You know when you do something that feels so right on the money that you say to yourself “I should’ve done this years ago!”?
That happened to me a month ago when I returned to YouTube.
But, being back on YouTube wasn’t what was ‘so right.’ It was my decision to turn off the comment section to all new videos.
THAT was the “I should’ve done this years ago!” moment. It only took me 6 years and 250+ videos….
There’s just one hitch…
The “conventional wisdom” around YouTube comments is that you want as many comments as possible and to urge viewers to comment as much as possible as it increases your video’s standing and potentially brings more people to your channel.
And on the face of it, that’s a good thing.
However…over the years I’ve developed a habit of questioning conventional wisdom.
Why? Because it turns out that most of it is, well, conventional.
As in, ordinary. As in, unoriginal. As in, regular. As in, run of the mill.
So I questioned, and in general thought about this new age of ‘everyone commenting on everything.’
Our “comment culture.”
My conclusion? I don’t want to enable this part of our culture, and don’t feel right about asking people to comment on my work simply for the sake of more views and subscribers. And furthermore, I want to fight against my own urges to be a serial ‘commenter’ as well.
To be clear, my decision to shut off comments had nothing to do with any negative comments whatsoever. In fact, a quick glance at the comment sections on my videos and you’ll see mostly positive and very few negative comments.
On the contrary, my decision was about making my channel solely about the work and not the feedback (not unlike my decision to delete all of my social media accounts in 2018).
Allow me to explain.
I absolutely value my followers – those of you who read my books, this blog, listen to my podcast, watch my videos, join Small Steppers, and/or kick in some Patreon dough every month.
And I want to do right you by you content-wise…but…
In order for me to create the work I do, I need time to focus, to contemplate, to consider, to think.
That means doing what it takes to both create and protect time. Which means minimizing distraction whenever possible, which, in turn means minimizing feedback.
As an aside, I still hear from many of you via a brand new technology called “e-mail.” It’s direct, personal, and takes a little more effort than throwing up a YouTube comment. I think it’s going to be big.
Our world is currently in a feedback loop of sorts. We comment, then someone comments on our comment, and so on. This loop is not moving us forward, and I’d argue that it’s actually moving us backwards.
A world with more critics than artists is never good.
So… the lesson is this:
If there is work you are thinking about making (books, music, dance, short stories, cooking, screenplays, videos/films etc.), then control the feedback. Be very selective and only ask for feedback when you actually want it.
The ultimate success of any piece of work is its authenticity. In other words, how much of YOU made it into what you created?
How effective were you in shutting out the world in order to put an honest piece of work into it?
Fantastic article and super refreshing perspective. Yes I know I’m commenting and giving feedback. 😉
I also feel the same tug on my time and ability to focus from the constant (often unfruitful) feedback loops that I would say can stymy truly original work.
I also find myself bumping up against conventional wisdom often and just recently began to build my music website in a way that speaks to me, namely as an archive site all about my music and which shares some of my perspectives as well. I have no idea how or why it would earn money (the site) and it’s fine to be ok with that.
I am sure that my steady efforts on the site were certainly influenced by the recent Small Steppers course. Thanks again for the work that you do! I will get to leaving a testimonial too, I haven’t forgotten.
John Henry 🙂
Thanks John Henry! Your comment is WAY different than some random, stopped by a video, type comment. I appreciate you taking the time and let me know about your site when it’s done…
A great deal of the time the comments are about people reaching out to and connecting with one another, as well as giving criticism of one’s work. Why not just ignore comments if it makes people happy to engage–rather than to return to the old-fashioned one-way, push paradigm of the early rigid web? It might just not be all about you…even if it’s discussion and discourse around your work or videos.
Point taken, but I don’t think that a great deal of time is spent connecting. In fact, social media, comment culture and the like is not helping people (especially young people). I am all for connecting/relating/discussing, but the too-easy comment platforms are shallow in my opinion. Once I quit all social media I didn’t stop connecting with people–in fact people who really wanted to reach me (and vice versa), like you, are emailing/connecting and it’s been really great. Obviously there are a billion places where people can comment, it’s just that I practice what I preach and don’t see much positive effect of comment culture for the most part. I love when people experience my work and take something from it (whether they like it or not) and move on, or even discuss it with friends etc…Thanks for writing.