Is the ability to comment on a newspaper article something which makes you a better person because you’re free to express yourself?
Here’s what Jaron Lanier says about his experience,
“Briefly I was one of the HuffPost’s top bloggers, always on the front page. But I found myself falling into that old problem again whenever I read the comments, and I could not get myself to ignore them. I would feel this weird low-level boiling rage inside me. Or I’d feel this absurd glow when people liked what I wrote, even if what they said didn’t indicate that they had paid much attention to it. Comment authors were mostly seeking attention for themselves.” (From ‘Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now’)
After I read an article in a newspaper written by a friend, I went to see the comments. Most were supportive, but the few nasty ones sparked my emotions. My first thought was to react and also comment evidencing the silliness of their criticism, but then I paused and wondered – ” what does replying make of me?” A Digital Gollum. Someone who loses his innocence and craves for attention to the point of making of pseudo-insightful comments their precious one ring.
Constructive comments demand moderation.
In a few sites I follow regularly, the author explicitly states the rules for comments, but in newspapers, there are no rules. This absence culturally leads to distorted behaviors, and reading these comments a painful experience.
The solution is simple.
If newspapers cannot find the right strategy to moderate comments, eliminate that possibility. A lot of people wouldn’t turn into authentic ”Digital Gollums.”