Poll closed: Should the Wellsville Sun disable Facebook comments on sensitive community issues?

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Readers are split on this ageless issue

By Andrew Harris

Back in 2003, when the Wellsville Daily Reporter online edition featured a robust comment section, I’m guessing John Anderson and Oak Duke wondered? “Is this a good idea?”

Anonymous comments were the worst, and the best reading for the bystanders. It was a foreshadowing of the Facebook world that most of us deal with in 2022. Certain subjects bring out our worst collective debate skills and turn opinions into monsterous diatribes, dripping with spite and disgust for those who don’t agree. On the USA Today Facebook page, it is a gal from Toledo, Ohio arguing with a guy from Mesa, Arizona. On the Wellsville Sun Facebook page, it is a guy on Pine Street calling a lady who lives on Stevens Street a “a fusty nut with no kernel,” to quote Shakespeare. When they meet the next day in the dairy section of Giant Food Mart, they don’t say “hello”, they avoid each other and maybe even flash a stink eye.

The point, and the reason we asked this poll question, is that online word wars in small towns have consequences. In a age when the media seems to be creating dividing lines as a business model, we want to be different. Our goal is to help create community, not divide it just to keep our analytics strong.

Hoping that this poll would help us shape a policy, didn’t work out. The poll was divided, but that itself is instructive. Of the nearly 900 votes, 60% indicated that they either disagree with disabling comments or feel that we should be monitoring the comments for rascals. About 40% voted to disable comments when the potential for serious discord exists. To that contingent, we will be instituting updated “play nice or leave” rules on our Facebook page.

We encourage serious debates, back and forth, and even clever retorts. More people are reading the comments than participating in the debate, we want popcorn munchers, not cringes and disgust.

It is super simple: Those who use hateful, vulgar, personal attacks as a means of debate will be banished from the page. That is the last thing we want to do!!

Please help us keep it interesting, fun, and productive. If you haven’t followed our Facebook page yet, please do: www.facebook.com/TheWellsvilleSun

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