I clicked on this story fully expecting to disagree with you. For me, “don’t read the comments” isn’t some sort of dark joke, it has become my mantra across the internet… or, at least at certain sites. “Don’t feed the trolls” is a joke. “Never read the comments” is a survival strategy.
However, I found your article to be incredibly thoughtful and insightful. As the saying goes, the good old days weren’t always good. I’ve been online since going online involved dialing into a BBS, where if you were lucky the system might have two phone lines but most often you would have to wait for the busy signal to clear before you could login. There were message boards on those systems (BBS stood for “Bulletin Board System”), and there were always people who disagreed with you. What’s worse now is the amplification, in those days the BBS wasn’t an ingrained part of your life the way the web is today. It was very easy to separate your online life from your real world life. In fact, it was highly unlikely that any of your real life friends actually owned modem or even a computer.
Anonymity is probably the biggest culprit, and sites that require real names seem to be somewhat better although still not perfect. I’m not sure how holding platforms accountable will help either. How exactly do you hold them accountable? You mention shaming them, calling them out by name, but most of us already know who they are. Moderation helps, but apart from the clear cut cases of abuse there are thousands of examples daily of posts that are borderline. Who makes the judgement call on those, and how do we keep a check on their judgement?
There are no easy answers to this problem, and until we figure it out I’m going to continue to tread lightly around the comment sections. (And this turned into one long comment from someone who tries to avoid the comment section! 😀)