Yep, I’m just here for the “Comments”

I try and keep up with the news as best as I can: politics, business, sports, pop culture…you name it.  One of the first things I do in the morning (after checking social media, of course) is to read the headlines on my favorite news sites, skim through a few articles, and then go about my morning getting ready for work.  The one site that I don’t check is my absolutely guilty pleasure that I save for when I have more time to spare: Yahoo News.

I love reading Yahoo News not necessarily for the informational aspect of it, it’s certainly not the name that comes to mind when you think of hard hitting journalism.  I can’t stand their click bait headlines and terrible interface.  Nonetheless, I am a regular reader because I absolutely love, and I mean, LOVE, reading the comments section at the end of every article I click on.  I know that most news sites now have a comments section: NY Times has them on most articles, the Wall Street Journal has a confusing interface on their website.  But the Yahoo Comments section is like the main dish of a seven course dinner at a 5-star restaurant: it is just so fascinating to me that I just can’t look away.

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I’ve tried removing Yahoo! from my homepage, replacing it with a more mainstream news website.  I’ve tried reminding myself that Yahoo is an organization struggling to remain relevant in 2017.  Even the obnoxious new full screen ads that are 1999 internet pop-up esque that were recently added to their mobile site won’t deter me from waiting through the 30 second ad to get me to my news fix.

Another additional new complication when I’m traversing Yahoo on my phone is that the mobile news site now prompts me to download the Yahoo App when I click on the comments tab.  I have to literally click “View Page in Desktop Mode” in Google Chrome, wait 10 seconds for the pull page to load, and then scroll down to the bottom again to read the comments.

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This is a big deal because I’m not a patient person when it comes to reading internet articles.  If I’m reading an article on a non Yahoo site that’s semi interesting and I reach the bottom and notice that I’m on page 1 of 4 because they needlessly split up the article into 4 tiny pages in order for me to keep clicking, you better believe I’m taking my business elsewhere and just closing the article.  But for my Yahoo Comments, I will click, wait through a 30 second ad, and “Request Desktop Mode” my way through whatever is necessary to get me my fix.

And here’s why I do it.

The comments section is the most unfiltered (apart from a basic language restriction) and unrestricted conveyor of society’s innermost thoughts that I’ve ever seen.  I’m sure there’s similar stuff out there on other websites, but for me it’s the most mainstream and the most accessible.  The interesting part for me is that I completely disagree with the comments section 99% of the time, at times I even get worked up when some of the stuff that I’m reading turns way too hateful.  But like I said before, I just can’t look away.  To me I see it as a change of pace from my personally tailored Facebook newsfeed that usually doesn’t offend me.  Facebook shows me what my 829 Facebook Friends think.  Yahoo shows me what the millions of regular readers think and that’s very important.

I spent a considerable amount of time finding a “tame” comments section to post a screenshot of as an example.  I certainly couldn’t post a political one as the comments are simply unfit to share, but literally the tamest section I could find was the comment section on the recent lunar eclipse, and even still you see some of the hate:

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This notion of skipping for the comments is evident in other forms as well.  When news organizations post articles on Facebook, Facebook users can post comments on the articles and oftentimes those comments are more numerous than the comments section built into the article itself.  The Onion, the famous satirical news website, for example, doesn’t have a comments section on its website, so the Facebook Comments on articles that The Onion posts on its page serve as the next best thing.  I often prefer reading Onion articles from Facebook simply because I can read the article, usually a satirical take on something political, and then jump back to the comments to see what other people have written, which more often than not is just additional satirical material.

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Lastly, I will note that I don’t comment on anything in the comments section, no matter the temptation.  I don’t like putting my thoughts out on a public forum, especially on something as vitriolic as a Yahoo comments section.  But I don’t think I’ll be giving up my past time of curling up with a bucket of popcorn and clicking through the unfiltered thoughts of anonymous internet users anytime soon.

10 comments

  1. laurencondon23 · ·

    This post was very eye opening to me because I also read the news every morning but I tend to stop reading as soon as I reach the comments section of an article. However, on Facebook I typically do take the time to read the comments my Friends are posting. Like you said, by doing so I am only seeing my Facebook friends’ thoughts on certain issues and they are likely a very homogenous group of people. I believe reading the comments on News sources such as Yahoo would provide me with a better consensus on how the public views certain issues, as the group of those commenting is likely to be more representative of our society than my group of Facebook friends is. Similar to what we discussed in class, reading the comments section on news articles rather than Facebook is a great way to avoid falling into the filter bubble that exists in our timelines.

  2. Nice post. I do confess that I am equally attracted to comments sections, particularly at Fox News. It’s like a train wreck. If you did not see the Samantha Bee section on the Russians who are paid to troll the comments sections of big news sites, its worth a read. Many news organizations (e.g. CNN) have discontinued comments as a result and others (e.g. NYT) actually do a remarkable job of ensuring the comments add value.

  3. I really enjoyed this post, especially because I have always been conflicted about whether or not it is better to allow users to post (mostly) unfiltered comments on news articles. Because while trolling can be a serious issue, there is also so much value that can be gained from the sharing of opinions. Your post definitely added another layer for me to consider.

  4. Great post! I also use Yahoo, but for other purposes, mainly for its financial section. That section is organized so clearly and it’s easy to read and interpret. I have never though used it as a source of news, so it was very interesting to read your post. I think that comment sections often attract me when I read an article that stands out to me or that may even be controversial but equally interesting. Furthermore, I do feel the same way as you mentioned, in that I don’t like expressing my thoughts on public forms. However, on FB for example, when it’s news shared by my friends, I feel pretty comfortable in commenting, but still if this would be more of a public article commented by thousands of people on FB, not only would I not like to comment, but also I would not like to receive a million notifications when each person comments. So I feel as though I have mixed feelings on commenting, and it often depends on the situation.

  5. mollyshields44 · ·

    I thought that you made interesting connections between the news we read and the readers’, including our, reaction to it. I will admit to having spent way too long scrolling through the comment section of various articles or Facebook posts. It can be just as engaging to see what people say in opposition or support of the content as the article itself. Comments often force me to consider other perspectives, largely due to the nature of the tone or language used. The open opposition can shed light on how an event or conflict can divide people and show where there is a disconnect. While many people use the comment section as a place to vent and dole out angry words, other use it as a way to express opinions that may help us start to understand conflicting opinions and begin to bridge the gap between our different points of view.

  6. As someone who rarely reads the comments section on anything, I love hearing about your interest! I have found myself getting trapped into reading comments on news postings on Instagram and those are certainly outlandish. I agree with you that it is a change of pace to drift from your tailored Facebook page where we all know an algorithm posts news and content that is aligned with your personal beliefs. I will have to check out the Yahoo! comments section after reading your post!

  7. DanKaplan · ·

    I thought it was really neat how you shined light on one of the most under appreciated parts of media. I often find myself scrolling through a news article, just to see the top reactions and the top comments to see how others feel. I find it that some of the most powerful and influential angles on these news stories come from the top commenters since they have been “up-voted” so much to show support or recognition of that specific opinion or thought process.

  8. katherinelgold · ·

    Really interesting post! I have found myself looking at comments more and more in the past few weeks, and I think it’s a result of Facebook’s stronger emphasis on commenting. I may be imagining this, but it seems like 1-3 comments automatically appear below the post much more frequently than before, which triggers me to actually click on the article’s comment section. I used to never read comments, but now, if I see something particularly funny or “can’t look away,” I’ll click on it and spend a moment scrolling through the comments. I think this an emphasis on commenting was a brilliant move on Facebook’s part to get more people engaged and commenting. It also prompted a surge in “comment your friend’s name on this meme” style posts, leading to even more engagement.

    Interestingly, I also don’t personally comment in general. I would love to see a demographic breakdown of the people most likely to comment on news articles, opinion pieces, viral Facebook posts, or friends’ Facebook posts.

  9. CarbNatalie · ·

    Great post! To be honest I never thought of the comments section, ever. The only place I look at comments is Instagram, not even Facebook, and these are simply my friends making silly jokes. I took some time to look through some after reading this and while some are outright hysterical, others enraged me for how angry people got at the topic, one another, or nothing at all and just going on a crazy rant. However, more often than not there are some out there that give some sort of other perspective on what is being read that I would’ve never thought of before, so like you and many said it is very underrated.

  10. benrmcarthur · ·

    I think this is a post we can all relate to. In a sense, it’s similar to the arguing we see on reality TV, but now it’s literally real people arguing online. I for one, love reading comments on any news post that can suggest controversy. And although it’s difficult to say which is right and wrong most of the time, it’s still flabbergasting that some people online can be so naive to try to at least understand a portion of the opposition’s argument to actually have a real debate.

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