Unpublished: Comment Sections

If you've spent any amount of time reading online comment sections the overwhelming impression you get is that humanity is very, very sick.

--from an unpublished post about the trolling that plagues the Internet

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11 thoughts on “Unpublished: Comment Sections”

  1. Richard, if the above comment is your own, then I RESPECTFULLY disagree. But only in the sense that the comments I read online are pretty much the sentiments of people I meet throughout the day and week.

    From those people who believe that a white Christian America was a divine creation, who are angry with us liberals for stealing their country, to the atheists who are still angry at the church in which they grew up, I find them online as well as in line at the bank and Post Office. They serve a purpose; they keep me awake and alert.

    But, now and then, here and there, I find a beautiful mind; and these keep me hopeful.

  2. Dave Ramsey once said that his IQ goes down every time he reads the comments under and article on the internet. Trolling is very real and happens in the most unfortunate arenas on the internet. Anonymity brings out the darkest part of humanity, it would seem. And yet, I have also seen great wisdom, compassion and grace on the internet - but that doesn't fall under the category of trolling...

  3. I understand this perceptive. In my experience though, online conversations have been fruitful and I’ve learned from them. I wrote about this here: http://turri.me/?p=1430

  4. Thank God for your academic writing, and your deep thoughtful posts. They have enriched my own life (I was going to say "immeasurably", but that would be an overstatement, so I'll leave it without the adverb). And as to the darkness that becomes so immediately apparent online, all I can say is "Amen, Brother Richard!"

  5. Blogs have been huge for me. Comments not as often, unless it’s the author interacting with the original post in some way.

    I don’t bother reading comments for a lot of the stuff that I read online for the reasons that you mention. It’s crazy how nasty it gets – even if I’m just staying updated on the Cubs or Bulls or something. Politics or current events – forget about it. From a faith standpoint, I’ve been more inclined to observe the comments (and occasionally participate), particularly when some new (or controversial) post pops up that really hits home for me. But much of it ends up getting very “tribal” for lack of a better word. Even online, we tend to cluster into communities that we agree with, and each of these tribes will have it’s zealous foot soldiers (blog readers) that occasionally “go to battle” in the camp of the “enemy” not to engage ideas and pursue truth but to protect turf. And I love discussing truth and ideas, but most of the time comment sections evolve into something else. Put up a post titled “Here’s why puppies are cute” and you aren’t going to get much traffic or comments - nobody’s being threatened by that. Get into politics or atonement theology and the things that bound these tribes together – the things that make “us” better than “them” - are suddenly being threatened and it gets nasty quickly. Combine anonymity, oversimplicity on really complex topics, and an inability to articulate nuanced thoughts concisely (which effective blogging and commenting pretty much requires, and many of us – myself included – don’t have the writing skills to pull it off) and it gets messy.

    Again from a faith standpoint, one-liner trolls that just try to shut down conversation are one thing. But it can at times be impossible to discern fact from fiction when the trolling “experts” show up to debate (it’s hard to know what’s true when posters argue mutually exclusive points but talk past one another). The nastiness combined with the staggering amount of information and different views is overwhelming. I’m not exaggerating when I say that reading blogs and comments nearly destroyed my faith. That whole “the Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth” thing doesn’t seem to be working. It does get very, very dark very, very quickly. Not a place to venture alone.

  6. I think using the comments sections on the Internet to diagnose humanity is engaging in a bit of adverse selection. The vast, vast majority of people do not comment online and those that do, and especially those that troll, probably have a lot of similar pathologies.

    Richard, I think you are dead on about the content of this blog. I notice on the many blogs I frequent that the more academic the material fewer trolls are to be found. I think this is due to (a) trolls, by and large, probably not being particularly thoughtful and (b) the readers of those blogs generally ignore them. Trolls, like other pests, tend to seek different shores if they aren't being fed. (I know of one particularly brilliant commentor on a blog I frequent who responds to all obvious trolls by posting recipes for various baked goods!)

    The other side is there are blogs where any comments to the contrary of the prevailing viewpoint are immediately pounced upon by the readership and labelled as trolling. Just because someone pierces the ideological bubble doesn't mean they are a troll. A lot of blog comment sections are simply people who all think alike patting themselves on the back over how smart they are. I think that may be just a dangerous as a troll.

  7. And even (especially?) within the niche, it's easy for a tribalistic mentality to develop where the only reason comments don't get ugly is that there is relative uniformity in thought.

  8. "like the following around the Grateful Dead or Bob Dylan." - Yes, I still do wear Tie-dye and I'm not ashamed of it!

  9. I don't think it can be avoided if you wade into hotbed issues and topics. It doesn't have to be politics - anything that touches a someone else's sense of self righteousness will bring it about quickly - to the left or right, for or against - whatever side of whatever fence. The sadest thing is when good people get caught up in saying horrible things on the internet, that it is forever recorded and when there is a will, there is a way to attribute it to the author. It's a selfie in words. the problem is that we cannot see the reflection as readily as when it's a picture of our face...

  10. When my kids became old enough to go to Youtube to watch videos (on a variety of subjects...I'm talking crafting videos here) I warned them "Never scroll down to the comments."

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