Why I kinda hate online comments, in general

Thursday, January 15, 2015

As a journalism teacher, one topic that always ignites a spirited debate in my journalism class is the idea of online commenting. We look at comments written on news articles, and we decide whether or not online commenting should be allowed. The resounding answer is always yes, but most students agree that many times, comments are ignorant, hurtful, or entirely out of line. We tend to see these terrible comments, especially when people can write anonymously. But lately, I've been seeing more and more hurtful, rude, or unkind comments everywhere -- Facebook, Twitter, you name it. People seem more than willing to start attacks for no great reason. 

So, imagine my surprise yesterday when I learned someone had made a negative comment about me on Facebook! 

Now, granted, as a teacher who assigns a lot of homework, I'm sure people make negative comments about me all the time (hi, kids! do your research! write your Franklin Planner proposals!). :) BUT, this one was different because I'd never interacted with this person before. 

The back story: One of my awesome former students writes for LaPorte County Life, a great online site that promotes great things going on in our county. She's a talented writer and a great kid, so when we asked to feature me in a Teacher Shout Out article, I was more than honored! She asked me questions, and I sent her back my answers and a few photos that could be used for headshots, and that was that. She wrote a beautiful article, and I loved what she said (thanks for the honor, kiddo!)! 

So imagine my surprise yesterday when a coworker asked if I'd seen the comment on Facebook about me. I told her no, and although the comment had been removed, she reiterated the content to me: "While she might be a "good teacher," that outfit is totally inappropriate to wear to school." 

I started wracking my brain as to what photos I had sent. I knew I had sent a photo of Dan and I on our honeymoon in front of The Acropolis in Greece, but I couldn't remember the other photo I had sent. I knew it had to be something on my phone, because I'd sent it off quickly so my student wouldn't be waiting on me.

When I looked on the website, I instantly remembered. Are you ready to see the scandalous outfit I was wearing?
Yep, that's the one! This is the outfit that makes me a "good teacher" and also totally inappropriate.


First, I'm clearly in my home, as I don't tend to go to school barefoot. Or in shorts. In the winter. While I'm nine months pregnant. 

Second, I truly intended the photo to be a headshot, not a full body shot. But regardless, the last time I checked, teachers ARE allowed to wear shorts (look, they're even finger tip length!). Rumor has it they can even wear bathing suits sometimes too! 

Luckily, my skin is much thicker than it was years ago, because if it weren't, this comment by a woman I've never even met may have hurt my feelings. But it didn't. It just made me question, yet again, why people feel they have the right to say absolutely anything and everything online. 

I understand that everyone has freedom of speech in America, and I'm grateful for that. I also understand that people can and will post whatever they want online (just like this blog... that I'm now posting online). 

But I don't understand why people say unkind, hurtful, or inappropriate things online. Is it just because they can? Is it just because they're unhappy with their own lives? Is it just because they have a lot of free time on their hands? Is it just because they can hide behind a computer screen as they do it? Because I suppose my motto is that I wouldn't say anything online that I wouldn't say out loud to someone's face. 

I don't have the answers. What I do have is a takeaway lesson that I learned from one of my favorite people, Kid President. 

Be More Kind. 

Seriously, just do it. Bite your tongue just once, and see what happens. Did the world stop turning because a snarky comment died in your throat? No. Good! Keep stifling those little guys, and make the world a better place. 


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