A Commenting Crisis

Many would say the best thing about the internet is that it gives everybody a voice. We can all log on and join the conversation, something that cannot be said for any other modern media. However, giving everybody a voice has it’s pitfalls. We are in the midst of a commenting crisis. We plaster our product on a brick wall and then watch as other people graffiti all over it. We open up the conversation to other people; a sign of respect, and they ruin any sort of collaborative or productive result we had hoped to gain when invited them to join the conversation. No more do I see this more prevalent than on Youtube. Frank Ocean, a notable R&B singer who gained notoriety when he came out of the closet earlier this year, just released a music video on Youtube for a song off his new album. After watching the video (which I think is wonderful), I read some comments so see what others thought of his work. Instead of reading anything that contained an inkling of intellect, I was bombarded with homophobic comments that had absolutely nothing to do with the video itself. I invite you to take a look at some of the things that were said, just so you can see how people abuse the comment box. 

Jeff Jarvis, who runs the blog Buzz Machine, believes that the problem with comments isn’t the actual comments, but rather the timing. A blogger can post something online for public consumption, but waiting until we are done to open up the conversation is too late, according to Jarvis. If we want comments to be a collaborative endeavor into reaching a resolution or opinion on a topic, we must open the conversation much earlier than after we click the post button. To post something and then watch as people rip our argument apart isn’t really a conversation, is it? But to say something like “Defiant Romney says Obama is trying to “fool” voters” is the beginning of a conversation that invites others to share their thoughts, instead of trying to disagree with yours. Hence the popularity of Twitter (which is where I pulled that comment from).

So what can be done to improve the quality of conversation online? In my opinion, anonymity is the key issue. It’s easy to say whatever you want knowing nobody will ever know who you are. This is why there are all sorts of nasty comments on bathroom stalls and classroom desks. My solution to the problem is to simply start screening the commenters. When you must attach your name to what you are saying, it makes you think twice about what you will say. I’m sick of reading something insightful and interesting and then having a proverbial “turd” dropped on the article because of an obnoxious comment. I believe you should also have to of read the article to be able to comment on it. Perhaps a quick question about the content of the article must be asked before one can comment. And of course, I believe there should be people screening comments made, perhaps the authors themselves. Only then will the internet cease to be littered with comments made by bigots, racists, and just downright stupid people. Let’s be honest, not everybody deserves a voice.

For more information, go here:

Jeff Jarvis: jeff@buzzmachine.com, Wrote a story on buzz machine about the problem with internet comments

Mic Wright: Writes for The Telegraph, posted a story called “Comments are the radioactive waste of the internet“, on Twitter @brokenbottleboy

-Matthew Speiser


About Matthew Speiser

I'm a 25-year old writer living in Manhattan

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