Editor’s view: You’ll find me in the comments section, questioning our humanity

On any given day you can walk into a newsroom and find an editor questioning our human nature and shared humanity, or lack thereof.

Often, this philosophical voyage of doubt will be brought on by witnessing, reporting on or reading about the horrific things some humans do to other humans.

Other times, this voyage will be brought on by spending some time on Facebook, more specifically in the comments section.

I would never argue against the freedom to speak, or comment online. My entire profession, our democracy and the safety of my colleagues around the world are built on this right.

As I spend more and more time online in my profession, I find myself wondering how social media commentary affect the way we live in society and in our communities.

I see the comments sections as a worthwhile place to find out what people are really thinking about the issues affecting their lives. Comments often start worthwhile discussions, ones we wouldn’t dare to have offline.

Yet equally as often, comments degenerate into personal attacks, racism and sexism that veer far off the path of what the original thought or story was. Often they do not serve any purpose — of free thought, discussion or innovation — other than breeding hate and mistrust.

There are things said online people would never say to each other on the street. There are lines crossed brazenly online, lines which we draw in the offline world to ensure we can all live together in harmony — or at least without resorting to violence or anarchy.

And in a small community, hiding behind anonymity doesn’t work quite as well as in larger centres. We know who said what online. How does this affect how we live our daily lives, how we interact, shop, learn and spend our free time?

I have no answers to these questions, but I look forward to reading your comments and hearing them (in the offline world) too.

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