Sympathy for Online Forum Editors
I’m convinced that the most aggravating job in America is forum editor for media outlets. The Internet provides anonymity and easy access for everyone who wants to vent about an article, video, photo or blog post.
The optimist in me recognizes that this is a good thing: in a democracy, we are allowed to express our opinions. The pessimist in me sees this as a bad thing: it’s very easy for forum commenters to go off topic, present unsubstantiated claims, avoid accountability, spam the comment section or just plain be nasty.
For media outlets, public comments are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they attract eyeballs (potentially boosting online ad rates) and provide a means to engage readers. On the other hand, the comment section can quickly degrade into the online equivalent of juvenile food fights. Sometimes things get so nasty that forum editors will suspend further comments.
So how do you keep your blood pressure from escalating while reading public comments? Here are a few tips.
— Mentally insert the words “In my opinion” before every comment you read.
— Acknowledge that online exchanges (and yes, this includes Facebook) rarely change anybody’s opinions. Posters/commenters may be looking to vent or to preach to their respective choirs.
— If your organization is referenced negatively in a comment, carefully consider whether or not you want to respond. Sometimes, the commenter merely wants to provoke and won’t be swayed by your response.
— Remember that online forums are not representative of the general public. They mostly attract those with strong opinions.
If worse comes to worse, do what I do. Take a holiday from reading comment sections. Life is too short to let anonymous haters and trolls ruin your day. Now don’t get me started on sports radio show callers…