Are Internet Comments Toxic?

By Christian Chung

Facebook. Twitter. YouTube. Heck, let’s throw in Google+ while we’re at it. Whether it’s on social media or maybe a live stream with a live chat, one is for sure bound to end up scrolling down or looking at the comments section.

Like any high school student, procrastination infiltrates my brain and time hard. If you ever see me on my computer, I’m either surfing the web or landing myself on social media all the time.

Now you’re probably thinking, “What’s an incoming junior doing writing about internet comments rather than studying for his SAT or AP classes?”

Well, first of all, don’t worry about me. I already have and am still studying. Second, this is a topic that has grabbed my attention for a while and caused a lot of debates in my own head. What you will be reading is all opinion based, you may have whatever viewpoint of this topic you choose to turn to.

So how did it all start? Well, it actually happened on a Facebook post about United Airlines and their treatment of customers. As I gradually scrolled down to the comment section, the top comment was already having a heated debate about who was right and who was wrong. If I had seen this 3 years ago, 13 year old me would have dived into the comments and add on to what people find as “cancerous” or whatever new slang the internet has created today.

However, on my way to lunch actually, I ran across these parents talking about how they never want to have their children on social media because of how “toxic” the comments were.

Toxic. Google defines this as one word: poisonous. Merriam Webster defines it as “ containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing death or serious debilitation”. The first thing that pops up to my mind when I hear the word toxic is actually a Pokemon move. So obviously this word can be interpreted in a variety of way for different people. Nothing wrong with that.

Back to the main point though. These parents want to prevent their children from social media because comments are now “toxic”. I don’t believe that comments are toxic or so help me, poisonous. The word I would use would be “debatable”. To be honest, I see that comments are starting to turn into debates about whatever the post is. Later on, I’ll separate how I feel comments have their positives and negatives.

Let’s go back to our definitions to define “comments”. Once again, Merriam Webster states that comments are “a note explaining, illustrating, or criticizing the meaning of a writing”. In this statement, we already see the one word that results in these debates, “criticizing”.

Like many others, I do criticize people a lot. I admit it’s sometimes a habit I feel that may harm people. People may judge a specific sports player. Maybe there’s an actress or actor that isn’t that good in one’s viewpoint. One may even say how I use too many quotation marks in my article. Nevertheless, criticism will always appear in comments.

“How do you handle constructive criticism?” Have you ever heard of this question? I have. Whenever I apply for an academic team, club, or maybe even an internship, the application or interview always gives this question. It’s no surprise that we are always hammered with criticism. It’s a part of our everyday lives that no matter how much you try, you can’t really avoid it.

So with all this in mind let’s start with the positive side of comments.

  • They bring people together: For anyone who doesn’t listen to K-POP, whether you like it or not, I would just take a moment to pass by one of their YouTube videos and read the comments. It honestly makes me smile to see not only how passionate they are, but of how a common interest can bring people together and even resolve any drama that may have occurred.
  • They can answer questions: Have you ever been stuck with the “Hold on to your question, this student may be asking the same question so listen carefully”. These happen to me all the time in videos. On Instagram, I commonly see people ask what the music is that is playing on the short video presented. It’s no surprise that people answer these questions and maybe it did for a person who was too shy or just didn’t want to become “exposed” on the internet for not knowing a well-known song.
  • Positive debates: “That doesn’t exist” according to a lot of my peers. Well, I have actually seen parts of the internet where it has happened. Of all topics one would expect, it was about politics. People were debating on our presidential election on which candidate was better and stuff like that. However, it amazed me on how one comment, the replies were all clean and that in the end, people were actually saying how they agree on one’s viewpoint and that they support whatever decision this complete stranger makes.

Now let’s turn to a more serious and maybe a bit depressing look towards comments. You know, that part of the internet that one doesn’t or shouldn’t end up into.

  • Negative debates: Going back to that one presidential debate, yes there were some negative comments and replies. Curse words flying out. Judging people by their reply and saying that they’re stupid. Reporting people because they’re “wrong”. I can see how a parent wouldn’t want their children to end up on these comments cause they can be quite abusive.
  • Attackers: Whether it’s a friend’s post or a music video, there will always be attackers. People who inflict harm because they don’t see it in their viewpoints or just because they want someone to feel hurt. It’s common and can lead to cyber bullying sometimes. Sometimes it ends up as a “you’re wrong, I’m right” situation.
  • Harmful replies: Someone makes a positive comment. Oh wait here comes another internet web-surfer and now we have a war. I classify this different from attackers because I see attackers as people who directly inflict harm to whoever it is. Harmful replies are more like people who want to create a war between people. They can lead to attacks on each other, commonly will end up into negative debates, and bring a lot of anger into people. Kind of like the road rage anger some people have.

So what does this all mean? While you did just read an article from a teenager, it’s more to show a side to this issue from a younger viewpoint. Like I said earlier, this is all opinion based. My purpose isn’t to force you to say comments are bad or good. I actually have a neutral viewpoint on this topic because things are and will always be changing. Whether you agree on what you just read or have a different opinion, I hope that this information at least made you think on the topic a little bit. Hopefully, you can use this to look at comments differently and maybe make a difference for yourself and other people the next time you end up on YouTube or your desired social media platform.

Just have fun.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Christian Chung’s story.