In a world of turmoil and hardship, there is one place on the internet where community continues to thrive on the daily: the Money Diaries comment section. If anything, dedicated readers come to Money Diaries day after day for the comments just as much as the diaries themselves. So much so, The New Yorker once wrote about the comments section and McSweeney's has parodied it. The Money Diary comments are not simply a dark, anonymous corner of the internet, but a flourishing, active (and occasionally viral) community. Over the years, Money Diaries enthusiasts have carved out a little corner of the internet, creating a space to talk about financial realities and money-saving tips, GIF-react to large purchases, and of course, take the occasional jab at strangers’ lifestyle choices. Though often anonymous, and not always nice, these comments have become a mainstay — they’ve even become part of my job.
After six months editing Money Diaries, I’m curious: Who are the commenters? What are they like? What makes a Comment Leader a Leader? To find out, I spoke with a myriad of daily commenters and Comment Leaders, as well as our fearless comment moderator, Spot IM, to find who the real people are behind the screen names (SlickWine, ZenWatermelon, StrongPineapple, etc.) — and let me tell you, I was not disappointed.
First, the facts: To become a Comment Leader you must first make a username. This means you lose a certain sense of anonymity, but you’re still just a name on the screen and it requires little to no personal information. Once you’ve created an account, you’ll slowly start moving through the ranks — starting as a Newbie, then an Influencer, then a Contributor, and finally, the coveted Leader. To move through the levels, you simply need to interact — whether it be up or downvoting, commenting, replying, even reporting a comment gains you points (though don’t get slap-happy y’all). Because this information is not readily available (unless you do an extensive Google search like I did), most Leaders I talked to didn’t know the rules, they simply stumbled upon Leader status because they actively participate.
The commenters I spoke with live all over the U.S., vary in age, occupation, likes, and dislikes. Some are diarists themselves, some would never submit because “man, people are rough.” Some feel the need to give constructive criticism, others live by “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” The one thing the commenters can all agree on? Everyone stans Lisaanna, including me.
Ahead, what active commenters and Comment Leaders had to say about the role they play in the Money Diary community (edited for clarity and length).
What do you do for a living, and how much do you make?
“I work for a university doing global public health and I make about $55,000.”
“I’m a business analyst at a recruiting company, making $74k a year + 10% annual bonus.”
“I’m a 23-year-old Account Executive in Atlanta, making $40k a year plus commission.”
“I’m a 26-year-old working in marketing for a law firm, making $47,000.”
“I’m a research associate making $52,000.”
“I'm a UX designer and I make $88,000 a year.”
How often do you comment on Money Diaries? What about other R29 content?
“I comment fairly often — maybe every few days or so. At least once a week. I don't think I've commented on other Refinery29 content though! If I have, it was for a correction because I'm that person. I know.”
“If I read it, I comment, so yes I usually do. I started reading Refinery29 a few years ago. I’m on it every single day. I love Money Diaries the most, but I read pretty much every article on Refinery29. I comment as much as I can, from the perspective of supporting the writers. I like giving them feedback on their stories.”
“Maybe daily — although I'll only comment if I have something nice or supportive to say. I try not to make my negative criticisms personal and will only post those on general Refinery29 articles.”It’s no secret that there are occasionally mean-spirited comments, what do you think of these and have you ever written one?
“I just wonder what it contributes to their day to comment in those mean-spirited bits. It's all just so unnecessary. I don't want that to reflect in my comments.”
“I think they're ridiculous. The nasty commentators fail to realize that no one is perfect with money, even them, and people have different values which impact how they choose to spend their money. The only judgment I really see as acceptable is in relation to things that are morally wrong — like when one diarist was a serial cheater on her boyfriend, and people with high incomes who do no charitable giving. I realize the latter goes back to spending according to your values, but I also believe in giving back when you have more than enough.”
“If I’m truly flabbergasted, I’ll post something that comes off as constructive and short. I think there’s an accountability that comes with having a username, it feels like an identity. It’s easier to be mean and anonymous when you don’t have an account.”
“I don’t mind getting a little feisty in comment replies to defend OP. Some people are so rude and it’s so nice that someone is sharing a piece of their life and I really hate when people get torn apart. Except the co-op thief. We all hated the co-op thief.”
“I've definitely been snarky. Generally, if it involves politics on the right, I have no qualms. I think it's absurd any young woman would work for or support our current administration and I have no patience for that. Mostly I try to be constructive though, even if I don't agree with the diarist's lifestyle or choices or comments.”
Do you have a favourite diary? Or least favourite?
“We do stan a non-polyamourous cheater. ‘I’m not polyamorous, I’m just a cheater,’ is still the best quote. The MLM girl, the Alaska couple. The Paris follow up! We were SO EXCITED. The woman who went to salsa lessons like two years ago who was a high rolling single woman, we were all obsessed with her.”
“I think my favourite diary has to be the very first one ever published. It felt so real and raw. I don’t remember all the specifics, but it was action-packed with multiple dates, doing drugs, and living it up in NYC.”
“I really didn’t like the Chicago story that came out within the past few months where she was openly cheating on her S.O. — this one was just painful to read and full of self-sabotage. I'm not saying I'm perfect but I'm working to always get myself in a better place and just want this OP to want that too.”
Do you think you’re good with money?
“Absolutely. I became obsessed with personal finance during my senior year of college. I save about 40% of my post-tax salary towards retirement and general savings.”
“I don’t know if I’m as knowledgeable about money. I try to be good with it, but I shouldn’t be advising on investments.”
“My mom always taught me to make my own money and I get to do with it what I want, but my dad taught me to get mad when the store charges 50 cents more than normal for the bread you buy often, so, I'm definitely medium good with money.”
Has reading Money Diaries changed the way you spend?
“YES YES YES. I think about every purchase. I think about whether or not I'll even want it in a year and how I can make every choice more sustainable. I bought a dress a few weekends ago and returned it the next day realizing I didn't actually need another dress, don't want to contribute to unsustainable fast fashion, and felt great about the return. I think through things more now and appreciate MD for that reason alone.”
“I think it’s made me more aware of my spending habits (hi, daily latte) and how I can make lifestyle changes to improve my finances. It’s inspiring to read what others do to cut back on spending.”
“I got a 401k, an IRA, a high yield savings account — all because diarists who were younger than me really had their lives together.”
“I definitely pack my lunch every day now, because I would see someone get Sweetgreen every day and I would only buy lunch once or twice a week. I never realized how much it adds up, but it absolutely does!”
Thanks to all the commenters that contributed to this story — feel free to keep chatting in the comments below. Just remember, start a discussion, not a fire *winky face*.