The comments section can be a nasty place.
We learned early on about the online disinhibition effect, which implies that anonymity may allow one to shed their usual restraints or integrity. This means that you may say something you wouldn’t normally or engage in a conversation you would usually avoid because no one actually knows who you are.
This is easily facilitated throughout comment sections that allow people to post anonymously. An article from the New Yorker discusses how comments are often uncivil because there are no consequences for your words. Posting anonymously allows you to say whatever you want and then hide away and pretend it never happened.
“Without the traditional trappings of personal communication, like non-verbal cues, context, and tone, comments can become overly impersonal and cold.”Maria Konnikova
This article also notes that anonymity is not always bad, but it can promote engagement, risk taking and creativity. Konnikova discusses how people may be more likely to participate in a conversation.
Another article posted by the Guardian talked about who faces the most abuse online. This article showed data revealing that women, people of faith, or members of the LGBTQ+ community received the most abusive comments.
I have often left comments on friend’s posts, or community events, but I often leave this section alone because of all the hate and abuse that can occur. It hurts my heart to see the words people post when they are protected by the anonymity of their computer screen.
But can these interactions be turned into something good?
We watched a Ted Talk in class from Dylan Marron that showed how negative comments could be turned into positive interactions. He has received tons of internet hate from the videos he has created, and he decided that he would call them to try and regain the humanity behind their comment.
A lot of these phone calls went really well, and Marron was able to prompt commentors to think before they post. The most impactful thing he said was that empathy is not endorsement. We can disagree with someone but still try and understand their viewpoint.
This is so needed today. There is so much hate and division between people with different political or cultural views.
Empathy allows us to extend understanding to the people around us.
Empathy allows us to realize that we all have different upbringings, relationships with our parents, and histories of abuse.
Empathy allows us to see the human in the person before us and take a moment to understand before jumping into hate.
There are people behind every post. Extend empathy before posting cruel messages or a critical comments.
Enjoy the sunshine today friends