A new study from researchers at George Mason University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison has confirmed that online comments on social media sites, blogs, and forums can be downright nasty and, consequently, make people feel bad.
This news is something you can file under the old we knew that already column, but researchers from George Mason University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have put the scientific stamp of approval on what is already common knowledge – online comments can be very nasty and have a detrimental effect on people.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, saw the researchers setup a fake blog with a news item on a new (and fake) product called nanosilver that had both benefits and risks. They then created two versions of the news post where one had comments that ran from supportive to skeptical but were civil. The second one had comments that also ran like the first, but contained rude outbursts, obscenities, and attacks on other commenters.
Then they had two groups of people read the article that was followed by one of the sets of comments. The group that read the post with the civil comments was found to maintain the same beliefs about nanosilver that they had before reading the comments. On the flip side the people that read the uncivil comments were a lot more polarized over their beliefs of the product and were more likely to change their minds as well as focusing on the product's risks.
The researchers found that rude comments don't just affect our mood or frame of mind, but they can affect how our mind's framing of ideas. Naturally, they then termed this the “nasty effect.”