Don’t let hate defeat debate

By Alexander Lach

Todd Huffman/Flickr
(Todd Huffman/Flickr)

Websites such as MSN and the NYTimes have a comments section on their articles. The purpose of these comments sections is to start a debate or conversation. You may learn something new, or have a mentally stimulating discussion with those that gave similar beliefs or interests.

NPR’s website announced back in August that they will be removing their comments section. According to the official announcement on their website, it was stated that: “The audience has grown dramatically in recent years, to between 25 and 35 million unique visitors each month. But far less than 1 [percent] of that audience is commenting, and the number of regular comment participants is even smaller.” It is clear that the reasoning behind this decision is not due to a lack of activity on the website; rather it has to do with how online conversation has shifted. What exactly has caused this shift?

The answer to that question is social media. With the rise and growing popularity of social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, people have no longer found the need to participate in website-run comment sections. In addition to social media, I believe the decline is also due to the high amount of unfiltered and bizarre comments that plague these comment sections. In my personal experience, I have encountered a substantial amount of unpleasant comments within these sections, in general and directed towards me.

These comments are typically filled with hateful and demeaning words, racist and homophobic slurs and statements that are simply not true. I am not exactly sure what the motive is behind these comments as they do not contribute to the conversation, but my guess is that it is someone merely trying to troll and insult others for a laugh. High quality debates and intelligent conversations can easily fall apart because these trolls can easily infiltrate the conversation.

Despite the movement toward social media and the occasional hate-filled comment, I believe that NPR should reinstate its comment section, at least for some articles. Although the comments section may not receive as much attention as it has in years past, they still have the potential to be a great place for intelligent and enriching conversations.

If websites such as NPR can successfully implement more modern methods of policing and filtering these comment sections, then this may result in a potential increase in the amount of people that participate in the comments. People will also be more encouraged to share their own thoughts and opinions and not have to worry about being belittled by a troll that is looking to get a rise out of someone.

Alexander Lach is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected]