‘PLEASE READ THE COMMENTS’: COMMENTING CULTURES ACROSS PLATFORMS
An old adage about the internet goes “Don’t Read The Comments”. It is a cynical word of caution from supposedly more experienced and savvy internet users, against a slew of negative, abusive, and unhelpful comments that are usually rampant online, stemming from trolling behaviour (Phillips 2015). “Don’t Read The Comments” has become an internet meme. Alongside parody websites (i.e. @AvoidComments n.d.), trawling through the comments section in search of ludicrosity has become an internet genre in and of itself. This comprises the likes of meme factory ‘The Straits Times Comment Section’ which collates absurd comments from users on a specific newspaper’s Facebook page (STcomments n.d.), as well as internet celebrity troll commentators like ‘American Ken’ M (Know Your Meme n.d.) and Singaporean ‘Peter Tan’ (Yeoh 2018), who post comments on a network of social media and fora in stealthily satirical ways that have even been co-opted for advertorials (Vox 2016). Such vernacular practice has in turn provoked a counter-genre of memes known as “I’m just Here For The Comments” (Tenor n.d.), in which users closely follow social media posts mainly for the resulting discussion and engagement in the comments section rather than the actual post itself. It is on this point of departure that this panel turns its focus to commenting cultures across platforms.