Online Comments

(P1) It shouldn’t be a surprise that I’m not fond of comments sections. I think you’d be HARD-PRESSED to find many female writers who are. On most sites – from YouTube to local newspapers – comments are a place where the most NOXIOUS thoughts rise to the top and smart conversations are lost in a sea of garbage.

(P2) There’s a reason, after all, that the REFRAIN “don’t read the comments” has become UBIQUITOUS among journalists. But if we’re not to read them, why have them at all?

(P3) I wasn’t always a comments-hater. When I started a feminist blog in 2004, I was thrilled to finally be able to talk with other young feminists online and was open to chatting with DETRACTORS. I saw the comments section as a way to DESTABILIZE the traditional writer/reader relationship – no longer did audiences need to consume an article without a true opportunity to respond. Comments even made my writing better those days; FEEDBACK from readers BROADENED the way I thought and sometimes changed my mind.

(P4) But as the internet and audiences grew, so did the BILE. Now if feels as if comments UPHOLD power structures instead of SUBVERTING them: sexism, racism, and homophobia are the norm; THREATS and HARASSMENT are common.

(P5) For writers, wading into comments doesn’t make a lot of sense – it’s like working a second shift where you WILLINGLY subject yourself to attacks from people you have never met and hopefully never will. Especially if you are a woman. Male commenters frequently threaten female journalists.

(P6) My own EXHAUSTION with comments these days has less to do with that kind of EXPLICIT harassment, which more responsible publications quickly delete, and more with the NEVER-ENDING stream of DERISION that women, PEOPLE OF COLOR, and other MARGINALIZED communities ENDURE; the constant insistence that you or what you write is stupid or that your PLATFORM is UNDESERVED. Yes, I’m sure straight, white, male writers get this kind of response too – but it’s not nearly as often and not nearly as nasty.

(P7) I don’t much understand the appeal of comments for readers either. Outside of the few places that have rich and intelligent conversation in comments, what is the point of engaging in DEBATE where the best you can hope for are a few PATS ON THE BACK from strangers for that PITHY ONE-LINER? Isn’t that what Facebook or Twitter is for?

(P8) When tech news website Re/code shut down its comments section last year, editors CITED the growth of social media as one reason for the decision: “The BULK of discussion of our stories is increasingly taking place there, making onsite comments less and less used and less and less useful.”

(P9) Comments sections also give the impression that all thoughts are created equal when, well, they’re not. When Popular Science stopped publishing comments, for example, it was because “everything, from evolution to the origins of climate change, is mistakenly thought to be UP FOR GRABS again…scientific certainty is just another thing for two people to ‘debate’”. When will we see the humanity and dignity of women as a fact, rather than an opinion?

(P10) It’s true, I could just stop reading comments. But I shouldn’t have to. Ignoring hateful things doesn’t make them go away, and telling women to simply avoid comments is just another way of saying we’re too lazy or OVERWHELMED to fix the real problem.

(P11) Websites and news sources are increasingly moving forward without comments because they find them unnecessary and COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE. More places should FOLLOW THEIR LEAD.

WORDS: 584

SOURCE: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/10/end-online-comments


If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Do you agree or disagree with the idea of ending online comments sections?
  3. Do you ever comment on online articles yourself? Do you read other people’s comments?
  4. Do you use Facebook and Twitter or similar social media platforms to express your opinions?
  5. Many people make unpleasant comments ANONYMOUSLY. Would forcing people to use their real names online change their behaviors?


What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • Hard-pressed
  • Never-ending
  • People of color
  • Pat on the back
  • One-liner
  • Up for grabs
  • Counter-productive
  • Follow the lead

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