The Death of the Comments Section

I woke up this morning to check my local online paper, and I was met with some of the best news I’ve heard in a long time: they’re disabling their comments section! It’s interesting to me that this should seem like such good news, and so perhaps a bit of context is necessary.

First of all, the Bulldog has long exemplified the age old internet stereotypic trope: don’t read the comments section. If there was an article that touched on any even remotely controversial subject, you could depend on the fact that there would be people in the comments saying awful things. And then people would respond to those awful things, and the trolls would respond back.

From the paper’s perspective, I can see why comments sections are a good thing. Each of those responses equates to another page view, after all. If your goal is to get as many views as possible, having comments is a great way to do it. Then again, that’s sort of like a department store encouraging a gang war in their sporting goods section, because all they’re worried about is how many people actually come into the store. Never mind the fact that the store might burn down around them because of that war.

One of the main reasons I’ve felt the comments section was so bad was that they allowed anonymous comments to appear. When people can speak behind a veil of secrecy, they are willing to say much worse things than they can when people actually know who’s saying what. Which of course begs the question: isn’t it better to know what people are actually thinking than to go about your life blissfully unaware?

Up until 4 years ago, I would have said yes. It seems on the surface that those awful opinions are something that need to be brought to the light to be expunged from society. But after dealing with the current political climate since 2016, I’ve changed my mind. I feel like those nasty comments do nothing more than encourage other nasty comments. They bubble up more, as people who thought they were along in their nastiness realize they are legion. The internet doesn’t just unite for good. It unites for evil, as well.

I’m now well aware just how much our society still has to go before we’re to the point where racism, sexism, and other -isms are a thing of the past. I want to return to the times where people didn’t feel secure saying bigoted things on forums. Where insults couldn’t be lobbed with abandon.

Like I said: I’m sure this will hurt the Bulldog’s bottom line, if they make money based on ads. I’m very impressed that they were willing to do it. (Though I can also relate to their desire to be done with having to police all those comments.) Here’s hoping it really does lead to a happier, more unified community. (Or at least one with less active hostility . . .)

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