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Undecided on comments

When I was in Introduction to Interactive Media, I had an assignment of building an website for myself that would house my portfolio and resume so that employers could see my online presence.

At this point in the class, I could code HTML and CSS well enough to get by, but WordPress uses PHP to code.  We weren’t going to learn PHP coding entirely, just how to find the HTML and CSS within the PHP, or in other words, we were going to be experimenting with our websites and trying to problem solve as best as we could.

I knew what I wanted to accomplish– remove the sidebar and make everything one column, make everything pink (I wonder if y’all could guess my favorite color) and remove the commenting features– but I wasn’t entirely sure how to do it.

Eventually I figured out how to remove the sidebar and make the main color pinkish red (rumor has it pink isn’t professional) and to remove the comments.

Or so I thought.

I created my site so that commenting on the posts and pages wasn’t an option, but it wasn’t until I started blogging regularly that I realized that it’s possible to comment on my homepage.

This isn’t that big of a deal, but people are posting comments.  Mainly spam comments with a few nice once mixed in, but comments nonetheless.

I knew that I didn’t want the commenting feature on my website before I even started creating it: I don’t like that someone’s thoughts can be on your site without your confirmation, and quite frankly, I don’t think the comment box is attractive.  I also don’t like the idea of giving someone an open shot at criticizing me.  On the other hand, allowing people the option to speak their minds and start a conversation is appealing to me– just not on my site.

My discussion about comments was prompted a few weeks ago after reading a creatively-written blog post by my classmate Dylan Howlett (I recommend reading it if you have a few minutes).  He went on to reference a New York Times column written by Anna North analyzing studies about online comments.  Turns out, certain words within the comments that appear beneath an article, even if only glanced at, are picked up by the reader and help influence his or her opinion.

Dylan went on to cite a study done by Washington State University that suggests that comments sway public opinion more than a public service announcement.  These comments are often unregulated and as long as you have a valid email address, you can post whatever you want.

Yes, I think the First Amendment is a great thing, but I think that because (almost) anyone has the ability to post on the internet, there are billions of things they can say including hateful things.

I don’t think that it is productive to have mindless, hateful comments posted beneath an article (as Dylan showed with fabricated users within his article) don’t help anything.  This is especially frustrating to me because if the study by Washington State University is correct, these comments are very influential on the minds of the viewers.

Here is another issue I have with this.  I know that comments can be written by people that want a rise out of people or those that want to stir the pot and I know that these people are likely not experts on whatever subject they’re referring to.  Everyone doesn’t know that.  I see proof of this all over Facebook when people post stories from satire sites like The Onion or stories from unreliable sources that are obviously hoaxes.

My classmate Nicole Siegel also blogged about comments pointing out that some sites, like the Washington Post, don’t allow comments at all and some sites, like the Charlotte Observer, require a user’s Facebook login in order to post.

I like the Charlotte Observer’s take because when the comments are attached to a name rather than a made-up username, the person has accountability for what they say.  Otherwise, the conversation can get out of hand with people posting comments about their conspiracy theories, hatred for people in power and other random things.

Okay, I’ve been beating around the bush, but I’m not a fan of comments.

Unless they’re genuinely contributing to the conversation (which I very seldom see because I can’t help but look at the comments section of some sites), I’m not a fan.  I think people should be able to think and say what they want, but I don’t think beneath an article is the place for that.

So if you want to be able to comment on my blogs, sorry about it.  I have my Twitter account on my website in multiple locations so instead, I invite you to tweet at me if you have any questions, comments or concerns.  My username is @anastasiabowden if you don’t want to look.

So while I try to figure out how to disable comments on my site altogether, see if you notice the comments under a news article or see if you have an opinion on comments.

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