Anonymous comments can be ‘a frothing, bubbling cauldron of insanity’

Adweek | Mental Floss

Ryan Broderick has a job I suspect would make me flee the grid after about two days: He's BuzzFeed's community manager, responsible for combing through about 22,000 comments a month, reports Adweek's Charlie Warzel. Broderick says comments, even the worst ones, have a socio-biological explanation:

“There is a social realm where things are rationally sorted and then there’s the anonymous place that brings out a person’s base instincts. It can become a frothing, bubbling cauldron of insanity,” he said. “Yet, you need that animalistic part of yourself. I think of it almost like your sex drive.”

Both Broderick and Huffington Post community manager Justin Isaf defend anonymous commenting, however: "Anonymity can do amazing, extremely creative things if you believe in it," Broderick says.

Mental Floss' Chris Higgins spotlights a video from popular vlogger Ze Frank in which he tries to get inside the head of a troll: On a video about optical illusions, Ze Frank says, "Some young gentlemen said they wanted to punch me in the face because my voice was so annoying. I can easily see how someone could find my voice annoying, but an annoying voice doesn't generally warrant a face-punching."

Ze Frank looks at the number of views, "likes" and comments and makes a chart trying to explain why so few people react and even fewer react in a way that might seem, you know, sort of violent in real life.

Comments threatening violence, Ze Frank decides, occupy a weird space between thinking about doing something awful and saying something awful. He decides to ignore them.

Related: Columbia student publication works overnight to moderate comments about Obama at Barnard | People using pseudonyms post the highest-quality comments, Disqus says | Gawker plans a business model based on comments and conversation, not posts and ads | Why we’ll never stop struggling over comment sections

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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