The Pitfalls of Online Commenting

Disadvantages of participating in online comment threads

By: Amanda Scott, Dec 7, 2018

Everyone knows there are drawbacks to participating in online comment discussions, but no one talks about them. These are the downfalls that prevent users from engaging and voicing their side.

We’ve listed the top five pitfalls of online commenting, hoping to bring some attention to these problems so we can all work on fixing them!

  • Text-based platform: By its nature, online commenting is text-based, which can exclude users for various reasons. Some people are put off by having to write responses because they don’t believe in their writing skills. Others try to avoid comment sections because they don’t like that there aren’t any visual cues, like facial expressions or body language, to better understand a person’s comments – that’s how a lot of miscommunication happens online!

  • Busy threads: Busy online discussions often overwhelm users because there’s so much happening - it’s information overload. With very active threads, it can become hard to follow the discussion, deterring other users from participating or even reading the comments. Others are deterred from jumping in to voice their thoughts because their voice may get lost in the noise.

  • Irrelevant discussions: Oftentimes, comment threads unintentionally go off-topic leaving readers and fellow participants at a loss.

  • Reduced to insults: Comment threads frequently turn into a yelling match between users, especially on widely debated topics and subjects like politics or the environment. There’s a rather well-known law about online commenting known as Godwin’s law, which states, “As an online discussion continues, the probability of a reference or comparison to Hitler or Nazis approaches 1.”

  • Time lag: If you’re commenting on a pre-moderated thread, you have to wait for your comment to be approved to be posted. Then, regardless of whether your comment was posted in real-time or not, you must wait for the other users’ replies. And, unlike during verbal discussion, a written conversation takes place over a longer period making it difficult to respond to each point and thought posed.