While I could spend a lot of time and energy spelling out the reasons not to read comments, many others have taken the time to do a very thorough job, so I will refer you to several very thoughtful people. First up, a post entitled, “Never Read the Comments,” by my friend Emily, who says in part:
I can count the times on one hand that I’ve come away from a comment thread more edified than I entered it. On the other hand, I’ve personally had comment threads vampirically drain away a bit of my soul and leave only regret in its place. Why would I do that to you guys?
The bottom line is that I want readers to come here and have some assurance about what they’re going to see, without having to worry about seeing oppressive language, hate speech, abrupt discussion of trauma without warning, or anything of the like.
There is a wonderful Twitter account that acts as a reminder for those like me who occasionally think the comments might provide some additional of value to that article I just read:
The internet took commentary and made it commenterrible.
— Don't Read Comments (@AvoidComments) November 19, 2013
And then there is the straight-forward clarity of Julie Pagano, a prominent social justice activist working to expand diversity in tech, who has declared that “The Comments Are Dead“:
The few sites I frequent with quality comments have dedicated moderators who spend a great deal of time and energy maintaining a positive space. For some of them, it’s pretty much a full-time job. I do not have the time, energy, or willingness to put that kind of work into my site. Sorry, commenters, I have a day job.
These anecdotes are all well and good, but for those who discount personal narratives in favor of science, I have one more link, just for you. Popular Science recently turned off their comments, too, based on a new study. In this study, participants read an article on nanotechnology, followed by either civil or uncivil comments. The study authors described their results as follows:
Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the news story itself.In the civil group, those who initially did or did not support the technology — whom we identified with preliminary survey questions — continued to feel the same way after reading the comments. Those exposed to rude comments, however, ended up with a much more polarized understanding of the risks connected with the technology.Simply including an ad hominem attack in a reader comment was enough to make study participants think the downside of the reported technology was greater than they’d previously thought.
There you have it, folks. If you would like to engage with me or my content, I encourage you to do so! I would love to hear from you, and you’re most likely to get in touch with me quickly through Twitter or email. Thanks for reading!