in their town, the only gay in the village, who desperately need a safe space to be themselves. We have readers who aren’t fluent in academia and we also have a lot of readers who aren’t fluent in English, either. We have readers who have the resources but still mess up sometimes and that is also okay.

We’re here to say that we will absolutely forgive those of us who are still learning — about the world and also themselves, their place in it. We believe that sometimes it is up to us, and to you, to assume good faith when it makes sense, and to educate people when we can. We want to intentionally leave room for the grey areas that don’t have obvious rights and wrongs, because that’s where growth happens. When we respectfully engage in conversations and we take on the role of being someone else’s sounding board and help them hash out their understanding of various topics and experiences, we necessarily affect change.

Many of you have your own communities where everybody is identified by name and face and nobody is anonymous — a class, a closed Facebook group, a book club — where you’ve been able to flex newfound muscles and try out your ideas; where people have given you the space to fuck up, try again, get it wrong before you get it right. You have family and friends who give you the benefit of the doubt, and you give it to them, and y’all help each other figure out the hard stuff. But even more of you do not have that community. A comment section filled with nitpicking and accusations of bad faith and language policing is unwelcoming and intimidating. Callout culture, pile-ons, and basic rudeness to each other and to writers can and will drive readers and writers away, people who are still learning and don’t have a community to be their sounding board and help them figure out the hard stuff. That’s why Autostraddle is different, and why it must continue to be accessible to as many levels of education and understanding as possible. We believe that if you can, if you have it in you, you should try to be that community for someone who needs it.

And fuck it, like, we honestly believe in kindness.

Most importantly — Commenting is feedback

Without your feedback or affirmation on our posts, we have no idea what you like! We have a few posts each day that get a lot of traffic, but a lot more that don’t. We publish those ’cause we think you might like them, ’cause we wanna talk about them, or ’cause we think the world needs them.

We often cancel columns only to suddenly hear that it was your favorite and you will die without it — you’ve gotta let us know before we get to that point, y’all! When nobody’s talking to our writers, our writers lose their desire to write. Yes, we’re getting paid, but not as much as we deserve, and regardless, our writers are here for more than a paycheck, they’re here for connection. Even an “I like this” can change everything for a writer. When we publish work by new underrepresented voices, a supportive comment section can be the difference between whether or not we ever hear from that writer again. Recaps, in particular, are a time-consuming drain, and without the immediate gratification of conversation with our readers, people are reluctant to write them. (Case in point: The Fosters.) Y’all if you want Gabby to recap Empire you have to comment more on her OITNB recaps, just saying.

So.

Thank you! Thank you for every minute you’ve spent helping someone else grasp a concept in the comments, thank you for letting us know when we’ve mattered to you. Thank you for sharing our words on social media and going to meet-ups and coming to camp. Thank you for sharing yourself here and helping to make this space safe for other people to try themselves on. Please, keep it up.

We’re leveling with you: this is what we came here for. We’re here for the community and the communication. We’re here for the conversation. We don’t ever, ever want to whisper to ourselves. We came here to fucking talk, to fucking listen, and think and then talk and listen some more. We can’t grow as a community without conversations and feedback, and we can’t have those conversations without kindness and assumptions of good faith.

So, this week we’re really laying it on thick — there’s even a contest and we’re whipping up some resources to expedite the “Google it” process.

This is where you prove everyone else wrong and us right. You damn the man and save the comments! You save the conversations and the empire — the empire you helped build to begin with.

Before you go! It takes funding to keep this publication by and for queer women and trans people of all genders running every day. And A+ members keep the majority of our site free for everyone. Still, 99.9% of our readers are not members. A+ membership starts at just $4/month. If you're able to, will you join A+ and keep Autostraddle here and working for everyone?

Riese is the 39-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2876 articles for us.

357 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for this article. I rarely comment, which is awful of me, bc as I writer I know how important it is to get feedback. I’ll make a concerted effort from now on to comment on most of the articles I read. Autostraddle is my favourite website, and one of the reasons why is its amazing culture, which the comments contribute to!

  2. I love Autostraddle, and have come here almost daily for years now. One of my favorite columns is Riese’s ‘Things I Read that I Love.’

    Many a time I have been tempted to comment on an article here… but I never quite know what to do with this impulse, for various reasons (like self-consciousness around my gender identity, which is maybe trans, but maybe too-outwardly-subtle to be considered really trans(?) and therefore makes me feel like a weird invader here, but… well, whatever, I’m just going to finish this comment). The whole internet is something I tend to circle overhead observing, like something that never quite knows whether to land.

    This place is important, and I believe in it.

    I’ll stick my neck out and say a bit, now and then, because community matters.

    • Hey, I don’t know if I’m understanding your comment correctly, and there are many peeps here who would be far more qualified to speak on this topic than me, but I just thought I’d say this-

      You sound as though you may be doubting your acceptance here, especially in relation to your outwardly perceived gender identity. My feeling is that this is the perfect place for you to express yourself, and that we would all love to hear from you! In regards to gender identity, I believe that that is yours to understand, and not for anyone else to decide, no matter how they perceive you. Subtle /non-subtle outside judgment/expression has nothing to do with your inner truth, whatever that may be.

      Hoping to see more comments from you, and offering a welcome hug if you’d like one!

    • I just want to say that this is the exact place where you will not be a weird invader! You are NEVER a weird invader.

      If you ever want to talk, there are so many wonderful fuzzy / subtle / amorphous weirdos here just waiting to talk to you too. <3

  3. The comments on here are the best. On other websites, I read comments in the same way you turn your head to look at a car crash on the side of the highway, but on Autostraddle, I learn from the comments, I laugh at the comments, I’ve even cried based on a comment. I think the reason why I don’t always comment even when I do have something to say is that I’m afraid I don’t sound witty or clever enough, or that my comment isn’t relevant. But I’ll work on hitting “submit” instead of delete more often, because this website is so important to me.

    Also, I love reading Autostraddle recaps but I don’t think I’ve ever once commented on one because I’m always watching TV shows like a year late instead of when they’re actually on TV or first are released on Netflix. I definitely have a lot of feelings about Orange is the New Black and Pretty Little Liars though and reading the recaps on here is very important to me!!

  4. I really struggle with the shift to Facebook. I don’t think Facebook is a safe place– I think Autostraddle is a safe place. I know it’s still the internet, but at least I can exist without my conservative family or random trolls or homophobic old “friends” from high school. I like that you are trying to cultivate comments on here.

  5. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for existing as a space for my six year ago self to sit on their floor and cry and read every Autostraddle article while working through my internalized homophobia. Thank you for A-Camp and my new family. Thank you for keeping the comments open, for allowing and encouraging dialogue within the community you all have created and nurtured. “You save the conversations and the empire — the empire you helped build to begin with.”

  6. AS is a beautiful place, you know why?

    PASSION and CARING about the work you all do. Believe or not, that’s not very easy to find. And I’m forever thankful for that.

  7. Even with callout culture though, I have been pretty impressed with how much AS has improved over the years with that kind of thing.

    About 5 years ago there was a calendar post where someone had expressed dismay that there weren’t any fat people represented. The conversation kinda devolved on all sides (inc site staff) into “well just make your own calendar then”, and I got really frustrated that I wrote a post about it on my own blog. Alex and I had a convo about it, and I think a few other sites linked to it too.

    For the longest, LONGEST time I thought y’all hated me or something. “Oh here’s the rabble-rouser” blah de blah. Then I got to A-Camp and y’all were WELCOMING and FRIENDLY and REMEMBERED me and…bwah?! yalldon’thatemeomg

    and I saw that the feedback about inclusivity was actually TAKEN! Like, the site’s done so much better in that regard lately. Can it be better? Sure, everything can be. But that there’s forward movement at all is pretty heartening. And that you weren’t scorning me for being a rabble-rouser made a huge difference.

    So from other rabble-rousers – thanks ;)

  8. I don’t facebook, myspace (is it still a thing?), Google +, GChat, have apps on my phone beyond my email, or even have a Slate account and I read that site almost every day to kill time at work.

    I comment here.

    Thank you muchly for your work, time, and hard effort.

  9. I’m so happy that you wrote this article. When I first started reading this site, one of the things that I looked at was the vibe of the comment section. And I remember reading some really thought-provoking pieces on transgender issues, and there was a heated discussion in the comments. And then I was shocked to see that the original writer was answering everything. Plus, they were really reading what the commenter was saying and not just getting defensive and telling that person to just not read it if they didn’t like it (which I’ve seen writers do). And even though the original comment was angry, it wasn’t some ad hominem callout attack. It was a justified and welcome point of view.

    After that, I knew that I could feel safe on this website.

  10. I think this renewed push for community involvement is an important step for Autostraddle in the wake of such social media dominance. As much as I rely on FB and Twitter for conversations and sharing article links, I feel like I’m just shouting to the ether there. I feel so exposed to the parts of the internet that are antagonistic to queerness and social justice concerns.

    Generally, I champion the closure of comment sections on many mainstream sites. There’s too much toxicity and too little relevant engagement to bother with it, and it seems draining on everyone’s resources and well-being. I think this article makes a pretty compelling case for communities like Autostraddle to be the exception to this trend. As much as we want to raise more mainstream awareness of queer and trans issues, there’s a very present need to have a space that’s just for us, that’s focused on our needs, concerns, ideas, and happiness.

    I think I also underestimated how comment-focused the editors are here. I always knew that the comment sections on AS were a good place to chat with like-minded queermos, but I figured that most authors wouldn’t engage as much as they do. I seemingly underestimated y’all!

    I do have one point of concern when it comes to commenting: it’s pretty darn hard to do it from my iPhone, so I tend to be much less engaged than I’d like to be. I only read and write comments when sitting at my computer, which doesn’t happen much anymore. Maybe I’m just getting old, but the small mobile site text and commenting interface elements are difficult to work with. I vaguely recall whisperings of an Autostraddle app at one point – is that something potentially on the horizon?

  11. Arg Riese (and Laneia) this piece is EXACTLY what makes AS different! You level with us and talk to us directly and keep us informed and tell us what you need and want. I hope we, as a commenting community, can deliver. <3

  12. I’m so ridiculously thankful for this website and the community that has been built here. This was one of the first places I found a few years ago when I was trying to figure out my sexuality and it was so comforting to see so many articles written by amazing queer women in one place. What was even more amazing was seeing all of the comments from awesome queer women who were *gasp* HAPPY and FUNNY and LIVING THEIR REAL LIVES. For some (mainly religious) reasons, baby dyke Monica thought that being gay was the end of the world. It took me a long time to start being okay with myself, and Autostraddle was a big part of that. Coming out was the beginning of so many amazing things for me, and I’m really happy with where I am right now. I’m forever grateful for everyone who writes and comments at Autostraddle, you’ve all been a big part of my life and I think you’re all swell.

  13. On other websites (and even person to some extent) I feel as if I’m talking to myself most of the time, and I think it has a lot to do with being a queer woman and being interested in social justice issues, because the extent to which I am aware of the ways people negatively impact marginalized groups every day makes the people around me very uncomfortable. After the legalization of same-sex marriage in the US I made a facebook post about lgbtq rights, and it was largely ignored (read: it got two likes. from friends who are both queer.) which was rather disappointing, because I’d really like to think that I could at least bring a certain homophobic relative (who to my knowledge had no idea I’m queer) to understand where I’m coming from, why our rights matter regardless of any religious beliefs. I think there’s this idea that queer people go around calling others bigots but are very intolerant of and disrespectful to conservative opinions, but what in reality it’s more like “Hey, I respect that you have the right to your own opinion, but I don’t think that other people should be restricted to live their lives within your comfort zone. Please consider that your votes/rallies/decisions/statements/whatever affect other people as well and you are responsible for your words and actions.” Perhaps this is because I’m a teenager in rural Ohio, but I think that to some extent this is true almost everywhere in the US?

  14. So I can’t figure out when someone’s posters reply on my comment; when I post a comment I check “notify me of follow up comments by email” and uncheck “notify me of new posts by email” because I don’t want to get an email for every single new comments however if someone’s replied to smthng I said I want to read it but for some reason it’s not telling me. After I post its sending me the “howdy” email but then I never get any response emails; even though when I manually go back and find my comment sometimes it does have responses. Any way to fix this? It definitely wastes a lot of time especially in a long thread like this to regularly check if someone’s replied to your comment so then I just forget about it.. but I definitely think I would comment more if that issue was fixed (get an email whenever I get a response to one of my comments) I’ve even checked my junk folder and it’s not there either..?!

  15. I’ve always been the kind of person who thinks about commenting, sometimes even writes something out, but 9 times out 10 doesn’t pull the trigger because I convince myself that whatever I have to say doesn’t contribute to the discussion? idk inferiority complexes are the worst. But I value this site and everyone who’s a part of it so immensely that I’ll try to swallow those sour hesitations offer my feedback and thoughts regardless- even if they just take the form of a silly gif.

  16. I haven’t liked autostraddle on FB because I don’t want y’all’s headlines popping up in the newsfeeds of my relatives who still use the word lifestlye.

    I do enjoy the comments here usually. I’d love to know how to have all the comments and replies show without having to click the show replies button. Is that possible?

  17. Thank you for encouraging this community dialogue, and for being so open about the challenges the website faces. Getting that insight changed my perspective as a reader. I love the articles here, and I look forward to commenting from here on out.

  18. I comment here more than I do anywhere else (including the book of face), but that still amounts to maybe one comment every few months or so. Even though I grew up in it, I’ve never really felt much like I’m a part of internet culture or community. This piece is really so thoughtful, and it presents a perspective that I, as a person who doesn’t usually put the things I write onto the internet, never considered.

    I’m going to do some thinking about what it would mean, and what it would take, for me to want to put my comments out into the world.

  19. I’ve been reading Autostraddle for over a year and have never commented. Even though I read almost all the comments for every article I read. Hi, I’m shy and anxious about first impressions.

    Anyway, I’m trying to do better with commenting on fanfic I read, and I’m going to try to start participating more here because I don’t have any queer friends and I’m not out to my family and as much as I love my crowd on Tumblr, I also enjoy and appreciate the work being done here.

  20. Autostraddle is my second home.

    Many times I scroll through the comments, and everyone is so profound and perfect that I think there’s nothing I could possibly add.

    But I’m going to speak up more now, even if it’s just to say I love you and thank you.

    • This is exactly how I feel, usually no matter my thoughts, someone else has already said how I am feeling, usually much more articulated and witty than I would have been. So I just silently agree and go on!

  21. I admit I’m someone who reads this site daily for a while and then life happens and then I sort of somehow forget about it and stop coming over here. AND I don’t comment often. But after reading this I’m going to make a point of checking for new AS content before I log into facebook, and of commenting more even if it’s just to say how much I like someone’s writing (or how cool that GIF is).

    Also, I wish so much that I’d had this site when I was coming out. You have no idea. You guys are amazing, thank you for all of the content that you create for us every damn day.

  22. I’ve been out of town and without internet for weeks, so this is a nice post to stumble upon in a rare moment of wifi.

    I love AS because I do not have the freedom to talk about queer issues everywhere on the Internet because of the nature of my job. I have always felt like I didn’t fit I with the queer community, so AS is a good safe space and I love to comment! Someday I’ll get to an A-camp or meet up or something to meet you all face to face, but for now commenting has to do.

  23. Ok, I’ve been visiting religiously for at least a year now, and bonded with every queer girl I know over how great Autostraddle is, and just now I finally made an account and published my first comment. Better late than never? Thanks for the reminder of how important comments are. I will try to get better at commenting from now on!

    You guys do amazing work to keep this such a ridiculously positive and productive space, thank you :)

  24. Oh my goodness this article brought up so many feelings for me! I found Autostraddle a few years ago when I was still in an abusive relationship and beginning to question my orientation, and searching for advice on google kept bringing up Autostraddle. I started reading this site every day and can honestly say that it changed my life– it helped me find the courage to come out (first to myself and then to other people) and break up with my ex and eventually start dating the lovely person I am dating now. And it was not just your astounding content that is published by writers here but also, in a huge way, the comments. For every worry that I felt about your “How to be gay” articles there was someone in the comments section expressing the same thing and other people providing support and feedback which is SO AMAZING I don’t even have words for how much this helped me when I had no community of my own and no one else to get advice from.

    To echo a million other commentors on this post I am so grateful that you do not involve Facebook in the comments because that would have limited my involvement with this site in such an extreme way- and for some reason I still feel a little jumpy when I go to post anything here, especially anything personal, even if it’s anonymous. (My family is so homophobic y’all.) I have always been anonymous on here and hopefully that will change soon in a way that enables more community finding and better contributions to your articles. Because there are years of articles on here that are still relevant, will probably be relevant for a really long time, and have really thoughtful and well written comments, and I 100% support that and everything else you do. <3

  25. I have so many feelings about this and the psychology that goes behind when and what we comment (or why we don’t), but I’m so overwhelmed with all the thoughts I have, and how many thoughts everyone else has and trying to condense them into one post. Normally this would be a reason for me to go “oh, I’ll do it later” (I wouldn’t do it later) but since we’re on the subject I’ll pop in long enough to say I normally wouldn’t comment, but I have many many thoughts about it.

    (One thing I’ll say as a flaw comment sections have is that with all the things I’m thinking about, it really works best to be said in a conversational format, but I find comment sections to be more like each person saying their own thing and only occasionally interacting with other people. The alternative is posting a huge comment with everything in bullet points or a full on MLA format essay, which takes up more time than my attention span has energy for and thus, another reason to just give up the whole thing.)

  26. Okay, I’ll write my first autostraddle comment. I LOVE THIS PLACE. I love how you are always trying to make it even better and keep this little corner of the interweb beautiful and queer and perfectly imperfect. Thank you!!

  27. Dammit. Now I feel bad that I cancelled cable. I have to watch The Fosters via, ahem, “alternative” sources and by the time I got to see the episode the recap was already days old and people were not commenting there anymore.
    I really really miss Heather’s Fosters recaps.

  28. Wow, thank you. Thank you for reaching out to us about this. I love this.

    I feel like I have a lot to say about this, and I don’t know where to start so

    Autostraddle is the only place where I feel like I can read the comments and learn something new. Learn something about myself. Read something from someone living GODDESS KNOWS WHERE that relates completely to my life and just sit there stunned. Like, holy shit. I wish I had this resource in 9th grade. I wish I could’ve been able to reach you all then. I wish I had a voice then. I remember googling things and you know what would come back? Nothing. Nothing would come back. I felt alone. Really, really I did.

    And then I started reading Autostraddle and there you were. Somebody. Somebody who got it! Holy shit, you were real and you existed and I WASN’T ALONE.

    I couldn’t believe I was sending out my signal and finally something was coming back.

    I remember reading the wikipedia article on lesbianism. Looking at fucking wikipedia for insight. This was before autostraddle. 2007 B.A. They had this image accompanying the article, I think it was some fucking ancient Greek depiction of lesbianism, some painting scrawled on a wall somewhere of two women touching each other. I tried to project myself on that, to imprint myself on that painting. Could this be me? I read further. Wikipedia presented a blue link to me, for something called strap ons. I clicked it. I gapsed. Wait, this is a thing? Women could have sex without a man? I tried to imagine if I could think that was sexy. The answer that came back was vague but it scared me.

    I remember trying to find myself in an online encyclopedia entry where the whole point is to sound depersonal. To sound like a voice of authority. I searched for the humanity within those articles. Pined for it. It felt obscured.

    I went back into the closet for a long time.

    Like three years.

    I don’t remember a lot of those three years. I remember a lot of the things I read during that time, like Vonnegut and Dante, but I didn’t do a lot of reading then. I was melancholic or depressed or whatever. Suppressed. It was hazy.

    And then I found Autostraddle and something struck me, like a hot blue bolt of lightning cast down from the heavens, not by Zeus but by some woman, some goddess no one dared name anymore because there was too much power in even declaring her name.

    No one had dared to speak this out loud, and yet here they were. Speaking about it. Knowing it. Understanding it, me, us. Holy shit, us. I’m part of an us. This is me! This is us! This is something we’re going to do together, aren’t we?

    We’re in this together. We’ve never been able to connect like this before, you and I. Us. But here we are. Here we are! HOLY SHIT. What are we going to do here? INTERNET!!!!!

    Let’s keep talking and learning. I have grown so much since I’ve met you, all of you. I’ve become more human. More intelligent. More understanding, compassionate, aware. Thank you for taking the time to teach me, to share with me, to show me who I am and can be. You will never know how you impacted me, but I promise you it was deep and hard and forever, and I’m sorry if that sounds sexual but what you’ve done to me was as real as the first night I spent loving that first person who I got the chance to truly love with my whole self, my real self, my gay gay gay gay gay self.

    Ugh, this is becoming a whole thing, isn’t it? Usually I just say something pithy and move on, because that’s what comments sections are for (just kidding, I don’t move on, I definitely check back at least 3 more times for replies and likes). I just felt like I needed to take a couple minutes to try and somehow express to you what you mean to me. I don’t think I succeeded. I don’t think I even got at half of what I wanted to say. But, you see, you did this thing to me where you shared your real, messy, authentic feelings with me and now I can’t help but share my messy, authentic feelings with you.

    Thank you, Autostraddle. You will always be my first love. My gayoasis. My first girlfriend, lez be honest. Thanks for teaching me so much about hummus. No, seriously, I’m a hummus aficionado now, and I have Kristen to thank for encouraging me to buy my first immersion blender.

    <3 thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou

  29. Oh yeah, I remembered what I originally wanted to say before the Hoover Dam holding up my Reservoir of Feelings cracked.

    Can we update the groups feature on Autostraddle? They feel barely functional. I don’t know anything about tech so I can’t provide more constructive criticism, but I wish they were easier to access and posts were organized in a more convenient, easier to engage with way. More like a forum? idk.

  30. I really hope this pull for comments helps boost back your comment sections. I love commenting here, I think Comment Awards and the community here are also huge boosts to commenting. I never comment anywhere but here, and I like checking back to see what people think about my thoughts, and to read my friends!

  31. I love that Autostraddle is wanting to continue listening to and talking with its audience. This community, along with another I live at, is a place where cyber family and friends can hang out together and become closer. Autostraddle is where I want my queer central to be, and who I want to interact with. It is unique in its place in kind good faith community. I dislike most forms of social media because without the intention to create a community that is honest and kind with each other, social media just becomes bragging or bitching. Vapid diet gram emotional and intellectual nutrition without context or foundation. Autostraddle is very worth preserving, and giving a middle finger salute to lesser forms of “social” media. Autostraddle is about connecting, and the work and joy taken in connecting. That is worth preserving.

  32. I’m not going to say anything new here, I guess.
    I always read the comment section of every article I read here, and they are always so useful. I have learnt a lot thanks to Autrostraddle’s writers AND its readers. I have learnt things about queer theory, feminism and tolerance, and I have helped friends with that new knowledge on more than one occasion.
    Also, the You Need Help section was extremely useful and soothing to me once, and having the Autostraddle team engage makes you feel like you genuinely matter.
    So thank you

  33. I have a lot of anxiety and weird internalized garbage about perfectionism (like a lot of people, it seems) and I’ve noticed over the years that it’s made it increasingly difficult for me to speak up in a lot of ways. That includes commenting.

    I’ve been active online for 12 or 13 years now – since I was in middle school – and while I’ve always had a certain level of shyness about leaving comments, there was definitely a time in my life when I was fairly comfortable participating in forum threads or commenting on LiveJournal. I’m not sure how much of my reluctance to comment more recently has been due to the change in the typical structure of internet discussions vs. my own mental health stuff and how that has shaped my confidence since then.

    That said, I know every comment I post in spite of my discomfort gives me a little bit of practice at being comfortable contributing more regularly. I also know that getting feedback on a piece of writing is super validating and awesome. So this is me, trying a little bit. Thanks for the incentive!

      • It really does! And then sometimes I beat myself up over it because I know I’m overthinking it and I should just get my thoughts out there if I feel like I have something to say. Which, of course, then turns into “but do I really NEED to say this? Is it going to add anything substantive or just make me look like I needed to hear the sound of my own voice?*”

        I mean, on the one hand, I think it’s a good idea to be thoughtful about your word choice and message, and posting for the sake of posting isn’t necessarily always a wise decision.

        On the other hand, I think the people who realistically should worry about this the most are people who are about to post something deliberately inflammatory or offensive, and those people aren’t going to do that. When you have something totally reasonable to say, especially in an environment that actively encourages participation like Autostraddle, it’s TOTALLY FINE to leave a comment you feel might be boring or unoriginal, or that doesn’t fully encompass all of your thoughts about whatever it is you’re commenting on.

        I mean, I really do think that! It’s just hard to remind myself in the moment, when all I can think about is how much anything I would have to say sucks and isn’t worth it. :P

        *I definitely almost gave up on this comment because I couldn’t think of a pithy way to get across the idea of “the sound of my own voice” that related to writing rather than speaking. This is the kind of shit that regularly keeps me from contributing. Thanks, brain!

        • I relate to that so much. I try to remind myself that even if I am accidentally boring or unoriginal IT’S REALLY OK, the Earth will keep spinning regardless. Also, perhaps weirdly, sometimes it helps me to think of all the dudes who are SO SURE that their opinions are SO important — because my immediate gut reaction is fuck that, I’m equally allowed to have opinions even if they aren’t the most brilliant thoughts ever to have graced a human brain.

          Sometimes I think learning to actually believe in our own intrinsic worthiness is really the hardest and most revolutionary thing of all the things.

          • Yes to all of these points! Also it’s harder to comment in places I feel like it matters, because I actually want everyone here to like me and commenting is the only way to really express my personality and character, and if I’m putting out something I feel doesn’t live up to the best version of myself or the funniest I can be I get so stressed out and it really can have a negative effect on my already somewhat delicate state of mental health.

          • Katie, I agree! (Even though I can’t put this comment under yours…) Sometimes commenting on Autostraddle can feel like texting an attractive human: They’re so amazing I want to make them like me what if I’m not cool enough TOO MUCH PRESSURE.
            …But we’re all just humans, so. Let’s save our energy for talking to each other instead of intimidating ourselves?

  34. I love the comment section of Autostraddle and can’t imagine ever not having it. I never really thought much about it, but I think I rarely comment here because someone has said what I am thinking already, and this is the only comments section that doesn’t make my blood boil. I often find myself commenting on articles on say fb, in anger because the level of stupidity or hate that people have astounds me. Here however I rarely see a comment that upsets me, and on the occasion I do someone else has already shut down the situation. So I read all the comments and silently agree, truly never.thinking you may want my opinion too, even if it is the same as everyone else. I have been a faithful constant reader here for probably 5 years and can’t imagine being without this place, so now I am going to work on becoming more visible and making sure I am doing my part to help keep it amazing here.

  35. I read this post at 8am when it was posted and I still am not settled with all the things I want to say back in a comment. It’s been on my mind all day, it just gets messier and messier.

    I guess it all sums up to thank you for existing and persisting the way you have and the ways that you do you.

  36. I haven’t had a chance to read through the comments yet, but oh god this gave me feels. I used to love reading the comments here. I’m not sure what changed, but something did. I wish I could point to that moment when commenting stopped being fun and started being anxiety-inducing, but I can’t.

    I miss feeling like I’m part of an Autostraddle community, even though I only ever felt like I was on the fringe of it to begin with. In some ways it feels like trying to talk to the in-crowd and being ignored, except when I’m not being ignored and y’all are friendly, but I’m still not *in* the in-crowd, but you’re friendly so I can’t really hate you, and you’re funny and smart, so I actually kinda like you anyway. But yeah, being on the fringe of a community, partway in and partway out for reasons that don’t even exist… makes it hard to engage, and super easy to talk to my friends instead.

    But I’m still here.

    • Is there an in-crowd? Am I in it? Are you? I think you are in it, officially. Here, you can sit with us. Do you feel in yet? :)

      Because there’s no reason to feel like you’re on the fringe. I think there is this idea that we all know each other, but other than the people who work here, we really don’t. And quite frankly, I have never met about half or more of the people who currently write here. So…

      What I’m saying is that you are in the “in-crowd” if you want to be and we want you here!

    • Do you want to know a secret? To be part of the in-crowd here, what you need to do is….show up!
      You showed up – you’re part of the crowd!
      Sometimes you might be part of the silent crowd, but you’re still what makes this magical place magical!

      You’re part of making this a magical rainbow unicorn herd instead of one lonely depressed unicorn in a coffee shop figuring out if it would be easier or harder to try sipping coffee with a straw. So thank you!

  37. I found my queerness almost a year ago at the ripe age of 32. It was a confusing and electrifying time. I needed help. I might have Googled “how to have sex as a lesbian” a few times. I cried a lot. I read autostraddle religiously.
    Autostraddle has helped me through my MEGA AWKWARD first girl dates, my first forays into getting down in vadge town, setting up and arsenal of sex toys, coming out to friends, family, coworkers AND MYSELF, and falling in love.
    I was scared and I needed help and , the autostraddle contributors and community were there, saying things I felt and didn’t know how to say yet.

    So yeh, thanks. I probably would have had a breakdown (more of a breakdown) without you guys xx

  38. Wow, Riese, thank you for this very informative piece! I had no idea that facebook traffic had such an effect on other websites, much less my very favorite corner of the queer-fairytale-forest known as Autostraddle. As many others in this thread have said, it says a lot about you guys that you consistently engage with us in this way.. As the leaders of this community and friends who care enough to go “hey, wait a minute guys.. We need to talk”.
    As for why I have stayed quiet until…last weekend, actually- I mentioned in my comment under the Independence Day thread that it has a lot to do with my social anxiety. I have a lot of “I have nothing to contribute to these already awesome conversations” thoughts, a lot of self-doubt, a lot of “everything I say has to be measured or cool or witty or I won’t be liked” feelings.. so I’ve defaulted to lurking in most cases. But I will make a concerted effort to change this, knowing what I know now and truly wanting to be a part of these conversations in spite of being intimidated at times.
    Now, to the whole callout culture thing.. I feel like the fact that the internet can be such an ugly, intimidating place is a very large part of the reason why many of us go on the defensive and overreact when we see something that we consider to be offensive. It just feels like there are so many people online who really do get into social justice discussions with the intent to harm or troll or whatever the case may be, that it’s easy to get ruffled when you see someone mess up. That said, a lot of us see this as a safe space, and in order for it to remain so, everyone needs to be able to put their lovely rainbow plumage down and give each other the benefit of the doubt, because when we don’t.. tumblr-style flaming wars happen (don’t get me wrong.. I like tumblr a lot in a lot of ways and I probably spend too much time over there, but a lot of its users can be outright cruel and seem unable or unwilling to differentiate between people who just don’t know better and trolls).
    Anyway, my point here is, keep on keeping on, lovelies, and I look forward to interacting with you all more often!

  39. Sharing with my digital marketing team. And on Facebook (I KNOW, but that’s where I live).

    I don’t comment because I’m an ally, and I don’t want to invade the safe space. But I live for the comment awards every Friday because they are awesome. (My LGBTQ teens roll their eyes at me. Come to think, they do that regardless.)

  40. This was a great article. I commented on the MetaFilter post about it and then realized I should also comment here. :) I particularly liked this insight:

    We feel confident, after ten years of total immersion in internet dialogue, with stating the following: productive conversations only happen when we assume good faith and treat each other with the patience and kindness that we devote to conversations with our friends and others we know and respect.

    What a perfect description of why conversations go sideways and how to get them back on track.

  41. I normally wouldn’t comment, for fear of not saying anything other posters have not, but in the spirit of the article I will stop lurking and echo many of the other posters here is saying that Autostraddle is one of the few places where my personal ‘don’t read the comments’ rule (forged while reading some toxic exchanges on tumblr and Comment is Free) doesn’t apply. So thank you for writing this, and I will try to be a more proactive commenter henceforth!

  42. I’ve been reading AS for around, umm, five-ish years, and find that the comments are actually better than what they used to be. Back in the day it was SUCH an echo-chamber and I remember being actively annoyed by it a lot of the time. Then there came a time with a lot of flame-wars every time bisexuality was mentioned, I’m glad you put and end to that shit… Now I think the comment are quite balanced, with a lot of different opinions and discussions going on. Is this what you call ‘call-out culture’? I get that it’s probably more stressful for the writers, but as a reader I find the current comments culture interesting and engaging.

    I could say so much more but I gotta run. Anyway, I love AS, keep up the great work!

  43. Hello,

    I love commenting! But, like many others, I don’t comment as much as perhaps I might. I have attempted to enumerate the reasons why, because I also love lists!

    1. To paraphrase William Morris, I only want to make comments I know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful(ly witty). Now I am realising that general effusions of praise that I always felt were kind of pointless are actually very useful in making people feel good!

    2. Obviously, time is the biggest enemy of the well-crafted comment, both the finding of time to write them, and the passing of time, which makes you think a conversation is over. I feel like the ultimate solution to this is to destroy the patriarchal Western employment model so we all have more free time to focus on important things such as commenting on celesbian relationship rumours. In the meantime though, I think there are technical solutions to be found. Unlike others, I don’t care for comment editing, but I would absolutely love comment drafting, so I can pick up half-formed thoughts when I have more time and better devices on which to finish them. As for commenting on old posts, I guess expanding the “latest comments” section and fixing the whole email notifications thing would help with that.

    3. Sometimes I just don’t think you need another white cis woman’s voice in a conversation, or I feel like I’d be intruding on issues that aren’t mine to talk about. But I get that commenting is also about registering one’s appreciation for a post. If there was a way of saying “I appreciate this post and thank you and the commenters for informing me about this complex issue that I have no useful input on” without sounding like a patronising asshole, I would like to find it.

    4. Sometimes I feel like I can only express myself fully with a custom gif derived from an image of Marisa from S2 of the Real L Word, but I am not in a position to create one.

    5. Frequently I want to say something close to the bone that I know some people would find funny, but some people would find offensive. If I got called out, I’d feel bad, so it seems safest to keep schtum. I feel like I’d be more likely to comment in an A+ article in these situations because it’s a generally more open and forgiving environment.

    6. Back when you did the ask-me-anything A+ drive, I asked for articles about 90s nostalgia and international snackfoods and other stuff and, lo and behold, very soon those articles appeared on the website. For a brief period I believed I had a magical power where whatever I commented would come to pass. This responsibility was too much for me to bear – like, what if I accidentally joked that I wanted to see a bunch of gross men wearing thongs? So it seemed sage to keep comments on the down-low for a while.

    Anyway, because of a fortuitously-timed change in personal circumstances, I should have a bit more free time, so I will endeavour to comment ad nauseum for a while! Huzzah!

  44. This was so amazing. This is so amazing. Autostraddle is more than a website and I continually appreciate how you all hold to that even as you get bigger and bigger. I think I said this in another post recently. But I just can’t believe it because it’s so wonderful and growing from grassroots to successful, larger business often entails a loss of a lot of what drew people to the phenomenon in the first place. And so often it feels like “those in charge” are willing to accept that trade-off for success. But you aren’t, and that fills me with gladness and hope.

  45. There is something I do want to flag though as a potential concern: I’m concerned that in the wave of positivity and “We love each other!” and so on, people who may have slightly-less-than-positive feelings about the site, the membership, or the topic at hand would feel uncomfortable saying anything because they’d be seen as party poopers.

    It’s the flip-side of “callout culture is toxic so let’s not do that”: any sort of dissent is therefore harmful, even if the person dissenting is being as thoughtful or honest as they can be. I’ve been in spaces where in the rush to not get into callout toxicity, it only ended up shutting up the marginalized folk who were most in danger of being harmed by people’s thoughtlessness but couldn’t say anything to protect themselves or call out that thoughtlessness because “oh no now you’re toxic callout culture”.

    Will there be space for dissent and discomfort here, especially with this Comment Week? Even on this thread – are people comfortable going against the grain? Sure, nobody has to be rude or mean about it, but when the air of the room is EVERYTHING IS AMAZING YAY then even the slightest bit of disagreement can seem very rude in comparison.

    • This has been lurking at the back of my mind, tbh. I worry about it any time I see discussions of callout culture being toxic. I absolutely believe that it’s an important discussion to have, and to keep in mind when commenting, especially as someone who spent years on tumblr and has had to back off due to burnout. But I don’t know how to find the balance between that and making sure marginalized people get to speak and express dissent in ways that might not always seem palatable to everyone. I mean, in my head there’s definitely space for both of those things; I just worry about it getting abused in ways that don’t allow the people who need to speak up most to do so.

    • I think ultimately the idea is we want this to be a safer space in which to disagree or dissent, you know? We were super aware and conscious that the concern you raise would be a common concern when we sat down to edit this piece, for sure.

  46. I must admit that I am guilty of the read, laugh out loud, possibly take the suggestions of a new book, film, ideal, etc. and just go about my life without commenting. It’s crazy because I know how much people rely on feedback, but it just never connected for me. I totally took it as they KNOW their site rocks, boom! Now, I’m going to make more of an effort to respond.

  47. I was one of those people who just lurked around the site, partially because I wasn’t out to anyone yet and partially because I can get lost in my own head. This has made me really rethink how I interact with Autostraddle. Thanks :)

  48. I love Things That I Read That I Love! but I’ve never commented on it, sorry. I’ve don’t really comment on internet articles in general. I do read AS comments tho because the conversations are usually interesting. AS and Jezebel are really the only sites where I read the comments.

  49. Thanks for this – as a past Autostraddle devotee, the community within the comments was really important to me years ago! I am glad to read such a thorough post encouraging this continuation (to the point where I logged in to comment for the first time in…over a year and a half). I am in the strange minority of readers – of being in a big city, and very out, but not having Facebook and its connective capabilities and also not attending A-Camp/IRL Autostraddle culture. Though I don’t read AS consistently anymore, it has grown incredibly (actually: unbelievably) and that is a testament to both the editors/staff and the community here. I loved being a part of it when I needed it; I love still having that option; I love referring it to people who need it now.

    Autostraddle has always felt like a promise of good faith, from you to us; it has always felt like people I know & respect. To quote an above comment: “Sometimes I just don’t think you need another white cis woman’s voice in a conversation,” but this article/discussion hit me with a renewed interest in participating.

  50. It’s really nice to hear more of the back story of your development! I love how everyone is so active and caring here, most other places are up in the air. Everyone is varied but they also have in common the need to share information and offer insight! I usually just read articles and comments, without offering any opinion, but I think that being active will be a great experience for all.

  51. This article was fantastic and gave me all the feels.

    When I first started reading Autostraddle I did it in secret. When I noticed there was a Facebook page I still wasn’t out and was afraid to “like” it because everyone would know.

    Now I’m in the A-Camp group but it’s different because it’s closed. The 2012 me wouldn’t have appreciated all of the conversation happening in other places other than right here.

  52. So until this week I had never comented a single article although I have been reading AS for a long time.
    The main reason is fear. But its not really fear of the community, usually everyone is really welcoming/ encouraging. It is fear of not adding anything to the table, of not mattering, of having nothing new to add to a topic that has not already been said way smarter/cuter/more elocuent because english is not my native language (also a barrier why I have never submitted anything…)
    But thanks to this post I now know that sometimes it is ok to just say something short, it doesn`t have to be a PhD level-discussion

  53. You know I live a very quiet life. Life changed very dramatically for me when I met my partner. We’ve been together 4 years, we are raising a 6yo, I have a long commute to work. I don’t have a lot of time. And the only real engagement I have with the queer community comes from you guys. I have a few gay friends but they are mostly just like me.
    I will make more of an effort to be vocal. You are very much appreciated by me. You certainly do a good job of explaining what the hell is going on! And I love recaps. I don’t get to watch a lot of the shows but I love reading how you write about them.

  54. but we also need to talk about commenting culture in general, and how many readers — including our own staff! — have become scared to comment, period.

    It’s not just about the toxicity of call-out culture; I think there’s another side to this as well. I’m an avid Autostraddler, one of those old skool kids who still follows the actual site itself, and I often share things on twitter (I’ve still managed to avoid engaging with Facebook). But I seldom comment here, even though I read the comments and enjoy them.

    Part of the problem, for me, is that it feels like I don’t have much to add to the specific discussions going on. And over the years I’ve learned to be a good enough social justice advocate to know when my voice isn’t needed, when speaking is just a form of trying to steal the stage. On a lot of topics (queer positivism, body positivism, etc) we have plenty of voices. On other topics (esp., anticolonialism and related race/ethnicity issues), I’m especially cautious of spotlight stealing, speaking for others, and coopting others’ voices. So there are only a handful of topics (trans issues, invisible disabilities, domestic violence, etc) where I feel my voice is needed: both to fill the silence, and to speak for myself.

    (I know I’ve overinternalized those lessons about not speaking out. Growing up in an abusive household, you learn how not to get hit; and as a trans woman who’s opposed to the transphobic classist US-centric white-supremacist basis of “radical feminism”, you get hit a lot in online feminist circles. Not that it’s ever been an issue here (for me), just that we all carry our pasts with us wherever we go. Still, I think my earlier point stands.)

  55. Augh, I’m a bit late commenting on this article, but I just wanted to add to the mountain of gratitude that has been piling up here.
    Even though I don’t comment super frequently, I visit this website on a daily basis and have grown to absolutely adore it. I’ve tried pride groups and GSA’s and all sorts of things to find more people in the LGBT community, but autostrade has been the one place I’ve truly felt comfortable. A huge part of that is due to the fact that you guys are so open and supportive here.
    You guys helped me feel brave enough to finally come out publicly, you guys are the ones who helped remind me that even though I live in a small town, I’m not alone in all of this. You guys have shared your frustrations, your joys, and your adorable pictures of your pets.
    So although I’m not insanely active on this site, I still feel like I belong here, that I’m welcome here, and that means so, SO much to me.
    So thank you all for being amazing, and I’ll try my hardest to comment more often!

  56. Please, please keep the site accessible to us people who refuse to use social media. As you mentioned, as time has gone by I have been reduced to a meer spectator of some of my favorite queer websites. I can’t join social media due to a past stalker, a very dangerous one at that. This means that I can’t comment anymore on sites that I was commentating on for years or decades. I still visit them and have things to say but being unwilling to join Facebook my voice is silenced.

    Don’the forget not everyone can or is willing to join a social media site just to be able to comment on Web articles.

  57. I LIKE THIS. I like you all. I like it here. I always worry that what I would say isn’t worth someone else’s time to read or that I should be an expert on everything before I say anything. BUT I WILL WORK ON THIS (and the low self esteem about my writing and brain thoughts that I just revealed)

    LOVE YOUUU. Thanks for everything.

  58. Excellent points, thanks for this! I’ve just registered and this is my very first comment hurrah. I’ve been reading autostraddle for years but am usually a dyed-in-the-wool lurker everywhere. Here it’s in large part because it seems like if there’s something smart or thoughtful to say about something the writers or commenters have already said it, but I can do some appreciation comments at least.

  59. When I first joined I was just coming out and felt isolated and terrified and confused, and this community felt so welcoming I couldn’t get enough of it. As time went by and I grew more comfortable being myself and made queer friends, I gradually stopped commenting. I’m one of the many people who tend to overthink/second-guess the value of what I’ve written once I see it spelled out (“does the whole internet even care about this thing I thought?”), so as I came to feel heard/known/understood by people I knew, finding that connection here became less urgent for me and I guess I stopped putting in the effort to verbalize my thoughts and feelings and contribute to the community. But after thinking about it, I want to change that. I really value this website and community, you’ve done so much for me and so many others! So I want to do my part by engaging more deeply and thoughtfully. Yesterday I finally joined A+. Today I’m resolving to comment more even if it means reading less. This shy person is not going to be silent/invisible anymore.

    • right so since starting gassin in the comments this afternoon I have become both more happy and much more addicted to autostraddle, and also excited to become part of a blissfully 1.0-feeling internet commune with international/galactic queers. Before autostraddle, I thought ‘internet community’ was a meaningless advertising phrase placeholder for something long since destroyed by the marketisation of the internet. Now I believe that keeping each other – strangers – cared-for and socially-connected on the internet can be real. The flame is still blazing amongst the lesbians. (Lesbians never get the memo, they are too busy lighting up the skies.)

  60. I think that the AS comment section is the queer heaven of the internet. It’s the only site where I feel confident enough to comment, even if I’m worried that my english sucks or that I’m not adding anything to the discussion or that I’m just saying something stupid. And it’s the only site where I can read comments under articles about bisexuality without feeling the need to throw up after, if you managed to do that, I think you can do anything.

    The combination of your articles and the discussions in the comments has teached me SO MUCH and has helped me become the person I am today, seriously. Thank you, and everyone on here, for that.

    And this comes from a person who only knows AS online, I have never met anyone IRL through the site, I can’t even imagine how even greater that would have been for me when I had zero queer friends (this now has changed fortunately).

  61. I was a Slate commenter forever before I became a Slate writer, and it’s really depressing to me that the things I loved about the internet- comments sections and forums- are being consumed by Facebook.

    Honestly, and don’t take this the wrong way, guys, but I really think prominent feminists have had an impact on this, making comments sections and other places where community arises around anonymous strangers out to be these cesspools of hatred with no redeeming value. I get that there are problems with commenting culture and internet culture, but calls to get rid of all anonymity are at least as likely to negatively impact queer youth as they are to vanquish trolls.

    It makes my heart happy to see Autostraddle on the barricades, trying to defend their version of anonymous internet community space. I rarely comment here, but I love the site and its commenting culture, and I truly hope it can survive and thrive.

  62. Autostraddle has meant a lot to me, I probably read at least one article a day here. However, I have actually tried to curtail my commenting because I don’t know where the fuck I fit in. I’m a mixed kid who’s white-passing, raised upper middle class, cis and queer-but-straight-leaning which makes me not trust my own voice amongst so many people who don’t get heard elsewhere. Even without the legit fear of embarrassing myself by saying something ignorant, I’m really afraid hurting anybody by taking up space in a safe area where people who are tired of fighting for every iota of respect they earn can relax and feel Heard and Seen. I thought I was being supportive through my silence, but I wonder if I’ve identified so much with the markers of privilege that I don’t feel heard or seen either.

    I really love this community. I want to protect it as best I can and if it means speaking up more, I’ll do it, and if it means listening more, I’ll do that too. <3

    P.S. Bring on the witch content! I promise I have lots to contribute there

  63. I haven’t commented in a long time. For so many reasons, but one of the reasons is definitely that the last time I submitted a comment, I was arguing. I don’t like arguing I was frustrated that people were being so mean-spirited about Pumpkin and Mama June–there was some real ugliness going on, and I was encouraging a little more kindness. Then someone replied that they doubted I would make the same argument for a black woman, which just came out of nowhere, and really upset me, especially since I have been actively working on keeping myself informed about race, and I am especially aware of my privilege as a white person.

    So I just stopped after that. It didn’t seem like my opinion mattered that much, and I felt silly for caring. I felt stupid for talking at all. I recognize that I am not special, and I didn’t want to add my voice to a room already filled with voices.

    So.

    I also came out as bisexual after ten years of living as a lesbian, and I am now in a relationship with a man, which is kind of confusing to my queer identity. So I feel less valid as a commenter on AS, which has absolutely nothing to do with the editorial team, and way more to do with my own hangups.

    I love Autostraddle though. I started reading five years ago, and I have been a regular visitor to the site ever since. I love the comments section more than anything! Sometimes the comments are as illuminating or more so than the article. Even though I haven’t made IRL friends, I have had some truly interesting conversations, and it has made me feel less alone.

    I guess I just want to speak up again, and say I appreciate the community that you all have worked so hard to create. It matters to me.

  64. Dear Riese and everybody else at this kickass site,

    I found Autostraddle before I even came out and it only took reading a few posts to know I had come to a safe space. You guys have built something amazing that has not only helped old queer me to learn about queer culture and history but also connect with other people who are like me. I don’t comment very much on any website but here is the place I comment most because I trust the community. This is the utmost compliment to the thing you guys have created and continue to nurture. Thank you Autostraddle, for being amazing, and thank you Autostraddlers, for being rad internet strangers (some of you are now my internet friends) for making this such a great space.

    Autostraddle FOR. EV. ER.

    Love, Liz

  65. Also, the Krisily Kennedy is Bisexual article and the interview that followed it were my very favorite thing this website has ever published. The (award winning) graphics on the original post still stand out in my mind as just the goddamn best thing ever. I just wanted you guys to know that.

    Still nothing but love from me,

    Liz

  66. I discovered Autostraddle two or three years ago when it was mentioned on another website, and I read at least half of the articles. But I rarely comment. I rarely sign in. It just doesn’t occur to me to comment because I’m used to reading and moving on to the next thing. Now I’m rethinking that mindset, since this is one of my favorite websites and I’ve never said so.

    I don’t care for Facebook and its ilk. I just access the website the usual way.

  67. This is the best piece I have ever read about commenting and internet communities. I personally love comment sections and search out and stay on websites with great commenting communities. (Seriously, I know what my friends think, learning about other peeps is more fun). I’m glad to hear you guys are so committed!

  68. So I just figured out that I like girls a few months ago, like wham bam kapow life altering pile of holy shit! And without Autostraddle I don’t know if I could have handled all the feelings and confusion and angst. I often read the comments section, but I never really thought about chiming in, since I’m not really the commenting type. BUT this article inspired me to make an account and maybe try to write more things sometimes maybe! So hi guys, nice to meet you all :)

  69. Thanks for this folks!

    Often, after reading an article, I really want to leave a comment because I’ve really loved the piece, but can’t think of anything more to say other than ‘thank-you’ or ‘this was great’. And then I’m not sure whether that’s really adding anything, or if I’ll just become ‘that thank-y commenter’, y’know?

    So after reading this I’ll definitely endeavour to comment more. Heck! Maybe I’ll start a New (Financial) Year’s Resolution to comment on every article that I read, even if it’s just to say thanks! :-D #thanks

  70. just here to say i have always appreciated autostraddle’s honesty, transparency and HEART all of which have defined autostraddle since the very beginning and continue to be so important… i could ramble on about how much AS has taught me in >6yrs but i’ll stop because the dog needs to go outside. thank you all <3

  71. I was bad at commenting back even when it was still in style (was it in style?) and then when I actually wanted to do it and interact with people online more, it’s like everyone disappeared and suddenly didn’t like the same styles of online interaction I wanted anymore.

  72. Yeah, this is definitely the only publication I read regularly where I read the comments. Thank you for continuing to be so transparent and for being so damn dreamy; this site is the queer bees knees. <3

  73. This hits pretty close to home. I abandoned my main account about 3 months ago because I said some snappy, irritated thing in the comments and I am too embarrassed to log back in – I wish I could just delete it. I was (still am) being badly bullied by biphobic lesbians on tumblr, and I came to read AS still angry about it and saw one biphobic comment and decided that all lesbians hate me and flounced dramatically, but it really wasn’t merited and I’m sorry :/ it was super immature and I wish it could go away so I could use my main account again!

    • Hey S, I think you’re being too hard on yourself! It sounds like you were having a rough time and reacted in a very human and understandable way. We’re all muddling along as best we can, and sometimes that includes overreacting when we feel righteously angry. What I’m saying is, you don’t have to run away and hide! (Also the internet has a pretty short memory so I feel like everyone maybe/probably already forgot?) If you’re really super worried about people jumping to conclusions about you based on that one comment if they come across it, maybe you could comment on it saying exactly what you said here.. I really don’t see how any reasonable person could hold it against you. We love you ok, please don’t exile yourself!

      BUT ALSO: biphobia is definitely a billion times more immature than being angry about biphobia. I’m so sorry that you have to deal with that bullshit. You have zero obligation to be an angel when faced with assholes. So. There’s that.

  74. Well now I have to take a long, hard look at my internetting habits.

    I’m definitely one of those people who never comments and usually only gets linked to posts via another website. And I think part of that is being accustomed to the horrible comment spaces that the internet is so well-known for, especially when the topic is queer shit.

    But I suppose if you want to have a community, you have to participate in that community. So here I am, commenting. Thank you very much for this post.

  75. Great article. I blog for work and write fanfiction for fun, and in both I have noticed a steep decline in the number of comments that people leave. In fandom, I’ve wondered if the ability to “like” on Tumblr and AO3 discourages people from commenting — they feel like they’ve left sufficient feedback. But I hadn’t thought about its relationship to the trend of less commenting in general. It’s too bad, because building community is a prime motivation for participating in fandom. No one’s getting paid to write fanfiction (pull-to-publish notwithstanding). If writers don’t get comments, they often lose the mojo to write.

  76. Coming out of the woodwork to comment for the first time. Thank you. I’m very relieved to hear this clarification about AS’ official position regarding callout culture. It had gotten to the point where I thought it was being unofficially endorsed, and things were starting to turn into the Oppression Olympics. I was feeling like that despite being a daily reader (and annual donator) for 4 years, there soon wouldn’t be a place for me here. This changes everything.

  77. This is a great essay. I do wish you hadn’t chosen to use the word “cis” in a disparaging context, or to mock people who use the phrase “reverse racism”, though, because I would have liked to feel free to be able to link this essay all over the internet and be persuasive no matter what audience I was trying to speak to. Little jabs at the people we dislike are always tempting, but they make it harder to spread good ideas around.

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