Some days I really wonder why I ever volunteered to moderate 100s, even 1,000s of comments on our Website all the time. (I know why, of course – because a news Website without comments seems cold and sterile and one-way to me. So either you have no comments allowed, you let them say just about anything that’s not obscene or threatening – or you have someone like Yours Truly who gets to draw the line and redefine ‘offensive’ all the day and night, etc.;-)
Two recent stories prompt this little venting session — both of which I knew darn well would prompt the kind of judgmental comments that they have — after years of this, you get pretty good at know what will spark debate and where the debate is likely to go.
One is a piece on a local panhandling couple. The other is on a Redmond family’s reaction to a cut in their food stamp benefits.
I often post the first comment now, to spark discussion and to plead, even beg for civil comments. Knowing full well I likely won’t get my wish.
Indeed, I ask you to review the comments and see where things have gone. It’s often not pretty, but oh so predictable.
We’re always wanting to, and often asked to please put “real people” in our stories. Many such people are reluctant to appear on camera – and considering the caustic state of our social media-driven online dialogue, who can blame them? Why would anyone voluntarily subject themselves to such scrutiny from the digital purveyors of all that’s right and wrong?
I do understand, especially in the food stamp story – we all pay for them, and so many folks seem to have witnessed so much abuse. Maybe I’m blind when I go to the grocery store – I don’t see it all that often. Or maybe it doesn’t register/ignite upset and rage as it does with some.
But in these kinds of stories, I have to bite my tongue harder than ever to not fire back – a dangerous thing for me, and I do fall victim to getting into the fray at times. But while I’m not much of a religious person – much to the dismay of older brother Rick — I do know the lines, “Let he who is without sin …” and “Judge not …” Some seem to know but not live it day to day, or at least, not in what they say in comments online, anonymous or not. And one only needs to visit Facebook for a brief period to see it’s NOT all about people hiding behind screen names – it’s AMAZING what some folks will say with their names attached — apparently without shame or regret.
Yes, it’s all part of that thing I refer to as today’s Blame Society – it’s always been that way, I suppose, but never so toxic, caustic and in your face. Maybe it was all better when it was whispers behind one’s back rather than shouts in your face while the whole world’s watching. I don’t know. And maybe it has something to do with a certain segment of teens turning off Facebook — well, some — because anything shared online can be scorned, scrutinized and make you wish you never opened your digital mouth.
I sure do know that so many of us are only a paycheck or two away from needing our own Oregon Trail card. And maybe we’d only buy bread, milk and fresh fruits and vegetables, and be ashamed when we get in line and pull out the card. But wow … the judgmental nature of those who get to check a person’s shopping list on their fridge or whatever … it’s simply amazing, and depressing.
Don’t get me wrong – there are some insightful comments amid the nasty ones. And on some stories, people are supportive, kind and understanding. But it seems things like this bring out the worst in some people, oh so predictably.
I often hope that the people who regularly post aren’t who they appear to be by their posting – that it’s an alter-ego, perhaps, or a venting of sorts that allows them to be more kind, respectful, etc. in real life to those they encounter, or their families or co-workers. Naive? Perhaps.
Then there are those who have fired back, calling the critics hypocrites. And some comments I’ve wanted to stand up and applaud – but as moderator, I NEVER a) ‘like’ or upvote/downvote a comment or b) post under a pseudonym. It’d be far too dangerous and slippery a slope for me.
But I do have this blog, where at least it can be clear I’m reacting to and venting about the comments in general and not about a specific commenter, which causes grief in so many ways.
To judge others is human nature, I suppose. But I just hope and pray that we don’t have to hand out a ‘Here’s How to Sanitize Your Life to Avoid Ruing an Interview’ sheets to every ‘real person’ we talk to. Police, govt. officials — they sign up for the barbs and brickbats that come their way. But “everyday people” shouldn’t have to be perfect to go through a media encounter unscathed. Should they?
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: The only people I really hate are those who seem to be people full of hate and judgment. And if that makes ME judgmental … well, so be it. I can live with that, knowing what the world of nasty online comments has brought us to, or is pushing us toward – unless we take control of the discussion and drown out the nastiness with … dare I say … compassion, civil debate and respectful dialogue.
Care to join me?