The Antisocial Nature of Social Media Comments


This story about a newspaper who has made the decision to disable online comments hit a little close to home because the above questions are things I think of daily as I see people behave online very differently than they would in person. I fully support any organization that would take steps to insure the integrity of their business, safety and peace of mind of it's consumers. But I admit that I find it sad that forums have to be shut down or closely monitored because of how people behave.

As an online publisher we require an account on this website for members to be able to comment. This requirement has effected the amount of comments we get but I'd rather have fewer comments from people who are part of a community than 100s of comments from trolls looking to fight. It's the idea that 4 quarters are better than 100 pennies. Seeing thousands of page views and a handful of comments is bitter sweet but knowing that we are reaching our members and trying to prevent those members from fear of online persecution is worth that cost. That's what we can do here. On social media it's a different story.

You would think on Facebook where names and faces are used there would be more accountability in comments creating a kinder, more respectful dialog on posts but you'd be wrong. Any "hot" topic posted is almost always met with at least one person who decides that the feelings of others matter much less than making a point when in reality you can make a strong argument for your case while being considerate of others.

Insults, judgement, intolerance and even threats of leaving pages or people taking their bullying to direct messages is not uncommon on Facebook pages regardless of if it's major news outlets to small localized groups. Thankfully outside of the odd rude comment we haven't had to deal with that much on Tampa Bay Moms Group but as our group grows to over 10k members it opens us up to members from many more walks of life with many different opinions and lifestyles. While this should be a good thing, a parenting page with a variety of views and lots of input inevitably brings out the very opinionated people who are more visitors to the page than actual members of our community. It is with those visitors that I have had less of a tolerance and been more active with removing them because TBMG is a community and while we have moms from all over, many of us do know each other and when we disagree we can do it respectfully and still be a productive part of the community. So why do so many decide that being respectful isn't a requirement?

I personally feel anytime a keyboard is used as a buffer in human interaction there is a lack of accountability and compassion. You look at the person as a screen name, not an actual living and breathing human being with feelings who struggles just as you do. It's hard in this type of work where your entire goal is to connect people to have to fear those interactions and how they can infect the group and hurt others in your audience. It's amazing to me sometimes to read the harsh comments of someone I know when in real life they are kind and fun. Why the difference? I truly don't know. I can't understand why people are so different online and why some are ok with being cruel so when it comes to shutting down comments on websites... I get it. I fully respect any business who will take steps to help protect it's patrons even when that step may hurt them.

Inspired by WTSP 10 News Story Should we get rid of online comments?

"In the early days of digital journalism, comments were seen as an integral part of the process, a terrific opportunity for enhancing dialogue between news outlets and the people. That would be welcome, for over the years many news organizations were far too walled off from their audiences. Heightened engagement, much more back and forth, seemed like a healthy and welcome development.

Sadly, that's not the way things played out. Comments sections too often were taken over by a small, nasty slice of the audience. Rather than a place for exchanging ideas, they became havens for ugly name-calling, for intimidation, for racism and misogyny.

The digital world has brought with it many wonderful innovations. But comments sections became vivid sections of the extremely dark side of the Web."

"And so Phillips, with the support of publisher Deb Anselm, decided to do something she had been thinking about for a long time: She shut down the comments section, which she described as "a sea of ridiculousness, hate speech and online bullying,"

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