When commenters are allowed to be anonymous, everything seems to get worse. A study by the University of Houston analyzed 900 comments on articles about immigration, a topic everyone is famously cool and collected about. As it turns out, a whopping 53 percent of anonymous commenters were uncivil, compared to just 29 percent of people who had to register. That's because anonymity, ironically, encourages a deeper sense of community identity, which sounds great until you realize that it's actually robbing us of our individuality. Releasing your personal stake in a statement lets it become part of the hive mind, and that allows us to ditch all sense of responsibility. In other words, anonymity leads to groupthink, until one day you get whole websites like 8chan that are full of angry, faceless people all clogging up the echo chamber with their infinite circle-jerking.
It's like an even more irritating version of this.
And these anonymous comments don't just hurt people's feelings -- they can actually influence the content that they're trashing. A study done by the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that when participants read a fake blog post and then the comments that followed, the comments actually impacted how they felt about the article. In fact, the more insulting and profane the comments, the stronger their effect, even going so far as to change some people's minds about what they had just read. The participants also had more polarized feelings on the subject, meaning comment sections are literally adding to the divisiveness of society, forcing people to react not to the thousand-word essay, but to the poorly spelled 12-word tirade three inches below the internet sanity line.
Unless they flat-out ask you what you thought, let it go.
The natural human impulse to stand on the other side of the room from the biggest asshole still exists online, except it causes people to be more extremist in their views, which creates more assholes. The internet is a monster that feeds on your negative emotions, a swirling black spiral that does nothing but encourage reactionary outrage at the expense of nuance and joy and makes us feel like subhuman husks.
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