Are comment sections a breeding ground for hostility or useful tools?

Back to Article
Back to Article

Are comment sections a breeding ground for hostility or useful tools?

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

The comments section on news sites should be a place to stimulate discourse. Too often, the exact opposite is the case. It becomes a place for aggravating others and for acting uncivilized.

So, why do online commenters scream their opinions into the comments section?  Is it because the reader actually read the article? Or is it because the reader is merely interested in brandishing their own opinions on to the comments section?

Research at the University of Texas-Austin has confirmed something that many readers hypothesized: A lot of online commenters are more eager to display their opinions on the comments section than actually taking the time to read the article themselves.

The study Engaging News Project at the University of Texas at Austin found 20% of readers spend more time on the comment section than on the article itself.

The results are from statistics and surveys given to people who comment on news, websites, social media and in other forums.

We need to realize that interacting with other readers and understanding other viewpoints are important. Unfortunately, this is just how the internet works. Some web pages have taken out their comments section because it was becoming a place of barbaric dialogue. Chicago Sun-Times, The week, Popular Science, Mic, Reuters among others recently disabled their comments sections.

Most of these news sites temporarily have turned off their comments section for online articles until they find a way to stop or at least minimize negativity, racism and hate speech.

We should take advantage of the internet instead of abusing it. The internet gives us the opportunity to discuss and exchange ideas with people around the world, but these sites and forums too often turn into a place where racism sparks, and we start hating one another, which undermines the content. where hate speech starts. This has reached a point where news sites themselves are disgusted by it.

According to the New Yorker, Popular Science makes it clear that the internet comments, especially those that are anonymous, ruin the virtues of science and lead to a cultivation of aggression and deception that eventually lead to meaningless discussion.

Online-content Director, Suzanne LaBarre, cited a study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where “Even a fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader’s perception of a story”.

On the other hand, some commenters believe that it’s ridiculous to try to find a way to stop negativity and inequality. “Sun-Times kills comments until it can fix ‘morass of negativity, racism, and hate speech’”- so until the internet stops being the internet?” said @StartKyleOrton from twitter

Although comments aren’t just about having arguments, they offer an opportunity for readers to openly correct errors and give suggestions or perspectives  below the original article. Too often, sites believe people abuse their right to comment and display their opinion.

The current political climate has created much controversy. Racism and hate speech have become more popular. Perhaps, because of the comments that are displayed, readers don’t even bother reading the articles and comments anymore.

At its finest, the comments section are flourishing examples of civil discourse. At its worst, it is a place of ignorance and cruelty, where people attack one  another and where even slurs count as dialogue.

One would think that most people spend more time reading than trying to think of an ignorant remark to start a discussion. Still, we should take advantage of the opportunity of exchanging ideas and understanding other perspectives through the internet.

     People are people, and it would benefit everyone if we took advantage of the comments section as we do when we speak to someone face to face. This means we have the ability to make our own decisions and can choose what kind of spaces we want to create.