Why we don’t allow comments

The ability to post comments at the end of on-line news stories has revealed something unusual about our fellow citizens.

Even though most of them seem really quite nice and very polite when we meet them, to judge by the comments, other people are in fact, when it comes down to it, in privacy, something very different: jealous, furious, vindictive, heartless, obsessive, unforgiving – in a word, little short of insane.

This is troubling. Which is correct, the picture we have of other people from our own experience or the far darker picture given to us by the Comments sections?

We believe it is – on balance – the former. The Comments section are like people’s journals. In journals, we write all sorts of things down in extreme moods; we want to kill the friend who let us down, the whole of our lives has been useless, we don’t really love our partners, we’re lonelier than we have ever been, we want a lover. Then the mood passes – and we feel very glad indeed that no one has read the diary and is taking what we said there as the definitive truth about us.

Unfortunately, the Comments are not like journal entries. They stay up, everyone reads them and they come to seem like the truth about the personalities of others. This drags us down and can make life feel intolerable. Overall in a society, people need to be able to think reasonably well of their fellow citizens.

It isn’t a priority to see the worst side of people’s minds. The priority is to learn how to trust and think a little bit better of one another. We prefer to skip the opportunity for Comments.

But what’s she really like deep down?