I often read blog and news articles solely so that I can understand – or try to understand – the comments section below. Regardless of the topic, the same sorts of comments always emerge.
I’ve found that these commentators can be divided into specific categories, illustrating that netizens (citizens of the internet) are quickly segregating themselves into demographics as strictly delineated as those in the offline world.
Erudite and calm, this commenter is the one most likely to save me from needing to read the article itself. They generally go through the article point-by-point, summarizing what was said and either agreeing with or refuting each argument. They’re generally only motivated by serious news and controversial editorials.
They rarely engage in flame wars, although any uninformed or staunchly polarized response to their own comment will usually be addressed in an equally thorough manner. A true Intellectual is rare indeed, though, and the comments sections of most articles is more frequently home to the Pseudo Intellectual
The Pseudo Intellectual
This user has seen that the Intellectual receives a certain kind of respect within the comments section, generating a digital cache, and attempts to imitate it. Their comment, at first glance, might resemble that of the intellectual. A closer read, however, shows the glaring differences. Issues are addressed haphazardly, if at all, and are frequently misinterpreted or misrepresented.
The long-winded paragraphs are, fortunately, riddled with grammatical or spelling errors, meaning that I know from the beginning of the comment that it is not one to which I should go for a comprehensive understanding of the article itself.
THE ABUSER OF CAPS LOCK
Easily the most irritating of any commenter, this user had a lot of feelings about whatever they read and wants everyone to know about it. These feelings are usually only tangentially related to the article, and more commonly reflect a general dislike or mistrust of whatever party is involved:
“WHAT MANY of PEOPLE in INDIA FEELS like DOING to this PUPPET PM.” I’m glad that at least a wide audience is exposed to and thinking about national and international news, but wish that there was more of a focus on critical thinking – or at least a way to prevent people from word vomiting on the comments page. It’s not a mess I want to have to see.
“It will be a battle of the sexes!!! You are a good street fighter,” said one comment. Again, I’m really glad that people are reading the news, and hopefully more engaged with national politics as a result.
However, in the pre-internet days, when responses to these articles came in handwritten letters to the editor, this would have been deemed a waste of paper. An attempt at pithy humor that does nothing to further the conversation should be kept where it belongs: in the commenter’s mind.
Everyone has seen the troll: the one commentator who throws out deliberately inflammatory statements in the hopes of getting responses. This can be incredibly annoying, especially when the comment isn’t directly relevant; it leads to a long thread of messages through which I have to scroll to get back to the meaty parts.
It can also be a valuable addition, however, as an informed troll can spark a debate among the intellectuals, prompting a more critical analysis of the article.
Smart advertisers see the comments section as a forum for content-seeding – free advertising space. It doesn’t matter whether or not their product, service or their own website is in any way related to the topic at hand; anyone scrolling through the comments section will be exposed to it. Clever, sure, but also annoying.
In short, the comments section can be useful, entertaining, or simply irritating. The next time you go to comment on an article – even this one – please think first about into which category you’ll fall, and press the “Post” button or not accordingly.
PHOTO CREDITS: Michal Marcol, James Barker, graur razvan ionut, Graeme Weatherston, and stockimages.