Staff Editorial: online commenting offers conversation
With the transition to web-first publications has come a novel idea: the comment box. Comments written in response to online articles have effectively smashed the fourth wall and given both journalists and readers the freedom to interact with one another. It is this freedom that is most necessary to keep us humble as journalists. If we were to only print the nice things people say about our work — and sometimes say about us — we would be fooling ourselves into believing a polished version of the truth, when truth is the very thing we struggle to preserve in our jobs.
Negative comments keep our egos in check and ensure that we do not begin to value our own version of the truth over the actual truth.
Thinking twice before commenting
Still, we all know the difference between constructive criticism — which can be negative yet respectful — and punching-bag criticism, which is just as helpful as screaming into a pillow at a person who is not actually there. Except that online there are others in the room watching this curious behavior, and it certainly does not convince them that the anger is justified.
The most important consideration in regards to vitriolic online comments, however, is neither the emotional response of their recipient nor the civility of the space in which they are posted. Rather, the person most affected by an online comment is often the one who posts it. Online commenters should think twice before spouting hostility because every time we react to things that upset and offend us, we train ourselves in the sorts of responses we practice.
The anonymity of the Internet creates the illusion that our words can’t affect us, and that what we post in fits of bitterness will never matter to us again. But when we allow ourselves to speak and react in hate, we cultivate responses of the heart that are damaging to our own character and souls.
Comments a source of open conversation on campus
The comment section can be a healthy thing. It is an open forum, a place where people can react to what they’ve read in a constructive way. The Chimes should be a source to open conversation amongst students. The comment section is a place where students can share their opinions on topics that matter around campus. Even though they get heated, and occasionally controversial, it can be a good way for students to express themselves.
But please, bear this in mind: While commenting on a story is helpful in continuing the conversation started by the article, it rarely exists outside of the Internet browser. By all means, keep commenting — your voice is needed. But it must not become the only platform for your voice. Comments will be forgotten; real change will not.