When the going gets tough, hit the delete button! (Reddit and social media commenting guide)

When the going gets tough, hit that delete button. People think that deleting downvoted comments is cowardly. I disagree: it’s cutting your losses. Why would the feature exist if you’re not allowed to use it? Downvotes have gotten worse. Compared to even as recently as 2 years ago, commenting is like crossing a tightrope of offending people on either side (or in spatial dimensions you cannot even see or imagine).

I have seen instances where perfectly good comments, including comments that are directly relevant or applicable to the parent comment, are downvoted. It’s not cowardly to delete, but just availing oneself of options to make the internet experience a little easier and more enjoyable. It’s not my imagination that people have gotten more trigger-happy with the downvotes over the past few years especially. If people were less inclined to downvote out of disagreement, there would be no need to care, but times have changed. Maybe it’s a more divided political climate due to Covid, Elon’s Twitter buyout, or Trump–who knows. So smash that delete button. It’s there for a reason.

This may seem petty, but we’re living in an era of pettiness. Yes, they are just ‘internet points’, but many communities may revoke posting privileges if you get too many downvotes. Or downvoted comments may be reported to moderators. Or users who accumulate too many downvotes or other negative feedback may have their content suppressed via ‘sentiment algorithms’, which is especially common on social media. So there is a practical matter to deleting comments, not just because of hurt feelings or vanity.

Also, a lot of disagreement or source requests are not in good faith. People ask for sources or clarification, when they are perfectly capable of using Google. It’s not because they cannot, but it’s a leading question. Providing a source or clarification only digs you in deeper, as it will never meet the impossibly high standard, as the request was made in poor faith to begin with. Delete or ignore and move on.

Let’s say that your comment initially gets some up-votes, but then someone replies with a kill shot–you should delete your comment while it still has positive karma. As I discuss in the post The Interlocutor’s Advantage, a strongly-worded rebuttal is viewed as more credible and authoritative in the eyes of onlookers than the comment which was replied to. The only exception is if the interlocutor is factually wrong (and you can easily demonstrate that he is wrong), in which you can reply with your own kill shot.

A good Reddit ‘lifehack’ is to take advantage of text-based posts. Instead of making a controversial comment, make it as a text post. This is useful because you can only lose a single karma point for downvoted posts, but potentially lose unlimited karma for comments. I have actually gained karma from controversial posts even though the score was zero.

If getting heat in the comments for your submitted link or text post, never defend it, as that will incur unlimited karma loss in the comments. Just ignore or delete. Again, you are only capped at one point of karma loss for posts. Explaining yourself seldom accomplishes anything because the verdict has already been rendered that you are wrong (even if you aren’t).

On Reddit subs or Hacker News discussions with lots of comments (more than 100), there is little point of replying because your comment will be buried unless someone sets their setting to ‘sort by new’, which no one does. The default on Reddit is ‘sort by top’, so all new comments go to the bottom. Sometimes I will see someone write a huge, detailed high-quality comment which gets zero votes because they posted it too late and it was buried; a better solution for entering late in a discussion is to piggyback off a top-level child thread.

Another hack is the comment switch. Let’s say you post a comment that is downvoted because you express a sentiment that is unpopular or wrong. Quickly edit the comment it to take the opposite position. Then people will see that this kosher comment was unjustly downvoted and will re-vote it up. Deleting the comment means you cannot take advantage of this. But if someone quotes your original comment, you have to be clever enough to edit the comment in such a way as to incorporate the quoted text yet still take the opposite position. Or just completely rewrite the comment to something as inoffensive or agreeable as possible. This may seem petty, but this is 2024 and pettiness is of the essence here.

Don’t try to red pill the normies with your spicy politically-incorrect takes. Your comment will simply be downvoted to oblivion unless it’s buried (see above), and you may get banned from that community or even sitewide. I seen it happen a few times. It’s not worth it.

Some subs require that you post a child comment beneath link submissions summarizing the submitted link, called a ‘submission statement’. I am opposed to this for a few reasons: Some articles are too complicated to summarize in a few sentences, and others defy summarization altogether. But worse, if people don’t like the article they will also downvote your submission statement too, so you are losing karma on that. A way around this is to make a text post containing a link to the article plus the submission statement in the body, without a child comment.