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What Your Comments Say About You - Erik Kondo

Updated: Feb 5, 2023

Screenshot of Facebook comments
Screenshot of Facebook comments

Review any video of an impressive personal achievement on social media and you will see a wide variety of comments. Broadly speaking, they are two large categories that the comments fit into, positive and negative sentiment.

Positive sentiment refers to comments that celebrate the person's achievement. They recognize that the person has achieved something impressive and gladly give him or her credit. Negative sentiment refers to comments that in some manner take away from the achievement. People will see the exact same thing, yet some respond with positivity and others with negativity. Why the difference? Here are my thoughts on what motivates these opposite types of responses.

When a confident and accomplished person sees someone doing something impressive, it doesn't diminish him or her. Many times, they will view that achievement as a source of motivation for self-improvement. They are heartened by seeing others succeed. They are empowered by the existence of high-level human performance regardless of who is involved. Therefore, they naturally provide positive commentary.

On the other hand, there are those people who are lacking in self-confidence and personal achievement. They feel envious when others receive accolades. When they view other people accomplishing difficult feats, they question their own ability and feel worse. In order to make themselves feel better, they feel the need to reduce the person's accomplishment in some manner. By doing so, they can temporarily soothe their ego. It is the classic Sour Grapes phenomenon. By acting unimpressed, they are trying to show the world that they could do better if they only cared enough to do so.

Rather than the comments providing a perspective on the accomplishment under review, they provide insight into the psychology of the commentators.

What happens when a person with a disability is the one accomplishing the feat? How does this change how people respond?

For the positive people, little changes. They celebrate human achievement, disability or not.

Overall, the rate of negative commentary increases significantly. And the subject of the commentary is more likely to involve some type of joke or remark about the person's disability. We live in a society where it is socially acceptable to poke fun at a person's disability whereas race, gender and sexual orientation jokes are not ok.

No longer do the commentators put themselves into the shoes of the performer. They engage in othering. Many of the commentators feel a sense of unity in their collective state of not having a disability. The commentators feel less threatened and more smug. Who cares if the person can do some cool and amazing things? They still have a disability, after all. Ha!

When an able-bodied person engages in a challenging and potentially dangerous activity, people rarely question why he or she would do so. But when a person with a disability does so, questions abound. Why isn't a wheelchair user satisfied with just using his or her wheelchair for mobility? Why is that not enough? How did he or her get disabled in the first place? Isn't that activity too dangerous for him/her, anyway?

There are also those that gush "inspiration porn". They talk about the person's "amazing will power" or "ability to overcome adversity against all odds". While not being outright disparaging, these commentators are still engaging in a subtle form of othering. They are focused on the person's disability as a differentiating factor rather than his or her accomplishment.

If you want to learn about a person, it's not what they say about themselves that will give you insight into who they really are. Take a look at how they talk about other people for a deeper view into their soul. Chances are you will find something revealing about their true nature.

The screenshot of comments are from Evan Lalanne's recent wheelchair electric skateboarding video, but they are a typical representation.


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