Internet Commenters and the “Nasty Effect”

2013 03 22 Comments Bad For You

Slashdot summarizes a depressing bit of research:

Researchers worked with a science writer to construct a balanced news story on the pros and cons of nanotechnology, a topic chosen so that readers would have to make sense of a complicated issue with low familiarity. They then asked 1,183 subjects to review the blog post from a Canadian newspaper that discussed the water contamination risks of nanosilver particles and the antibacterial benefits. Half saw the story with polite comments, and the other half saw rude comments, like: ‘If you don’t see the benefits of using nanotechnology in these products, you’re an idiot.’ People that were exposed to the polite comments didn’t change their views really about the issue covering the story, while the people that did see the rude comments became polarized — they became more against the technology that was covered in the story.

Glad that none of my commenters here are like that, but it’s still disconcerting to thing that the ignorati of the world might actually be having a real impact. (Pic is from Salon, which also covered the story.)

4 thoughts on “Internet Commenters and the “Nasty Effect””

  1. Hope for humanity: when we see wacked out comments, we question them. Another thing to consider is that (perhaps) a lot of articles on the internet are slanted (so meant to change an opinion, unlike the balanced story in the research), and thus if the comments manage to attract crazies in the opposite direction, it could balance people’s opinions out. Or if the article and comments both slant the same way, people won’t automatically accept the slant.

  2. Doesn’t this also get into the effects of anonymity when posting on the internet? I also tend to read many of the comments on articles and even when I agree with the article I am surprised at the vitriol that some folks spew at those opposed to their way of thinking. It’s also funny to read the comments on articles that I am opposed to, because I see the same thing coming the other way and I realize there’s so much vileness from each side that it’s a wonder we don’t have vigilante killings going on between polarized sections of the country.

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