Everything I Know I Did Not Learn from News Article Comments

Are you sick of feeling balanced? Do you need more rage in your life? Could you be looking for a good reason to let yourself overheat and explode? You’re in luck, comments on news article are ALL YOU NEED to get yourself worked up.

 This is how the majority of comments on news articles make me feel.

This is how the majority of comments on news articles make me feel.

Sure, every now and then someone says something thoughtful, but my (thoroughly unscientific) research shows about 85% - 95% of those online comments range from the inane and innocently dumb, to the nasty and totally offensive.

It’s time to shut it down. Reuters agrees.

Reuters.com is ending user comments on news stories,” the organization wrote in November 2014. “Much of the well-informed and articulate discussion around news, as well as criticism or praise for stories, has moved to social media and online forums. Those communities offer vibrant conversation and, importantly, are self-policed by participants to keep on the fringes those who would abuse the privilege of commenting.”

Listen, I love the Internet (I am its princess after all), but the immediacy it provides means not everyone uses its power for good. (I know – shocking.) Because it’s so easy to slap up a comment, many react quickly, without thinking about the consequences or impact of their comments or taking time to carefully formulate their view. Some people who would say stupid stuff anyway, regardless of context or research, take advantage of the ease and speed to share foolish thoughts.

Small barriers to quickly sharing nonsense – let’s call them Internet Abuse Shields – are required to raise the level of discourse.

These Internet Abuse Shields can be requiring comments to be sent via email and moving the real time discussion to other forums – as Reuters has done.

All this to say two things:

1.       If you’re being a jerk on the Internet, quit it.

2.       I think media corporations should kill article commenting and find more appropriate ways of integrating audience opinions into content.

Next up: the very real conversation I have in my head with Matthew McConaughey.