Do you really take the time required to think about what you are going to say, comment and respond to? Think about it. How much time do you spend looking at content, constructing your own opinion and expressing yourself? Stop for a minute. Don't read any further. And really think about it.
How many times have you seen a comment on a Blog or on a news item where the person commenting either starts their post with, "I did not take the time to read the other comments, but...", or you can tell by the very nature of their comment that they did not bother to read the flow of the conversation?
Social Media is (or should be) a conversation.
As much as that mantra has been shoved down our collective ears, noses and throats, it does bear repeating. At best, a great Blog post should be the beginning of a great conversation around an idea. When it's a bunch of individuals simply responding back to the post and not pushing the conversation forward in the comments, it becomes more like an article with feedback than something with social media merit. Either that, or simple linkbait.
The community can ruin a good thing.
With each passing day, more and more people are being exposed to the new media channels. Blogs, Podcasts, audio, video, images and text. The ability to immediately publish thoughts, push ideas out there, disagree, argue, praise and coddle is an amazing gift we can give to the development of our society (yes, it's a much bigger idea than what you might have originally thought). Every single voice has merit. Every single slant and take on a issue should be honoured and respected, but it's hard to give a proper perspective if you, yourself, don't take the appropriate time to really read through the thought (and click through to the links within it) and then look at how the conversation in the comments has flowed to date.
That simple act will change everything.
Personally, I have been leaving fewer and fewer comments on Blogs and news items. It's not because there's not enough time in the day, and it's not because I have been following fewer and fewer Blogs. It's the opposite. I'm consuming so much that - more often than not - I don't feel like what I would like to add is adding any additional value or perspective beyond what has already been said.
Either everything that I was thinking was said in the original post, someone in the comments said it better than I could, or someone continued the thought on another Blog. I either nod in approval and move on or acknowledge that someone in the comments took a differing point of view that resonated with me.
There's nothing wrong with participation through reading.
Correction: there's nothing wrong with participation through reading only if your opinion has already been expressed by someone else, or your take on it might add value and push things into another direction.
One of the main criteria for brands to have success in the new digital channels is their ability to add real value. Why can't the same be true for all of us?