Whenever I fly, one of my favorite things to do is to swing by the newsstand and pick up a copy of Popular Science or Popular Mechanics. These magazines represent the pulse of where science and technology are – and what the future holds.
Like most magazines, there is an online edition that traditionally has a comment section under each article – until now. Today, Pop Sci announced they will no longer have a comment section underneath their articles. This seems like a bold move in an environment where the comment section can get as much attention as the article.
But, that is the point. The editors of Pop Sci point to a recent study from the University of Wisconsin that studied the reactions of over 1000 participants to a rather controversial article, then asked for their response after looking through some polarizing and toxic comments after the article. They found a large number of readers changed their opinion of the original piece after reading through the comment section. The research concluded the comment section of an article can completely change the opinion of the reader – and usually these comment sections are taken over by one or two angry responses out of many positive responses.
For Pop-Sci, the more important thing is the science, not the responses. They want to have a forum where honest and thoughtful interactions take place, but they don’t feel like that can happen on their website. They care too much about the ideas being presented by their staff and the future implications of the science to let a few “trolls” having a bad day derail their work.
I don’t know how this strikes you, but I think they are doing is really brave. The internet has turned into a place where people can hide behind a keyboard and screen-name and say things they would never say face to face. When there is little to lose, anyone can say whatever comes to their mind. There are very few consequences for the angry commenter on a blog.
But, there are huge consequences for the ideas and topics. Think about your own online reading habits. Often, I am more interested in the comment section of a controversial piece than I am the content itself. I will spend a lot more time reading through the comments than I will the actual article.
Herein lies our issue. We have the propensity to reduce people to an idea or position and fail to realize their true identity. When someone lashes out negatively on a comment section, they typically will categorize the writer in a certain sociological area that fits with cultural norms. Then, the commenter will be attacked by other commenters doing the same thing. Walls are built and territories are established without anyone knowing each other’s real name.
That is nuts.
I am of the opinion the internet is too much for most of us to handle. There is too much power at our fingertips and too little responsibility needed to be civil. I think Pop-Sci is wise to take this privilege away since so few can be responsible with it. They want to protect what they are about as a science publication. They don’t want to be a tabloid.
This goes for us as followers of Jesus. Our crucified Christ is our identity. What things need to be taken away or put to the side so we can live fully into that identity? What areas of life are we just not responsible enough to speak?
Unlike Pop-Sci, we would like your comments on this (haha). What has gotten in the way of your identity in Jesus?