Comments sections are not worth it

Actually no. Most comments are terrible, hurtful, degrading, misleading, outrageous, bizarre…

Because they suck. I was recently reading this article from Vulture about Brian Williams (who I myself have also written about, in what was so far my most popular blog post ever). Whenever I finish reading an article, watching a YouTube video, etc., I often just instinctively scroll down and read the comments.

And I always regret looking at the comments.

The reason I’m writing about this now is because I have recently seen the most poignantly ironic comments ever, on the article from Vulture that I linked to above, that I think really set an example for how futile and damaging it is for comments sections to even exist.

The article was about the downfall of certain public icons (in this case, Brian Williams) and how “public shaming” directly leads to that downfall. Public shaming comes from social media and Internet comments and other generally low-level discourse, but in such huge numbers that the massive wave of judgment becomes impossible to ignore.

If it weren’t for social media, then Brian Williams and others would never have been punished as severely as they were. 

Anyway, as I often (to my regret) do, I read the comments of this article about public shaming. Keep in mind that this article, which was really more of a text-based conversation between two smart people, was about how social media and Internet comments are bad and lead to bad things happening to people.

The first comment I saw degraded the article, but expectedly not with pointed criticism, instead resorting to name-calling and pointlessly offensive language that obliterates any credibility the author of the comment might have had. Not that a comment-writer could ever be considered credible, as someone who writes comments is an anonymous person who doesn’t need any knowledge, education, or experience about the subject they are responding to. And I think that’s typical– that the folks who write comments don’t have any real understanding of what they comment on.

On this article, when I saw comments from people who appeared not to have even read the article at all, I immediately recognized the disappointing irony. The article, again, was about how misleading and harmful an excess of judgmental opinions are, and yet right there in the comments section there was a great deal of exactly that: an excess of judgmental opinions.

Internet comments and social media are a huge contribution to discourse today, which is terrible because the craziest fools speak the loudest and most frequently, and end up having the greatest influence. Remembering Brian Williams again, keep in mind that he would not have been punished like he has been if only sensible people contributed to the discourse.

Here’s a comment I found on that article.

Look at this comment I found on the article I linked to. Observe the language used. They are passionate. They use sarcasm, exaggeration, insults, and if you actually know anything about the current news surrounding Brian Williams' then you'd also be able to see how much this person overlooks or simply makes up facts. I wouldn't be surprised if this person either pulled out this opinion without even thinking about it, or if they heard another Internet commenter make a similarly passionate and judgmental, and felt inspired by that person. But this comment is long and spells most of its words correctly, so people just assume that this random anonymous person is credible, evidenced by other comments like it, and the "likes" that the comment got.
Look at this comment I found on the article I linked to. Observe the language used. This person is passionate and uses sarcasm, exaggeration, and insults (towards both the author and the person who the author wrote about, Brian Williams). Furthermore, if you actually know anything about the current news surrounding Brian Williams then you’d also be able to see how much this person overlooks or simply makes up. There is so much irony that this person describes themselves as not being “emotional, short-sighted, and prone to mob mentality” when a comment like this really says otherwise! I wouldn’t be surprised if this person either came up with this opinion without even thinking about it, or if they heard another Internet commenter make a similarly passionate and judgmental comment, and felt inspired by that person. But this comment is long and spells most of its words correctly, so people just assume that this random anonymous person is credible, evidenced by the fact that there are other comments out there just like it, and the “likes” that this comment got. This comment is too judgmental, which removes any credibility from its author and whatever statement they are trying to make.

For some reason, there are crazy people on the Internet who are out for blood and they let it be known to all. And then other folks are influenced by them.

Instead of folks thinking, “Hey, this person is really strongly vocalizing their opinion. They must be passionate because they know their stuff, so I’ll trust it,” what other folks should be thinking is,

“Hey, this person sounds totally crazy. Why are they posting such a passionate thing on social media, of all places? I really ought to consider the issue before I decide to agree with them or not.”

There are even worse comments than the example I just gave, like this one.

Written in all bold font, purely degrading, not making any sort of statement or expression any real opinion. Yet, some people will be influenced (negatively) by this deliberate and unabashedly hurtful comment.
This comment was written in all-bold font, is purely degrading, and doesn’t express any real opinion. The atrocious spelling and grammar show that little thought or effort went into the comment, or that the writer is uneducated, or both. Yet, some people will be influenced (negatively) by this deliberate and unabashedly hurtful comment.

It has always bugged me that some people are so impressionable that they will believe anything they hear. And it also bugs me when some people are so anti-impressionable that they won’t change their views even in the face of overwhelming evidence (looking at you, people who still deny climate change, and while I’m at it, also looking at the people who oppose gay marriage and equality in general).

This is totally a rant post. Sorry if I jumped around or made the subject confusing at all. Here’s the main point: comments sections are bad because people who don’t have credibility or integrity use them, thus ruining the comment space for everyone, and they actually have a strong influence on the discourse of the subject, which often leads to detrimental occurrences like Brian Williams getting in a lot of trouble over a little issue (and a billion other examples of times when people have been public- shamed)

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