Bookmarked Why Can’t We Be Friends — Real Life (Real Life)

Podcasts and other forms of “parasocial” media reframe friendship as monetized self-care

Brendan Mackie talks about the idea of parasociality and our desire for relationships

The psychologists Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary showed in this 1995 paper that people’s need to belong is satisfied only when pleasant interactions with other people are framed in a predictable and regular structure. In the deep human past, such belongingness was mostly provided by the extended family: spouses, parents, children, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. The history of modern friendship is how people have responded to disruptions of that family structure of belongingness by looking outside it, to sworn brothers, friends, TV hosts, and podcasters.

Mackie discusses this all in regards to mediums, such as podcasts or video casts, and the way in which conversations becomes one-way.

This isn’t the democratic paradise that social media once seemed to promise, an open-ended and unpredictable set of conversations among peers who would grow through free debate. Instead it has turned out to be more like looking through a window at a group of friends having a conversation, who can’t hear you as you laugh along with their jokes. In this sense, the prevalence of parasocial media reveals the disappointing parasocial interaction at heart of the internet more broadly.

There is reference throughout the piece to this being applied to supposed ‘online celebrity friends’? However, the question of what constitutes a ‘celebrity’ in the ‘online’ world to me is sometimes blurred. This is something that John Johnston touches upon.

When I think about some of the podcasts, newsletters and even artists I follow on Bandcamp, so often there is the offer of reciprocity, with suggestions as “We would love a review” or “feel free to leave a comment”. But as one follows these ‘likes’ and ‘subscribes’ we discover that this has more consequence for engagement analytics and algorithms than it does for our relationships with such creators. This adds a different twist to the notion of a ‘social media of one‘ or even comments in general. Putting the problem of spam aside, I wonder if the problem with commenting is that it is actually an ill-conceived promise that nobody actually walked through until they did? Although I can easily comment on social media, I wonder how much it actually carries the conversation or is merely another act of destruction? (As a side note, really not sure where webmentions fits within all of this, that is something I will continue to think about.)

Austin Kleon discusses the challenge associated with answering letters from readers by suggesting that the act of sharing itself should be enough. To expect anything more steals from what matters. I assume that it is for this reason he has no comments on his blog?

Maybe Damian Cowell stoically sums it all up best in an interview with Matt Stewart in which he says:

I think what’s important is to remind yourself that it’s all bullshit and you’re not making any difference

In part it is for this reason that as I collect these words and join the dots with my monthly newsletter that I do it for me first and fore-mostly, anything else is a bonus.

“Doug Belshaw” in Parasocial relationships through digital media – Doug Belshaw’s Thought Shrapnel ()

Replied to Remember the Days When People Commented on Blog Posts? (Activate Learning Solutions)

So from a blog post that started about re-introducing the comments section for my blog post, I realise that maybe we need to review our “why” of using social media.

Is it to simply “push” our articles, blog posts, thoughts and reflections. (The bombardment approach and hope that something sticks). Or, can we have more meaningful responses and conversations in our blogs in exchange with our readers who took the time to respond to our posts?

In the past, I would have stuck to my guns with social media but now I’ll take meaningful interactions any day.

What do you think?

Helen, this reminds me of a post I wrote a few years ago unpacking what actually makes a comment.

After unpacking all of the options, it makes me wonder if maybe the comments never left, but rather have become dispersed across various spaces. Maybe the answer is that everyone moves their content and conversations to Medium, but what happens when that space changes and folds under the pressure of investors. Maybe as Martin Weller recently suggested, “Blogging is both like it used to be, and a completely different thing”. Rather than a call to go back to basics, to a time when commenting seemed to be simple, what I think is needed is a broader appreciation of what constitutes a ‘comment’. As with the discussion of digital literacies, maybe we should focus on the act of defining, rather than restrict ourselves with concrete definitions.

Personally, I have taken to the world of webmentions where comments are first written on your own site. I have found this useful as it means I can come back to these ideas, also I feel that I actually own these ideas a bit more. When a corresponding site does not support webmentions, I just cut and paste.

In regards to social media, I have stepped away from broadcasting everything. Now I share out my posts and newsletter, and sometimes respond there depending on the context. I am still intrigued by Micro.Blog as a platform in that the only way an interaction is shown is if it is a comment. Although you can like, this is not presented to the other user. I think that this is a better model, just does not completely fit my own workflow at this point in time.

Replied to Remote Comments (

In order to comment, you need to enter two things: first, the comment itself, in the big comment field (I could probably have made that smaller, but I like long comments; none of this microcontent stuff for me).

And second, you need to enter the URL for comment submission on your own website. This is where your comment will actually be posted. This needs to be the exact URL (you can’t redirect it with a .htaccess, so I learned) and it needs to be able to accept a POST request.

Stephen, I kind of follow your explanation of ‘rcomments’, but the technical specifications are a bit beyond me. I just wonder how this differs from micropub clients?
Replied to Blog comments on social media (

There have been a couple instances where a blog comment on social media added enough value to the conversation or idea shared in my post that it inspired me to quote that comment myself, in the blog comments. However, it wouldn’t be sustainable for me to try to do that all the time. I don’t really have a solution, I think it’s just a matter of accepting that people will choose to comment on social media sites, and blogs are not as social (anymore).

I think that comments are really interesting, especially when pieces are POSSE’d across different platforms. Just to add context, Twitter replies are brought back into my site, whereas I need to manually add in any responses made on your site.  That was one of the reasons I chose to also post my short reply (linked to a longer reply) on Twitter.

On a side note, as I collect my comments, it was funny to notice that I have written three comments on your blog in regards to commuting.

Replied to A checklist for how I’d like comments to work in WordPress by Jeremy Felt (

In current WordPress, the only way for a comment to remain private is for it to stay in an “unapproved” status. It would be nice if comments could flow more easily between unapproved, private, and public.


  • When someone leaves a comment, an option is available to submit the comment as private so that only the post author will see it.
  • When a post author moderates a comment, an option is available to make it private.
  • A post author has the ability to privately reply to a public or private comment within the WordPress admin.
Jeremy, I really like the idea of private comments. I guess this is a part of the wider discussion around private posts.
Replied to (

Twitter conversations are fun, but the richness isn’t there like it is in a longer format blog post and follow up conversation in the comments. Facebook seems to invite compliments like, ‘thanks for sharing’ or ‘I really enjoyed this’, but seldom anything deeper as an add-on to a shared post. LinkedIn seems to have the better conversations coming from blog posts, but they get lost in the stream as opposed to being curated with the blog post.

Thank you for the shout-out David. Read Write Curate was my first attempt at owning my own presence online using Known. However, I have since moved to Read Write Collect and WordPress.

One of the things that I have found useful is recording comments on my own site. For sites that use Webmentions, comments are automagically notified, however for others – like your own – I copy and paste the content. These reply posts add another dot to join together, to link to and build upon.

Replied to by Aaron DavisAaron Davis (Read Write Collect)

What if people had some sort of ownership and control of their presence on the web?

What if we posted comments to other spaces from our own sites utilising the power of webmentions? Both keeping a record of our conversations, as well as owning our opinions.


Replied to “Link In Bio” is a slow knife (Anil Dash)

I don’t care about the imagined “good old days” of the web, and I’m not a pollyanna about the wild, open web being some panacea for all the harms that technology and the internet can enable. But I do think coercive methods of controlling people are a danger, and some of the most insidious techniques are when a platform subtly erases empowering opportunities for its users. So let’s look at all the apps that live under our thumbs, and interrogate the choices they’re making, and then imagine what they would look like if we demanded that our tools don’t tie our hands.

Anil, I agree with you that the web is becoming hostile to links. I often make an effort to include links in my online responses, it is the way I think, however they are usually either striped out or force my comments to be flagged by plugins like Akismet.
Replied to Could You Volunteer as a Student Blogging Challenge Commenter? by Kathleen Morris (The Edublogger)

Right now, we’re looking for a team of adult volunteer commenters. Can you help?

I would love to help, but can not guarantee the time. I wonder if there is a means of finding a random post, such as the ‘?s=random’ function with WordPress?
Replied to Three Ways to Keep Track of Students’ Blog Entries by Richard Byrne (

One of the questions that I often field during my workshop on blogging is, “how do you keep track of what students are writing?” The answer to that depends on a few things including how frequently your students are publishing and the platform through which your students are blogging.

This is one of the big challenges with student blogging. When I used Edublogs in the classroom, I would moderate everything, therefore I would know what is being posted that way. However, I have been wondering lately about the idea of creating a formula in Google Sheets using IMPORTFEED where each new entry to that feed is added to an archive list. Then you could add a simple checkbox to tick off if you have responded to the blog in any way and even condition the whole row to make this process a little more visual.
Replied to The Little “b” and the Big “C” (CogDogBlog)

Another metaphor I often reach for is a DVD. Much of what we do in school feels like the movie on the disk- the paper, the project, the presentation, we focus on the final end product. But my favorite part of DVDs was always all the other stuff, the extras– the director’s commentary, the out takes, the location mini documentary, the story of the making of the movie.

I see blogging as providing that too.
Ask them to write Extras.

I love the notion of the ‘extras’ Alan. I think that I probably need to do more of this.

In regards to comments, I always wonder if we restrict what we consider as a response. I think that being constructive is useful. I just wonder if the ability to comment on Twitter or extends this?

Replied to Comments For Kids Still Count: Teaching And Promoting Quality Commenting by Kathleen Morris (Primary Tech)

While we can’t control what goes on in the larger blogging community too much, we have much more control over our classroom blogging programs. The comment section is an excellent place to connect, learn, and grow. Who wouldn’t want to tap into that?

Thoughtful as always Kathleen. I found blogging in the classroom really interesting, especially for older students who were well already versed in social media. They actually struggled to properly converse. I still wonder why? I am sure that I could have implemented more elements that you touch upon, but I also think that there was a shallowness. There were habits associated with feedback and engagement that we can sometimes take for granted. When I think about Doug Belshaw’s Elements of Digital Literacies, it feels as if this comes back to communication and confidence, as much as it comes down to cognition and constructive use.

When we rue the old days I wonder if we would be willing to give everything up to go back there? We complain about ‘micro-engagement’, but how many of us are willing to turn our back on the ease and benefits that it can bring? I am reminded of lyrics from The Bleacher’s track, I Miss Those Days:

And everyone is changing
And the storefront’s rearranging
I picked up a quarter and I just saw my face
But it’s all coming back now
Like the feeling isn’t over
Hey, I know I was lost but I miss those days

I am sure that there are aspects that have been lost, but I also wonder if there have been benefits as well? Blogging has changed and always will or as Martin Weller puts it, “the future of blogging is blogging”:

I know blogging isn’t like it used to be. It isn’t 2005 anymore, and those early years were very exciting, full of possibility and novelty. But just because it isn’t what it was, doesn’t mean it isn’t what it is. And that is interesting in its own way, some of the old flush is still there, plus a new set of possibilities. Blogging is both like it used to be, and a completely different thing.

One innovation that I think has potential for supporting comemnts is It allows users to share a feed from their blog to a central space and converse there. It is build on webmentions which allow comments to be syndicated back to your own site. Although I am not sure that the platform as it currently stands would be the answer, I think the features show a real prospect. I tried using the dashboard in Global2, but found the space was too busy.

I am wondering if you have any thoughts how we could improve comments outside of the classroom too?

Bookmarked More on the Role of Audience in Social Spaces (

We’ve got to stop telling people who are new to social spaces about the “power of audience” because the truth is that most of today’s audiences are muted at best, choosing consumption over participation in nine conversations out of ten.

Bill Ferriter questions the story that we keep on telling about audience and instead suggests three approaches that should be encouraged:

(1). Bring Your OWN Audience

Instead of trying to build a huge audience of strangers, concentrate on building a small audience of peers

(2). Be a Participating Member of Someone Else’s Audience

Start commenting on the work of others.  Start responding to people’s posts in Twitter.  Let people know that you are listening and learning from them.  Show gratitude for the time that they put into thinking and sharing transparently with others.  Provide challenge to their core ideas — and then push those ideas out through your networks.

(3). Draw attention to the ideas of your audience

I want you to think about my buddy Bob for a minute.  He took his own time to read my original bit on audience.  Then, he took even more of his own time to craft a reply that challenged my thinking and articulated concepts that I hadn’t considered. Instead of spending that same time on his own growth, he was making an investment in me and in our intellectual relationship. That matters, y’all — and I need to respect that investment in some way.

Ferriter has been writing a lot recently about reflection, audiences and comments. Personally, I have taken to being more intentional with my comments by sending comments from my own site. This has had its hiccups, but I think that it offers an alternative future and positive possibility.