As a journalist, I’m constantly reading articles from various sources about current events or issues of social justice. I enjoy viewing a topic from multiple perspectives and try to expand my media diet by including reputable sources across the political spectrum.
I take most things with a grain of salt. I fact check when necessary and do my part to verify sources and information before I share any articles.
But despite my attempts at being a responsible news consumer, I find myself falling into the same trap that most internet media consumers have a hard time escaping.
The comments section.
No matter what topic, no matter what type of information provided in the posted article, the comment section of that content is a shocking spectacle that can capture your attention and hold it hostage.
Self-respecting individuals regardless of education or creed are challenged by the presence of a comment section.
I think we can all agree these semi-anonymous spaces don’t bring out the best in us. I have to constantly fight the urge to get into heated arguments with strangers.
Keyboard warriors attempt to battle the illogical and insane with tactful disagreement and facts. But they are swallowed up in the unmoderated nonsense and hate.
True story: I once spent at least 3 hours debating someone in the comment section of a Facebook post. I can’t recall the topic, but what I can remember is that the conversation devolved quickly into a personal attacks. The topic was meaningless, but the anger was real.
After a volatile and divisive election and the current state of social issues in this country, I believe my passion for debate has disappeared. I am officially tapped out.
It is so easy to lose that perception in a comment section, with the long threads of discussions littered with falsehoods and insults. We cannot see the person behind the comment and we use their ignorance as a way to confirm our own bias. We do not listen. The internet is a place where understanding is not required. We shout at people who may have valid points. We personally attack people we will never know.
Of course there are exceptions. However, on the nuanced issues we are facing as a country, it is so rare to find a true conversation in the dark abyss of internet comment sections.
After wasting so much time reading the comments of others, I have decided to limit my engagement to almost nothing.
I have begun to look away from the conversations that go nowhere and choose instead to find real-world platforms to share my beliefs and opinions.
I’ve begun having those typically divisive conversations with people in my life. I try to listen and aim to understand, face to face where the presence of a real person forces us to address the humanity we share.
I know the comment section is a beacon calling us all to speak like moths to a flame, but there is a sense of relief in letting go of the desire to take on the world.
Truly, it takes thick skin and a brave soul to venture into comment sections to fight against the trolls.
But perhaps the true bravery is putting down the shield of anonymity that comments sections give us and starting those difficult conversations with the people around us.
The internet is a dark and scary place sometimes. If I can offer any advice it is to choose your battles and take care of yourselves.