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Monday, September 28, 2015

The Comments Section

It would seem that every time I read news stories on the internet, I engage in a form of self-torture. I find it enlightening, informative, and maddening. What form does this torture take? It is simply reading the comments section. Why do I do this? Sometimes I ask myself the same question. And when I am fuming over what someone says in one of their comments, Trent will ask me the same question. If it bothers me so much, why do I do it?

That's certainly a fair question. I think it stems from the fact that I am a naturally nosy curious person. When I read the comments I feel that I am getting an idea of what and how people are thinking. I don't necessarily mean individual people, either. It's almost like when you go to the doctor's office and the nurse takes your temperature, blood pressure, and pulse. Reading the comments on an article can be like taking the mental pulse of the other folks who read it. Sometimes they are a delight, sometimes they are scary.

Unfortunately, these comments can contain things that people wouldn't say aloud because of the invisibility that the internet provides. Things that people might never say in a conversation with their family and friends come pouring out through their keyboards. The politeness that they wear like a shield every day melts away as the poison pours out through their fingertips. I have seen articles about simple things turn into huge arguments. A charming video of a toddler dozing off with a pony, for example, receives comments about her mother's lack of parenting skills because the child falls asleep with a pacifier and they think she's too old for that. Add to this the fact that many people will only read a headline or a random sentence or two before commenting, and it becomes quite an interesting scene. 

Here's an example of people not bothering to read the article and instead only opting to look at the pictures, or just getting things really twisted around. I read an article the other day about Pope Francis and his visit to the United States of America. This was a lighter piece than what I had previously seen and focused on a subject near and dear to many of our hearts - food. The Pope spent less than 48 hours in New York City and all of his meals during that time were provided by Felidia restaurant. Felidia is owned by chef and restaurateur Lidia Bastianich. She has cooking shows on television and has also written cookbooks. Her specialty is Italian cuisine, and she created a menu of Italian dishes for every meal that the Pope would eat at her restaurant. Breakfasts consisted of assorted baked goods, fruits, yogurts, frittatas, crepes, and fresh juices. Lunches and dinners had multiple courses including desserts. There were photos of some of the dishes and a page of the menu. And then the trouble began.

Since I have no authorization to copy the comments, I will paraphrase.

"The Pope eats too much carbohydrate for breakfast. He needs some protein and whole grains to fuel him for his busy schedule." Me (my thoughts): he didn't choose the menu. And frittatas and yogurts are sources of protein.

"When you go to another country, you want to eat local food. He should be eating hamburgers and drinking beer." Me: Beer is from all over the world and didn't the hamburger get its name from Hamburg, Germany?

"Yeah, he shoulda eaten pizza." Me: Yeah, because THAT isn't remotely Italian!

"Must be nice to eat like that and then get up in front of world leaders and talk about hunger. I thought priests took a vow of poverty." Me: he worked in a soup kitchen rather than eat with the Senate. Maybe you think only someone who is starving can realize that there are hungry people in the world. Plus, he didn't create the menu, Chef Lidia did.

"The lunch menu is wrong. You'd think with all of the tax money Obama wastes, he could afford to have someone proofread the menu." Me: These were not meals at or prepared by The White House! Read the article! It was at a privately-owned restaurant in New York City! Is it the President's fault if McDonald's gets your order wrong? Or maybe it is, in your opinion. 

At this point, I read some of the comments to Trent, including the ugly parts I have chosen to omit here. Trent asks me why I continue to torture myself by reading these idiotic comments. I don't know. It's a compulsion. I can't seem to stop myself. I calm myself down and read the next article. But this time, I skip the comments so that Trent doesn't have to tell me I keep slowing down to look at train wrecks!


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