Emily Yoffe: Hey, buddy, read the comments before you post one yourself.
Farhad Manjoo: I'm Slate's technology columnist, Farhad Manjoo.
Emily: I'm Emily Yoffe, Slate's Dear Prudence advice columnist, and this is Manners for the Digital Age.
Farhad: This week’s question comes from a man who notices a certain redundancy in Internet comment sections. He writes, “Dear Farhad and Emily, if I want to post in the comment section of an article I read online, like Emily’s Dear Prudence column, am I obligated to read through all the previous remarks to ensure that the points that I’m making haven’t already been discussed? Comments on Dear Prudence can run into the thousands. No way do I have time to read through every thread, but is it rude to cover the same ground others have already discussed? I apologize if you have already covered this topic in an earlier discussion.” Signed, A Cautious Commenter.
So, Emily, you get thousands of comments on your column, do you read them all and do you hate when people repeat other people’s comments?
Emily: I do try to read them all, but I don’t expect other readers to read them all. They probably don’t have as personal as an interest in the column as I do. However, last year I had a Dear Prudence letter from a father of a young boy, and the boy wanted a skirt for Christmas.
Farhad: Oh, I remember that.
Emily: Yes. It got a lot of attention. I said the father should give the boy a skirt but explain the skirt is only for special occasions in the house, etc. I did not mention a kilt. I would say about 750 readers mentioned get him a kilt. So many people said it that, until this day, that was a year ago, every week there’s a running joke in the commenter section of Dear Prudence about “I think a kilt is the answer here.” Let me just say this on the side: I heard from the father. He did get his son a kilt and his son loved it.
Farhad: Oh. So, the commenters were right?
Emily: The commenters were right, but they started each other crazy because then there were 750, “Get him a kilt,” and then there were 750, “Have you noticed 750 people have said get him a kilt?” So I obviously don’t think people who comment need to read all the previous comments, but it helps to read the previous 10-15 just to see if your brilliant point has already been made. Then you can say, “I second it,” or not bother to post.