Blog comments as a mental stimulant

A tray with a bowl of porridge, fruit, nuts and yoghurt, with a pair of bare feet. Viewed from above.
Breakfast with feet

Why comment on blogs? Reasons are many and various, as I found out when I did the Older Bloggers Survey in 2018. For me it’s a social thing and a mental stimulant. I like the people and the process.

Every day I spend at least half an hour reading WordPress blogs, including comments. And almost every day, I comment too. Something in the original blog or a reader’s response stimulates my imagination or memory or my tiny little fund of logic. Something you write bumps into my brain, which bounces back with a “Yes, and…” Out comes a thought that builds on yours, or decorates yours, or veers off-topic in an apparently random segue. A good blog post or even a brief blog comment can act as an incidental or accidental writing prompt.

And almost every day after writing a comment I think, I want to explore that idea further: I’ll blog about it. But I don’t blog about it, because my own projects demand lots of time and attention. Blogging is dear to my heart but it’s not my core creative activity.

So today I’ll pick a couple of blog posts with comments that have stimulated my thoughts recently, just to show you what I mean.

Feet (Surprised by Joy, writer Wynne Leon)

This post and the comments prompted me to think about all the many ways we could think about our feet.

  • platforms
  • leaders
  • map-readers
  • outliers
  • others
  • invisible
  • unreachable
  • covered in shoes
  • the foundation of the body
  • and (channelling Doris Carnevali, 100-year-old blogger and one of my heroes) fall-preventers.

A Reflection on Aging (Feminism and Religion, Sara Wright)

My comment, prompted by the essay and a comment by Jan:

Is it possible the silence is not about shame but about grief?


I responded:

There is much to grieve over as we age. Loss of capabilities, of roles, of self-image, of people and spaces and projects and dreams. But for each loss, aging offers a gain. New capabilities, roles, people, spaces, projects and dreams. As you say, the thing is to choose or accept them thoughtfully, actively. To make them our own. Thank you for meditating on this topic so that we may do the same.


And Sarah commented:

Oh I am so pleased – virtually no one talks about grieving and aging honestly – what is behind this dreadful silence?


And so it continued.

The dynamics of commenting on blogs

Now this particular conversation may not be your cup of tea: it’s the dynamics that may interest you.

I have one or two blogging friends who almost never comment on blogs. That’s absolutely fine, of course: we all have different agenda. They say they can’t see the point, can’t find blogs that interest them and so forth. And I’ve finally learned to smile and nod. It’s no use telling anyone about the dynamics of commenting: you have to put in the hours and discover it for yourself.

And yet, I just did that pointless thing: told you. Guess I’m a hopeless case. A former teacher can’t always resist the urge to teach… Please forgive me.

32 thoughts on “Blog comments as a mental stimulant

  1. Jan FitzGerald says:

    Feet are fine but I want to lift up the breakfast (which is similar to my own) and see the intriguing placemat. Indian design with elephants?

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      A much loved item from Bangladesh. No elephants although they would be fine breakfast companions. Just people on horses catching eels and fish in the sky.

  2. Myra says:

    Yes I find comments often as interesting as the post. My comment today is what’s in your breakfast please. I see Brazil nuts, walnuts, maybe stewed apple, Greek yoghurt. What else? Looks delicious. Myra πŸ€β€οΈπŸ€

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Hello Myra! Yes, so funny, and this is the way we talk. As a certain man once reproved me, “That (breakfast!) is not the topic of conversation.” Sorry, but it is now! The fruits today are pears and grapefruit, both raw, on a bed of muesli πŸ™‚

      1. Rachel McAlpine says:

        Correction! Not pear but gold kiwi fruit.

  3. Wynne Leon says:

    What a delightful post, Rachel. You are so right about the dynamics of comments — and I’m so glad that I met you through the comments on mine! Thanks for the shout out and link!

  4. Sadje says:

    For me, commenting is the heart of blogging. Without this interaction, we may well write into a void.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      As a book writer, I don’t have anything like the immediate feedback of a blog. That’s a very different relationship. Then again, I love a live audience.

      1. Sadje says:

        A blog is like a live performance πŸ‘πŸΌ

  5. Mr. Wapojif says:

    Blog comments are great! I’ve met all sorts of most excellent people around the world thanks to WordPress. I do satire, so I do get a fair few people arriving on the site, getting confused, and leaving a nasty remark. So they get binned immediately. I have no time for unconstructive negativity.

    As for feet… well, I have stupid big man feet. Sadly. I don’t think about them much.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Binning is so easy on WP. I expect you never put your foot in it,as a satirist…

      1. Mr. Wapojif says:

        My stupid man feet would never fit in anything, so there’s no concern there!

  6. A fine reflection on the process. I spend one hour + every morning on it. Quite early on I included what we had for dinner. My niece responded the next day when I didn’t by saying she couldn’t sleep without knowing what her uncle had for dinner. There followed a tradition which readers seem to like.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Yes, I do like. And here am I sharing my breakfast with you!

  7. granny1947 says:

    I love to get comments.
    Like the idea that someone took the time to share with me.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Yes, I feel pleased about that too. Thank you!

  8. LA says:

    The comments are my favorite thing about blogging. I love getting the conversation started

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      And you are a star at doing that!

      1. LA says:


  9. For me it really is about the comments. Otherwise it’s one hand clapping, isn’t it?

  10. Comments are a bit like the people I meet when walking. Some I know well and stop for a good natter. Others I have a few brief words with and just pass the time of day. A few I wave to as we pass.
    There are a few bloggers who don’t know when to stop responding to comments, and they go on and on to no real purpose. I sometimes feel I am being rude if I am the one who responds to a long line of comments only with a like!
    I really hope that WordPress never succumbs to the other social media responses other than “likes”. I already find myself using emojis more!

    As to feet, I would like to stand up for them. I am a great supporter, as are they!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Yes to the interactions on a walk. Come to think of it, I often have a quick chat with total strangers on the street, which is fun. There’s a particular challenge I feel sometimes : how can I say something worth saying Ina comment, but briefly and non-invasively? (Of course I often just blurt.) Lastly (!) I’m offering you honorary membership of my Body Appreciation Society. No sub, no meetings.

      1. Thank you. That sounds the ideal society!

  11. Your breakfast looks delicious. I like commenting on people’s blogs because I like to imagine the real person on the other end and not think that it’s just some AI spitting words.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I’m eating my breakfast right now! Similar, but with porridge, orange and berries. That’s such an interesting notion, the real person… I promise I’m real!

  12. Nemorino says:

    When reading blogs, especially by people who are not writing in their first language, I try to forget about my many years as a teacher. In particular, I never ever object to dangling participles, though they grate on my nerves each time I read one.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Old habits die hard! The other day I wrote a sentence with a misrelated adverbial phrase (a dangling phrase?). I stared and stared at it. And forced myself to leave it there. I don’t know why. A character test?

  13. cedar51 says:

    I missed a great deal of schooling as a youngster, my grammar speaks in volumes on that matter. I prefer the random conversations I have when out and about. Of late not so much, and definitely none this week. WP has decided I’ve eaten up my photo allowance and I’m not in the right mind frame to decide what next – so it’s all about “words” and if you want to see pictures then it’s off to IG you must go…
    As to my feet, they have (no I have) a letter from radiology to get a plain foot x-ray which is apparently the first step my GP wants to see, before sending me to a specialist. My feet are very short wheel base in relationship to my height and they are causing me issues…

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Good luck with the feet. That sounds like a challenge — thank goodness fot the GP and modern specialist care.

  14. Agree; a thought provoking post. Thank you.

  15. Suzanne says:

    I also think receiving comments is an essential part to blogging. It is lovely to engage with other bloggers to extend on what we have written. I personally don’t bother with bloggers who push the like button all the time without taking the time to write the occasional comment. Porridge rules in this home during winter.

  16. I think of blogs as a window into another person’s life and interests. It gives a different dimension to my life.

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