The comments dilemma: Just one man’s opinion

Mar 31, 2021 | 34 comments

By Karl Sweetman

I have recently learned that Cuenca High Life is considering making a number of changes to its format, particularly its comments section and policy. The reason? A number of complaints from readers who object to what they perceive as an increasing incidence of arguments, name-calling, nasty comments, insults and hostility expressed in the comments section.

This phenomenon is not unique to Cuenca High Life (CHL). We are living in exceptionally contentious times and many people have been seriously hurt in so many different ways by a seemingly never-ending pandemic. Politics, race, religion, public policy, gender issues, foreign policy, economics, cancel culture, health care, immigration; the list of topics likely to touch off heated debate between even the closest of friends is seemingly limitless these days. People all over the world are justifiably stressed out, angry and worried. Emotions are raw. Is it really all that surprising to see these feelings expressed in reaction to controversial news articles or topics?

One of the things I enjoy most about Cuenca High Life is its diversity. There is a healthy mix of local news punctuated with national and international stories. A left-leaning article is just as likely to be published today as is a right-leaning article.

I enjoy having my views challenged by well-sourced, thoughtful opinion. It makes me think and forces me to re-evaluate my own views.

It’s the same with the comments section; the posts by authors who back their premises with facts from credible sources and who make cogent arguments are always food for thought. Conversely, I find it easy to dismiss the trolls who just want to stir up fights by attacking others without offering justification for their own views. Any regular reader of the CHL comments section already knows who these contributors are.

I understand why some with more sensitive feelings dislike the combative atmosphere that often arises in the comments section. My own view is that if that’s you, then don’t wander in to that area.

Maybe one solution for the CHL debacle is to implement an optional feature for such readers that automatically hides the comments section. Perhaps it’s even possible for the moderators to simply flag objectionable comments with a warning label (as Twitter does) rather than removing them.

It’s not an easy decision for the owners/editors of CHL. No matter what they do, some people are going to be upset. That’s the environment we live in today. But it’s their baby and they are obviously free to do whatever they wish with it. I wish them nothing but the best.

There were a number of salient quotes I debated between as a fitting close for this opinion piece but I finally settled on this one from Roger Ebert. I think it best summarizes my own feelings on the question:

___________________

Karl Sweetman is a retired orthodontist from Denton, Texas who has lived happily in Ecuador for many years.

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