Sunday, November 29, 2015

Unwarranted Opinion

Namisha Rakheja

There is absolutely no doubt that the public is opinionated. It is natural. It is in our human nature to comment on an issue or express our opinion on it. Either we see something that we disagree with and automatically want to bash it, or we see content that we agree with and want to bash those who do not agree. Where does this bashing take place? In the comment section of any given platform; whether it’s the New York Times or Kim Kardashian’s most recent Instagram post. With that being said, the question still stands, is it warranted for publications to remove the comment section of their websites? And the answer is YES.

Yes, yes, freedom of speech is a rebuttal, however, not all user-generated content is either valid or necessary and it definitely does not lead to any positive debates.  

But first, let me clarify this: most publishers are not just removing the comment section, instead are diverting it to Facebook. If one feels the need to comment, they must do so via Facebook for an over all better outcome.

Tim Ebner, writer for American Journalism Review, says, “When USA Today announced it was about to implement a new system requiring everyone who wants to comment on its online stories to do so via Facebook, editors noticed a less than friendly reaction from readers, who submitted their responses under the old anything-goes comment system”. 

The purpose of this requirement is so that online readers can no longer “hide behind the cloak of anonymity” and also “with the Facebook-only comment policy… it leaves out a portion of the public that doesn't participate in the social networking site (Ebner). 

When you go online to read a credible article about a current event issue, you are looking to get educated on the topic. You want to see what this journalist or publisher has to offer you in terms of knowledge. A simple, positive exchange if you ask me. However, lets add the ability to comment on the article/issue to the equation. 

So by the time you finish the article and have retained information, that you may have not gotten had it not been posted, you scroll down to the comments section. You begin to witness a sea of opinions flowing in and out and, most of the times, into each other. Whether you have a solid opinion on what you just read or you have not made up your mind yet, you will still be affected by other readers’ comments. Either your malleable opinion gets swayed to what americancitizen1329 says or you disagree and begin arguing with what user666 comments. Neither option is positive, neither option is necessary. 

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Evidently, the only thing all of these unwarranted comments are doing is distracting the common reader from what the article is actually about.

At the end of 2014, many news sites were fed-up with the comment section and therefore got rid of it. The Neiman Lab published an article in which Nilay Patel, editor-in-chief, of The Verge, said, in response to the removal of comment section, “The posts that have the most comments on them are not necessarily the most popular posts. But often, what was happening was that the posts with the most negative comments on them were the most popular posts because they were the culture posts.”

The article is not about an argument between two readers over who ISIS is, it’s about the content a journalist worked diligently to publish to give information to those who would not receive it other wise.

I must say, reading the comments under a celebrity’s picture or a YouTube video that has gone viral is extremely amusing; it is just not necessary for any reader to be ambushed by opinions when educating themselves on current events.

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