Here’s the thing, online comments, I think we need some time apart. I want you to know right off the top: It’s not you, it’s me.
It was fun in the beginning, remember? We would meet like once a week at a roadside internet bulletin board, have hours of anonymous group text. Sometimes dozens of us. Men, women... well, mostly men. And some girls we suspected were men.
Professionally, it was wonderful to finally share the great platform of mass communication. Everyone had a voice and we could delight for hours in our differences of opinion. Democratize the media! Huzzah!
Oh sure, we had our flame wars but that was part of the fun. Saying despicable things about another man’s family is absolutely fine when you’re completely anonymous, we thought. What could go wrong?
But soon, it wasn’t just once a week. Every day we’d bump into each other where I didn't expect you in the aisles of online stores, on restaurant reviews, in classified ads, then on news stories. You couldn’t get away from differences of opinion. I started to suspect some of your opinions weren’t even based on facts. That was the just the start.
The first time you followed me home, I was just trying to watch a cat wedge itself into a Chinese food box. Then I scroll down to the comments on YouTube and people are talking more about boxes than cats. All kinds of nasty, right there in my living room. Soon Twitter and Facebook made you an industry and now it’s all day long, it’s everybody and it’s often awful.
They reduce the old flame wars to kid stuff, make trolls look sweet as a boxer puppy. These days, I’ve got stuff on my Facebook feed that’s like scrolling your mind deep into the toilet from Trainspotting; the foulest, steamy deposits ever left behind by nameless men in a public place, infiltrating the negative space of my spongy grey matter.
That’s how it feels sometimes. And it’s too much.
I’ve learned a lot and I thank you for that. I always knew racist jerks existed, I just didn’t know how many. Or how far they’d go. Or how vital it was to their existence that they expose their naked opinions for everyone to see. I also understand now that people will find reasons to avoid fact and logic in support of pre-conceived ideas while doing detox diets, avoiding vaccinations, voting and worrying excessively about ISIS. That has to end.
Turns out, giving voices to everybody just creates a lot of noise, most of it not worth listening to. I need to turn down the volume. Let me be me and you be you.
I have to write a comments policy and define this relationship. This isn’t CBC, this isn’t the Toronto Star, this isn’t the end, we can still see each other. I just need you to move out. There’s a nice place over on Facebook and I can see you there any time.
You can also still come over here to iNFOnews.ca whenever you like. We love having you. But we want everyone to feel comfortable here, and the good comments help create that. Offer another perspective, draw a different conclusion, challenge facts, argue with us or others, describe your ideas, put your feet up on the couch, help yourself to the fridge.
But if you bring your trash, I won’t let you in. If you claim to have facts, support them or you can’t share them. We don’t want your sales links or spam. Watch your language: If you can’t even respect your audience with simple word choice, you haven’t thought this through. And yes that includes the ignorant and the racist, too.
I’m going to watch the door to on-site comments more closely now. It’s a lot more work, but it’ll be worth it for everyone.
It just has to be this way. For both our sakes. I know we can move on, just not so close together. Hopefully we can still be friends.
— Marshall Jones is the editor of iNFOnews.ca