Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Reason #3,421 Why The Internet Comment Is One Of Humanity's Worst Inventions

Image of Maya Angelou and Herry Monster via Sesame Street's Twitter feed.
In the annals of human ingenuity, the internet comment may rank among one of our worst inventions. When used correctly, it can provide a forum to share useful information, fond reminiscences, or enlightened discussion on any topic.

Sadly, that rarely occurs.

The usual result is a gathering space for trolls, especially on media sites. People express outrageous opinions that you know they’d never express in the flesh. Nitpickers latch onto tiny, pedantic mistakes instead of engaging in the topic at home (tip to those of you who love doing this: send a private email. It’s less a-holish than publicly humiliating a writer for a typo). Political partisanship runs amok, even if the story has nothing to do with politics. Regardless of topic, it’s almost inevitable somebody will use the comment section to attack _____ (choose one of: liberals, public broadcasting, teachers, unions, Hillary Clinton, David Suzuki).

(Note that I don't always agree with the tackling dummies I just listed, but the abuse they endure is ridiculous.)

I avoid reading comments as much as possible, which does wonders for my blood pressure. Nobody needs to be exposed to that much manufactured, soul-destroying outrage. But sometimes my eye will slip, catching the first comment before moving on to the next webpage.

Case in point: this morning, I checked out CBC News’s bulletin on the death of Maya Angelou. The first comment listed below the story was posted by a lovely human being named "Juliska Magyar." It reads:

Zero impact on my life. Much ado about nothing.
Copy American news hype.

Tell you what Juliska. When you die, I'll send a bus of people over to your funeral, who will all demand to speak during the eulogies. All of them will say that you had zero impact on their lives, and that your funeral is, frankly, much ado about nothing.

Also, f**k those graceless souls who use someone's death as a platform to provide their two cents about why they hate the messenger. Criticizing a dead person is one thing—I think there are grounds for that to provide a fully-rounded assessment of their life within a day or two of their death, even if some may find that tasteless. Take the recent example of former Ontario/federal finance minister Jim Flaherty - beloved by friends and associates as a genial guy, responsible for actions that hurt some people. But ignoring the person who died through most of your comment just to rail at the messenger (CBC here) or your personal, barely related pet peeve? Classy. Oh so classy.

The comments section often reflects the divisive attitudes we’ve allowed to get in the way of constructive debate and generally being respectful to our fellow humans. Physically and symbolically, we could use a little more of the action Maya and Herry Monster demonstrate in the photo atop this post.