Study: The U shows just how common mean, hateful comments are online

Posted at 10:57 AM, Jun 26, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY – If you have ever read posts in the comment sections on everything from news websites like to social media sites like Facebook, you’ve seen it.

The exchanges often are unfriendly and even downright hateful.

Now, researchers from the University of Utah and the University of Arizona are releasing a study to show just how common the behavior can be.

Researchers analyzed almost 6,500 reader comments posted on a major daily Arizona newspaper’s website.

According to the study, they found that more than one in five comments included something mean-spirited; name-calling was the most common type on incivility.

“We tracked six different kinds of uncivil language but name-calling was far and away the most common,” Kevin Coe said, assistant professor of communication at the University of Utah and one of the study’s authors. “Many people just can’t seem to avoid the impulse to go after someone else.”

The study found these types of commenters don’t fit the stereotype of a few angry people who spend hours on their computers blasting others.

As researchers said they expected, stories about well-known leaders with clear political positions got more uncivil comments than others.

The researchers noted one cause for optimism in their findings.

When one commenter was directly replying to another commenter, they were more likely to be courteous.

MORE: See the full study here