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January 4, 2013

Why We Comment – Controversy Rules!

It used to be 15 minutes of fame. Today, it’s down to our two cents’ worth. That’s what we’re all about. We’re a culture seeking recognition, any way we can get it. Whether we use Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or Constant Comment – we’re all vying for attention, a little spot in the limelight, if only for a nanosecond.

Why are we like this? I remember when I used to watch TV with my parents way back in the dark ages. We all sat silently accepting whatever we were spoon-fed by the media. We never questioned what we watched. Nor did we discuss it among ourselves. Yes, we bemoaned the assassinations throughout history and the tragedies of war or police brutality. We were glued to the tube when the swaggering Mick Jagger teased the camera with his impudence on Ed Sullivan. Was our biggest thrill seeing man walk on the moon or watching the Beatles perform to the hysterical screams of teenaged girls? Probably to some, the unforgettable moments revolved around Mohammed Ali, the New York Yankees or Elvis Presley. There were many monumental events as I grew up. Yet, our opinions were never part of the equation.

Today, our input is as important as the issues themselves. Pollsters are constantly asking what we think – before, during and after each topic du jour. No sooner have we weighed in on the presidential election, the fiscal cliff or Hillary’s chances for 2016, the massacre of little children in our own affluent community shocks us into a desperate quest for an immediate solution.

Most of what we now watch on TV implores us to join the conversation by texting or posting our comments online. Even the radio traffic reports invite us to call in if we see a problem on the roads. We are as much a part of the story as the story itself.

Does this make us feel important? Appreciated? Involved? With so many opinions circulating, how can we believe anything we say can possibly be so unique and compelling that it will rise to the top and astound everyone with our perspicacity?

Of course, there is always a winner, even for the biggest mega-millions lottery. No matter how improbable the odds, how remote our chances, a triumphant victor will emerge en masse or as one lucky individual.

But as with everything today, how fleeting the moment, how quickly forgotten. As brilliant as our statement may have been, as mind-boggling our perspective, there is little we can do to permanently impress our world with our indisputable value. The only way anyone achieves long-lasting popularity is through repeat performance. Once is never enough. So we all just keep trying. Over and over again.

Every day is a new opportunity to express ourselves in some extraordinary way that will bring us the glory we deserve.

It’s not so much whether we are for, or against, but rather why we have taken a particular stance. It’s about the thinking that has influenced our decision, the history behind our deliberation and the reasons we feel the way we do. To whom do we owe our philosophy, what has contributed to our beliefs?

But maybe it’s not so deep. Perhaps we participate in the discussion because we want to belong, to be a part of something, one of the in-crowd. To sit on the sidelines is no fun at all. Something we say may trigger a response from someone else, establishing a lifeline to our existence. Then we matter.

And we are alive.

Yes, our comments are our lifeblood. We share because we care. We’re a member in good standing of a society built on intelligence, knowledge and wit and we want everyone to know we’ve got a thing or two to say about it. If we’re wrong, we’ll listen to the other side. If we’re right, we’ll accept the pats on the back. Either way, it feels good to jump in and take part. In 2012, controversy is at the altar. It may be just your humble opinion, but we all want to know. Please. Speak now, or forever hold your peace.

Marilyn Bontempo, president of Mid-Hudson Marketing, based in Holmes, New York, has been developing strategies for business success for more than 36 years. A professional writer and graduate of Bard College, she has won numerous awards for excellence in marketing, photography, graphics, writing and web design. As a specialist in branding, she assists many of her clients with management of their social media and public relations initiatives. In addition, she handles e-commerce for a number of online merchants not only on their own websites but also through eBay, Amazon and others. View her work at

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