Have you ever stopped to read the comments posted after news stories on newspaper websites?
We recently listened to a CBC radio segment on Internet comments. When it began I thought, what kind of a lame, filler topic is this? But it was totally fascinating. Different web hosts have different views on allowing readers to leave comments. Here, for example, I encourage comments of all types but they do go through a filtering process of sorts. I have to “approve” them before they are seen. To date, the only ones I have trashed have been spam and that is the reason for the process I’ve chosen. No one needs to see another penis enlargement ad which would sneak through if this check-and-balance were to be eliminated.
I just read a terrible story about a teenaged boy who drowned in a high-rise pool. His buddy may not make it. The reader comment beneath the story was not only riddled with errors, but went so far off topic it was almost funny. The person seemed to mean well but they were just uninformed and possibly illiterate.
Another problem with reader comments on news items in such a public forum is that they’re almost always negative. On a CNN story about Sandra Bullock’s husband Jesse James, literally hundreds of readers posted one or two line opinions about the idiot that Sandra was for marrying him and the idiot Jesse was for cheating on her. But it went further than that. Posters started attacking each other for their opinions in what is known as “flaming”. This descends into an ongoing online argument between two genuinely angry people who were likely in different parts of the country, each deciding the other’s opinion warranted insults and foul-mouthed attacks. What a waste of time!
Some of the experts on the CBC show said they stopped vetting comments because they simply didn’t have the time or personnel to do it. They also cited free speech admitting that it’s up to an individual to decide how much of an idiot to make of themselves. They agreed that there is usually little real value in these comments except that they encourage those who post to return to the site, which is the name of the online game. I’m lucky that those who comment on my little website play nicely and actually have something valueable to offer. I wish there were a few thousand more, but I’m grateful for what I’ve got. Now if you will excuse me, I have to go delete another ad from a seller of discount Cialis…unless anyone is interested?