The Peanut Gallery (AKA Comment Sections)

This post was inspired by this post, titled “Are Comments Sections Worth It?” I am an enormous fan of this author’s blog, mostly for the comment section, which happens to be the best one I have ever read. Trolls are kept at bay 95% of the time, and most of the commenters are so intelligent that I’m actually scared to make my own comment because I feel like I might say something stupid.

So reading that post prompted me to think about comment sections in general. I would say that most of them are total crap, populated with illiterate or spam comments, haters, 8-year-olds who shouldn’t even be online in the first place, and much more. It’s rare to come across a decent comment section on a major website, but it all depends on the content of the website or the post and the kinds of commenters that content would attract.

I remember that one popular site (it might have been CNN) stopped allowing comments on certain articles, which was good because CNN’s comment section tended to be one of the worst. I was especially glad about the lack of a comment section because I tend to jump straight to the comments after skimming an article, mostly to be entertained, but also to see whether the commenters agreed or disagreed with my opinion on a piece. Not being distracted by the comment section allowed me to think more deeply about a particular article without being influenced by others’ opinions on it.

I also like comment sections because sometimes users post links to other related articles that can be even more interesting than the article being commented on. Unfortunately, this can lead you into an Internet black hole, where you can get lost for hours following the trail of links.

But are comment sections on the whole worthwhile? I would say that they are. In a way, they’re like a microcosm of the entire Internet: 95% crap and 5% good stuff (of course, sometimes those percentages fluctuate depending on which site you visit). You can sometimes find stuff that’s so stupid it’s hilarious, and other times, you can find something that will make you think for a couple of days. It’s free speech at its finest (or at its worst).

Do you like surfing through comment sections? Or do you normally avoid them?

10 thoughts on “The Peanut Gallery (AKA Comment Sections)

  1. I sadly find myself sucked into the comments sections on the various political blogs, news sites, and sports sites I read regularly and I find themselves to be a microcosm of everything that is wrong with the nature of debate and discussion in this country. Everybody is shouting past each other, hurling invective at each other, name-calling, and burrowing into their own pre-conceived ideas of things and not having an open mind. Every day I say that I’m going to stop going to those sites and if I do, I will not read the comments. But that’s like saying I’m not going to rubberneck while driving past the accident. I’m working on it though. 😉

    I’m a huge believer in free speech. But just like any other right it comes with responsibility. The vast majority of commenters ignore their responsibility.

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  2. By the way, thank you for linking to the article at theamericanconservative.com. I’m a liberal, but I am always interested in reading the views of others, particularly if they are presented intelligently and respectfully. I just took a look at a couple of the posts on that website and the comments seem to be relatively tame. The other conservative or right-wing blogs I’ve found are outrageous in their comments sections. I’m going to replace them with theamericanconservative and see if there’s actually some intelligent debate out there.

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  3. I am a big fan of the comments section when it comes to news and opinion pieces — I probably spend more time reading the comments than the actual article! That’s the “beauty” of the internet. Anyone’s voice can be seen, take it or leave it. It’s usually left most of the time, for good reason. Comments on political articles can oftentimes be excruciatingly aggravating, but I’m drawn to them like a rubbernecker. The internet just wouldn’t be the same without the ability to comment.

    Nowadays, I know what sites to avoid (politico, huffpo, etc.) because I just end up infuriated by the commenters. Going back and forth with an “opponent” could suck you in for days. I’ve since learned better than to get involved.

    ps. NYPost had one of the most entertaining comments sections, and I was very disappointed when they shut down the comments section. The flamewars were incredible!

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  4. Interesting topic, Maggie!

    I feel like every time I look at the comments section (especially on YouTube) I end up feeling embarrassed for the entire human population. I shudder at those few people that are just dumb enough to post things without thinking or even worse, just to get a rise out of people. But, there’s good and bad in everything. If you don’t read the comments sometimes you miss out on important information, like the truth, something you didn’t think about, or even something super funny. 🙂

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    • I get the feeling that many of the people on YouTube who comment and embarrass themselves are way too young to know better and shouldn’t even be online without parental supervision.

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      • It’s hard to tell sometimes! It’s pretty ridiculous what you’ll hear little kids saying on XBox over their mics, too.

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