If there’s one thing the internet is good for, it is providing a platform for people of all walks of life to voice their opinions. For those of us who are not celebrities, the internet is a way for us to start and contribute to conversations with people we may not normally have encountered in a world sans the online world. But, some wonder if now that the barrier to entry for contributing to a national or international debate is substantially lower, we have degraded the overall quality of public discourse.
Anthony Zurcher of the BBCNews asked the Seattle Times editorial page editor Kate Riley for her thoughts on the issue. “There are the trolls, of course, who throw mud in the comment sections of every published article – not so useful. But where I really think that opinion pages are making a difference is in modeling that old-school civil discourse. Disagree but don’t be disagreeable. Be tart and clever without name-calling,” said Riley.
Trolls in the comment sections are definitely an issue online, but sometimes the trolls are the people who write the articles. I won’t link to any pieces that I consider to be gobbled-gook click-bait, but some people essentially just string together a load of SEO-friendly, ire-inducing buzz words and hit “publish.” This is especially true on the topic of black women’s romantic lives. Can the church say Amen?
The result is usually a short-lived social media firestorm that probably gave that publication or blogger more hits in a day than in a typical month. The public indignation inevitably dies down, lying in wait until the next inane article or op-ed is published. That is just the way of the online world. There are lots of opinions out there, but there are also lots of ways to ignore them if you so choose. Pretty much every social media network has ways to block, mute or filter what you see.
Overall, I think the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to what the internet delivers. With a discerning eye (and a keen sense for that bs), the internet is a wonderful place to learn, indulge and be entertained.
Do you think having so many opinions online has taken the quality of public discourse down a notch?