Opinions and assholes
Imagine you're sitting in a small doctors office.
The walls are adorned with medical imagery that's likely never used for anything, but it looks good and reassures patients that they are dealing with a professional.
You shift in your chair, which feels like it was built with the goal of correcting your posture. In front of you is a cluttered desk, on the other side of which sits your doctor. Her chair looks like the pinnacle of luxury compared to yours.
In her hand is a print out full of various bits of information about you. Including your personal details, your medical history and the results of the blood test that she had recently carried out.
She has been talking for a couple of minutes now but seems to be reaching the end of her monologue, some of which you understood.
"So I think the best plan of action for you right now is a short course of antibiotics. A week should do it."
She pauses for a moment,
"Once you're finished the course I think we should run some more tests, just to be safe. What do you guys think?"
This last bit throws you off guard. What 'guys'? Who is she talking to?
Before you finish that thought the door opens and in pours a group of about twenty people.
"Don't take those antibiotics, you're killing your micro-biome and creating super-viruses! Doctors these days are just shills for big pharma!" says one of the men in the group, he's got a name tag on that says 'NutBuster420'.
Someone else in the group scoffs and says "Don't blame the doctor, she is just following standard practices, it's up to the patient to get the information and decide what to do!"
That persons name tag says "Jesus O'Christ"
Someone else butts in, completely disregarding the ongoing argument between the other two.
"They don't need drugs, they just need to try a vegan diet, I cured myself fully within six months of going vegan."
That statement doesn't go down well in the group. A debate about the ethics of veganism erupts. Some of them scream about B12 and protein while other talk about how much they love meat.
While all this is going on, several other people wander in and out of the office. They check out what's going on and some decide to interject, but most don't.
"Another sick citizen!" cries a man at the back, "Hardly surprising when you look at our inept government! People are literally dying on their watch!"
The response comes quickly.
"That's a bit dramatic isn't it?"
"Eh just look at our hospitals they are a mess, people on trolleys in the halls. This government couldn't manage a day care let alone a country!" says the man at the back.
This goes on for around ten minutes before you decide to get up and leave. You had come in search of information and advice. You leave in a bad mood, not really sure about anything that just happened.
What does it all mean
There is an Irish news website called The Journal, and they do something that I dislike.
They have a comment section in every news article.
Obviously they aren't the only news site to do this, but they are the only one that I expose myself to on a semi-regular basis.
In the comment section we usually just get a bunch of opinions from people who have little or know expertise or even knowledge on the subject of the post, and often these opinions are strong and aggressive.
Oh, and every news article always has someone that links the story back to the government, no matter how tenuous the link. This has become an art form. I often jump to the comment section excited to see how someone has managed to complain about the government on an article about some new iPhone accessory.
Another one of the more common themes is anti-sjw outrage. For example this comment on a recent poll that asked what movie you would like to go see this weekend:
Since 2008 (and before) I’ve enjoyed the MCU but apparently the latest instalment [sic] isn’t for white dudes, so go f**k yourself marvel
This was in reference to Captain Marvel... A film that wasn't even one of the options on the poll.
Here's a comment from 'Nehppo G' on an article announcing a new Dublin Bus route:
A few comments below was this:
Not really something you’d expect to find on a National news site. Hardly even a Dublin news site. New bus route… zzzz
If you think back to the story at the beginning of this post I basically highlight how absurd it is to have random anonymous strangers chime in when you are trying to consume information from a professional.
The news is meant to be a statement of fact, a telling of recent events. These comment sections do nothing to contribute toward that simple goal.
If fact, they do the opposite in many cases.
They incite anger, either towards the comment or towards the article and author. They foster bias - which I would have thought news sites would want to avoid.
Of course they do it to drive up engagement. It gets people involved. Makes it seem as if they've had their say, as if all opinions on a matter are equally valid (They are not - my opinion on the US foreign policy, for example, is far less valid than that of a journalist working in that field for a decade).
I also have a suspicion that many people read news headlines and go straight for the comment section. I can't prove this, but hang around The Journal for a day and I feel like you will end up with the same suspicion.
Anyway, the point in all this is that it's important to recognize that just because you can do something it doesn't mean it should be done. To quote Chris Rock:
"Shit, you can drive a car with your feet if you want to, that don't make it a good fucking idea!"
The question is whether or not the thing you are doing adds value. If it doesn't then you should consider whether or not to continue doing it.