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A commenter speaks: Adebayo Flynn on why comment sections aren't as bad as they're made out

No, really.

Adebayo Flynn

You may recognise Adebayo Flynn as one of the most frequent commenters here on TheJournal.ie He sent us this piece on the good and bad things that he’s seen during his time as an internet commenter. 

HI, I’M ADEBAYO Flynn and I frequent internet comment sections. I often leave comments on YouTube, respond to tweets over on Twitter, and I also regularly get involved on TheJournal.ie.  I’ll scroll on down and see what’s getting thrown around. Those of you who do partake in commenting (even if it’s just reading them rather than actually writing them) will understand why some people regard the bottom part of the internet as being akin to taking a turn into the wrong part of town. I understand that, so I’ll give you my take on what lies beneath: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Comment sections are not for the faint-hearted. They’re not exactly bastions of political correctness. By the very nature of being a melting pot of opinions, you’re going to find differing viewpoints which cover all perspectives imaginable – but you will also come across darker statements containing casual racism, sexism, homophobic remarks, body image judgement, and so on.  It can make for uncomfortable reading.

For those of you reading this who do comment, you will know that online discussions can rapidly descend into personal abuse. When was the last time a stranger called you an asshole? Strap yourself in because it’s in the post, baby. It’s funny in retrospect when I think back on the first insult I received. Having given my take on a topic that went against the general consensus in the preceding comments, somebody felt they should let me know what they thought of me. “Wait! What? Did he just…Oh my god he just called me an asshole!” I was in shock for a while, if I’m honest.

https://vine.co/v/OqXQrYnJpzB

Thankfully, I soon learned to ignore this type of interaction. Unlike my above re-enactment, nowadays I just scroll past. It’s that or go off-topic having a cringeworthy online feud (which is always a sure-fire way to debase your own points).

The experiment

I would liken the confrontational attitude of some commenters to an experiment about road rage I saw on TV years ago. A sample group of self-confessed road rage sufferers were asked to drive around during rush hour. The test drive was recorded and, true to form, the drivers quickly mutated into furious, swearing, life-threatening people. The transformation was very Bruce Banner.

The second part of the experiment was to walk down a busy high street. The people around them stopped and started, brushed into them, and barged past. All the while, Mr and Ms Road Rage remained placid and reasonable. No heavy breathing or foaming at the mouth. The conclusion was the vehicles created a barrier which had a separating effect on the drivers’ attitude to other road users, acting as a kind of disconnection. It appears to me the same could be said about online interaction with strangers.

The experiment reminded me that not everybody suffers from road rage and not everybody goes nuclear in comment sections. So while I accept some of the negativity toward comment sections is warranted, I also believe they deserve to be defended.

I believe they are getting a raw deal and are being dismissed as warzones ran by illiterate keyboard warriors, sexists and racists. That’s just not the case. I’ve seen comment sections filled with intelligent replies, witty retorts, and fascinating anecdotes from people’s life experiences which I would never hear otherwise, unless I somehow met hundreds of people every week and started up random conversations with them all.

https://vine.co/v/OhbEjahwrL1

Bear in mind most comments are written on the hoof and without a moment’s thought – and it shows, you may say – as people wait on a Luas, stand in a queue, kill some time on a smoking break, or before they go to sleep. Often there’s not much time to overthink it, plus it doesn’t come with the luxury of proofreading or having a time out while you calculate your killer rebuttal.  It’s more transparent and unprocessed. It’s raw. There’s plenty of honesty. 

Sometimes that’s not pretty but it’s real. I like real, I can deal with real. It cuts through the stifling political correctness. If anything I’d be more concerned about the growing willingness not to ruffle any feathers than with a bit of straight talking. If we always agree on things then perhaps one of us isn’t thinking. If we are afraid to think for ourselves then there is no debate. Everybody keeps it between the ditches because God forbid you might go against the general consensus and offend somebody.

This Stephen Fry quote says a lot:

It’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more… than a whine. ‘I find that offensive.’ It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so fucking what.

It is my opinion that the microphone has been in the hands of too few up until now and what we’re now seeing is the end of one-way news reporting. Questions can be asked instantly. We can all say our piece.

Has there ever been an opportunity for so many opinions to be shared so rapidly? I cant think of any other time but feel free to let me know in the comments below. I would urge people to make up on their own minds on comment sections. Go in with an open mind, keep the head and don’t feed the trolls; trust me. they are in the minority.

Peace out, I love you all.

Adebaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

You can see more from Adebayo at http://www.adebayoflynn.com/ 

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