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.
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.
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).