I have noticed a startling trend since I began posting to this website. People seem to like what they see. They tend to tell me via Facebook and Twitter that they like my work in some capacity, and that is great. The strange thing I have found, though, is that very few people who read my content ever post comments to the website itself. Once I realized this, I became curious: what’s the difference between the comments section of this site and the comment section attached to a Facebook post?
My answer came in the form of Youtube, Imgur and other comment sections on websites. People are nasty. When somebody states an opinion in a comments section, they have either posted something scathing and hateful or something scathing and hateful is soon going to appear under their statement. I would ask why that is, but I think we already know the answer. People become much more courageous when they are protected by the veil of anonymity and the distance of technology.
I may sit across a table from you and respectfully disagree with your opinion, but when I am alone, safe in my room and reading what you posted on the internet, why shouldn’t I speak my mind? Who will ever really know it’s me? How do I even know who I am speaking to when I type? Does it even matter? In some cases, people believe the answer is no.
The fact that it is easier to be brutal to a computer screen has left comments sections to morph into battle zones where only the loudest, boldest and often angriest people are heard. Their voices drown out more neutral responses and continuously assault each other. Those who do have a more moderate opinion are forced to lurk in the shadows, holding onto what may very well be a valid opinion because they are afraid of being attacked for it. Believe it or not, some people don’t want to start fights online. It just isn’t everybody’s cup of tea.
So, where does that leave us? Outside of the obvious (which I have been saying for some time now) that humans are nasty creatures, what can be done to reclaim the comments sections?
Well, the first step is simple: lay off. If you are that aggressor who wants to be loud and berate people who disagree with you, stop it. If reading this inspires you to want to say something harsh to me, for example, you are one of those people. Knock it off. There is really no point to acting that way. Standing on a street corner screaming in strangers’ faces won’t get your opinion across, and neither does this. Have feelings. Have strong feelings. Share them in a reasonable way.
On the other side of this, those of you who aren’t saying anything, speak up. Tell people you like what they say. Tell them you don’t. Tell other people about related facts, figures, anecdotes, everything.You probably have something to share, so just go share it. Don’t worry about the bullies dominating the comment section. People will see your level-headed response to things, and they will respond accordingly. You know, like educated human interaction and reasonable people having a conversation? Crazy, right?
As for me, I would love to hear from you, all of you. Please do leave me comments. Like things if you like them. Don’t if you don’t. Tell me what you want to see me posting about. You matter, and I know it, so tell me what is on your mind.
If people really do reconsider how they act on the internet, namely what it would look like if they did it in real life, I think we could create an entirely different internet experience. We need to take back the comments sections from those who are using it only to blow off steam. Be brave and speak up. I promise, I am listening.