I’ve been considering why I sometimes vote, but don’t comment on posts, even though I’d like to. Sometimes, I delete substantial comments that I’ve already written.
I think the reason is something like reputation management. Ideally, we’d all feel safe to debate and consider ideas here, without fearing looking stupid. After all, that’s how we learn.
Yet I want to be able to signal “I’ve put a lot of work into this post, believe it really offers some value, and am prepared to stand behind it” in some cases. I fear that commenting a lot, or posting imperfect posts, puts me at risk of losing some of that credibility. The more I comment or post (or at least the more above average I do so), the more I risk accumulating a track record of incorrect statements. Also, even participating in discussions that aren’t my area of writerly focus makes me perceive a credibility risk, analogous to how some scientists carefully avoid speaking about topics beyond their specialty.
A side issue is that public comments can sometimes activate my “called out in public” social sense. For that reason, I have started to use PMs and zoom calls more, both to de-confuse myself with someone else’s post, and to have informal discussions off the public record. Those discussions often seem much more alive and productive than the ones I have through the comment section here.
While it seems beneficial to the community to have people willing to publicly list their mistakes and risk a free and open dialog, I wonder how much this reputation management concern is felt by others?
Also, if it’s not just me, what would be the best way to solve this problem? I can think of a few:
Deciding that this is a feature, not a bug, and continuing to treat reputation as a fragile and valuable thing.
LW developers create an official and convenient anonymizing option, where posters can choose not to have their profile name attached to a comment/post but can reveal it later if they choose.
Actively taking steps to overcome this phobia, perhaps by creating a “ways I’ve been wrong” page, or making an effort to treat the comment section of posts more as a casual and informal space.
Creating two accounts, one public and one pseudonymous.
Using private messages, zoom calls, and chat for more informal conversation.
Looking into guidance aimed at academics for managing their online presence.