Beware of trolls living in comment sections

By Avery Ballmann | Staff Writer

Last week, a staff writer for The Baylor Lariat wrote a column that sparked a few controversial arguments in its comment section.

A short summary is that the writer chose Baylor because it was the best financial option for her and her family — not for the Christian aspects of the university, since she is not Christian. Out of nine total comments, the seven negative ones that ensued were insensitive to the writer’s situation and simply weren’t productive.

These remarks ranged from “sounds like a you problem” to “it’s hard to believe Baylor was the only university in the country that met your financial needs, regardless of financial aid or scholarships.”

While people are allowed to have their own opinions, it seems these comments stemmed from reading only the headline, not the article. Had they read more attentively, they would have seen that the writer is one of four kids to a single mom.

The ironic piece of it all is some of the people who commented had Christian content posted in their feeds or in their bios. While these people were protecting Baylor and its values of Christianity, those values didn’t seem to apply when it came to the comment section.

Comment trolling isn’t just present on the Lariat’s Instagram feed; it’s everywhere, even in Kim Kardashian’s comment section. No person is exempt from people’s opinions, especially on the internet. It’s unsettlingly easy to make a comment on someone’s post and forget until someone starts fighting back.

Even if arguments do happen in a comment section, the ones that get ugly are ultimately unproductive. According to The New York Times, comment sections have failed because they lack accountability. That’s why these so-called arguments aren’t even logical debates; they typically end up as name-calling or a “you’re wrong; I’m right” situation.

A social media user can type whatever they want without instant implications, and the person receiving the comments has negative assumptions and opinions from a person they’ve never met before. Another fault of comment trolling is that if your boss or someone you value sees your comments on a profile, there are real-life implications to your words.

I know comments can always be deleted, but people won’t forget your username.

I can’t make people stop spreading negativity altogether, but there are ways to make your opinions useful and worthwhile without being reckless.

If a person wants to counter an opinion the Lariat writes, then they can write their own. All they have to do is fill out this form and wait for approval.

As a larger-scale solution, I think accounts should monitor comments more closely. This would look like keeping comments that produce actual logical arguments but deleting those that include hateful language and personal attacks.

I think arguments and opinions are healthy, but there is a threshold at which comments become unproductive.