Comments. You can find or hear them almost anywhere.
Under your posts on Instagram; under that YouTube video you watched a couple days ago; from the hairstylist you see every few months; or behind your back and you may not even know.
Now those are just comments in general, but I’m here to look at online comments in particular.
The realities of the Comment section
While the Comment section of a social media post or blog are there for readers and viewers to express their thoughts and opinions, they aren’t always the safest places to be on the internet.
Depending on your platform and audience, these types of spaces can fill with aggression and mockery, anonymity and false information, and more (Konnikova, 2023).
Konnikova (2023) notes that this may have to do with the “online disinhibition effect” that John Suler coined and that I’ve brought up in conversation before. It’s that feeling of being able to say and do anything like nobody is watching because nobody knows who you are. Your identity is hidden by the shields of the internet, you could say.
At the same time, anonymity must be credited for its ability to encourage participation. Instead of fearing uniqueness and difference, commentors feel a sense of community. There is little to no fear in speaking one’s mind and the opportunities for creative thinking are practically endless.
Creating and implementing guidelines for commenting
To mitigate these potential issues, it would be good to create a set of guidelines for commenters and their commenting.
If I made a list for Two A.M. Thoughts, I’d make sure to include things like being respectful of others and their comments; keeping comments relevant to the post; using appropriate and clean language; and have fun with the discussion.
These guidelines are likely something you’ve read or seen before many times, but they are things that I would hope to see in the comment sections of my site too. They are values, if you want to call them those, that I uphold when I comment. So, it would be great to see that reciprocated.
In terms of implementing them, I would most likely create a page on my site dedicated to community guidelines. However, I wouldn’t expect every visitor to read that page before getting around to their commenting. Perhaps a disclaimer above comment forms with a link to the community guidelines page may do the job. Ultimately, it will have to be something moderated and reiterated until commentors catch on.
Konnikova, M. (2013, October 23). The psychology of online comments. The New Yorker. https://www.newyorker.com/tech/annals-of-technology/the-psychology-of-online-comments