An ode to the comments section

From social media posts to informational blogs, every major platform online has the ability to leave feedback in the form of comments, and on most of these platforms these comments are public. These comment sections can hold anything, from criticisms to rudeness to important insights- any comment can add or take away from a post and its impact. Photo by cottonbro from Pexels.

Hello again Huskies! With the second week of the spring semester coming to an end, I’m certainly still getting into the swing of things. Maybe this is just an issue I have, but it seems like I spend the beginning of every semester re-learning how to be a college student. I’m suddenly juggling classes, extracurriculars, friends, family, work and my own health — a balancing act that is even more difficult considering I spent the last few weeks on winter break doing practically nothing at all. Alas, the transition from zero responsibilities to regular life again is always a tricky one. Despite these challenges, I always have time for my column, which functions as a peek into whatever niche topic I can’t get out of my head that week. 

As I’ve been readjusting to school through virtual learning this week, I’ve also been thinking about my online presence. It’s no secret we live in the age of technology and social media, and as a young adult, I know I’m easily trapped in my own online world. Recently, the comments section has been weighing heavily on my mind. This seems silly and I’m perhaps hyper fixating on what could be considered insignificant, but it’s true! And after some serious thinking, I’ve come to the conclusion that the concept of the comments section does not get enough credit. 

I’m fully aware the comments section can be an awful place, perhaps even one of the darkest corners of the internet. It’s where negativity runs rampant, but that’s not all it’s good for. The comments section can also be thought provoking (and sometimes even more intriguing than the piece of media it’s attached to) if engaged with carefully and constructively.  

As a weekly columnist for the opinion section of a student newspaper, I know full well that hate comments are prevalent online. Everybody has opinions! And some people see an open comment section as a place to scream said opinions into the void, especially the ones they are most passionate about. Thus, it’s incredibly easy as a writer to feel angry and consequently lash out against these comments. But if you take a step back and look at the situation from an objective standpoint, it can be quite sad. Clearly, these commenters are upset or hurt. They need an outlet, and the internet provides them with just that. In other situations, these raging comments can present as hilarious, given their assumed insignificance within the universe. Moreover, I know I’ve gotten angry comments that are so passionate, hating on me for merely existing, which can still make me laugh because it’s obvious their author didn’t even read my work all the way through. If you look beyond the comments themselves, you can see they have ranging origins and impacts. 

Due to the nature of social media, it is easier to leave messages behind without feeling guilt or personal attachment to what you say. This leads to situations where people act inappropriately in comment sections without thinking of the consequences of what they say. Photo by Levi Meir Clancy on Unsplash.

Thus, comments sections certainly exist in bad form. But I am also of the opinion that they can be incredibly productive when used properly. For example, I have seen TikTok comments that are funnier than the videos they’re attached to. Comments sections can hence be places for creativity and humor.  

And for a more serious example, the comments on my opinion articles have also been productive at times. Just last week a commenter left a video suggestion that expanded on my point. On the same article, a different commenter left a sarcastic retort that didn’t make sense, and that is truly the duality of man. However, my point still stands that there was at least one positive engagement with the comments section of said article. Since pretty much anyone can comment on any piece of media, everyone is given a seat at the table. It is entirely possible (and I would argue, easy) to interact positively with media published online — if consumers put in the effort. 

Yes, the comments section is a scary place. But I still don’t think it should be discounted entirely as worthless. It can be a place for conversation if commenters utilize it intelligently and maturely. You can even critique content you don’t agree with, as long as you do so respectfully and intelligently with a well-sourced counterargument. (Especially instead of attacking a creator’s existence or identity.) The internet is vast, putting an absurd amount of content into the palm of your hands. There’s no guarantee you’ll agree with everything you come across, and you can say so if you do it respectfully. Therefore, the comments section should be used as a means of productive conversation, which only requires a bit of effort from its users, rather than being discounted as a whole. 

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