Surviving the Comment Section
The trouble with online forums is this: Participants are usually faceless and the opinions can be ruthless. That's what triggered Dr. LeAnn Brazeal, assistant professor of communication and the director of the public speaking program at Missouri State University, to research maintaining civility in online discussions. She and a co-author from Kansas State University, Dr. Soo-Hye Han published "Playing Nice: Modeling Civility in Online Political Discussions" in Communication Research Reports.
The research team set out to explore the reasons why people can so easily say mean things to one another in online environments.
They found that commenters displayed tendencies to follow the leader when civility was present. Was the inverse true? Not necessarily, according to Brazeal.
One of the most encouraging findings for Brazeal happened when the participants went off-topic with their comments.
Brazeal also noted that the study found participants in the civil discussion felt more open to express related ideas or new thought provoking discussion points than those involved in an already agitated environment.