Finally, we have actual scientific proof that online comments are the worst, writes Meghan Daum in the Los Angeles Times. A new study finds that such comments actually do have "soul-killing, society-destroying effects," namely: Rude, uncivil comments can sway the opinions of readers who are otherwise objective. The researchers call this "the nasty effect," and, as Daum writes, it seems to prove that "boos and jeers are infectious."
This is a serious problem, because mean comments "have a dramatic effect on how writers write and ... how readers read." Daum finds that young writers are scared to address controversial topics, "imagining the cacophony of snark they'll get in response." But even worse is the fact that they also admit to scanning comments—sometimes only reading the comments—before forming an opinion about something they read. Unfortunately, "meaningful solutions are hard to come by," she concludes. Click to read Daum's full column.