Suggestions for Alternatives to Comment Section Arguing?

My father recently got banned from a local newspaper comment section for name calling. He had just gotten off a suspension. I think he spends a lot of time in political arguments online. I don’t know that this is much of a problem but I was looking for recommendations on ways to deescalate this or healthy places for discussion or something.

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When things get heated, especially in political or otherwise controversial topics, one should be very careful not to get carried away. The problem in these cases is very often to be found to certain extent on all sides. Both opponents and yourself let passion turn into emotions that are not fruitful for the debate.

I liked an instruction I found some time ago on how to avoid trolls, but also how to avoid not becoming a troll yourself. And here is the most important thing to always remember from that document:

  • A conversation is not a contest!

Here is the related post: Best practice on Avoiding Trolls (and don't become one yourself)

After things got out of hand I think an important quality to practics is to return to humility and humbleness again. And if you offended opponents and others involved to not be afraid to come up with a Mea Culpa. There was an interesting pattern proposed to build such feature in Twitter or any other social network:

I don’t know what the best place is for your father to hang out. It also depends on the politics subject he’s interested in. Reddit can be a cesspool, but it depends on moderation of the various subreddits. I have heard there are some very fine ones for politics. But I don’t actively use the platform, other than read some threads now and then.

Not a place for your father, but as for an examplar of excellent moderation I want to mention Hacker News. the social network for techies hosted by YCombinator (largest startup accelerator of Silicon Valley). Whatever you think of the audience that is on the platform (in terms of humane / non-humane tech), the moderation is next to none. Might be the best around.

HN is with millions of users is moderated literally by this one guy Dan (username @dang). They layout looks deceptively simple, but on the server there are complex rules at work. This together with the simple reputation system (karma, upvote/downvote) and simple guidelines have created an environment where after all this time the culture has remained non-toxic.

If you shitpost, imply something about someone else without facts, reasonable arguments or formulated in unfriendly way, you are immediately downvoted + removed from the thread (there is an option for users to see “dead” and “flagged” comments and URL submissions, which is quite cool to observe).

This is a great article about Dan and Hacker News:


Yeah, Hacker News is great. I check in on there once a week or so. Thanks for the advice and links!

Sorry to hear about that, @Hal_Rondo .

Your father’s behavior could be unhealthy. It depends on how it makes him feel.

If it’s something he loses the notion of time, forgets to eat and sleep, even loses his sense of self - this could actually be positive. It means he’s in a state of “flow”. Flow experience enables well-being and even human flourishing.

But people experiencing flow state usually “don’t feel anything” during the experience.

I have a feeling that, since you’re asking, this is not the case. If your father gets anxious, frustrated, angry, if he experiences negative emotions, this could be an unhealthy habit. Considering that technology nowadays is designed to outperform our cognitive capacities, it would be great if you could be an external force helping him to engage in positive activities, channeling his energy into something that could help him flourish.

A great place to start would be getting him to complete the VIA survey of character strengths. It’s a great resource. It’s science-based, it’s free and it only takes 15 minutes. It will tell you what your father’s “signature strength” is. Then you can think together about activities he could do to exercise his strengths. There’s plenty of empirical evidence showing that exercising one’s signature strength increases well-being and enables flourishing.

In theory, there’s a good chance that your father would decrease or stop the negative behaviour by engaging in a positive one.

If you want to get deeper into this, do a little research on “character strengths interventions”.

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Have him try

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Thanks guys I’ll check these out. :slightly_smiling_face:

Once upon a time I was a forum moderator and a certain user would turn every thread into a political argument. My suggestion to them was to start a blog where they could write about their perspective since our forum was a video game forum and not meant for political discussions. I don’t know if the user followed through on that, but after that their posts were more on topic and less argumentative.


That’s a good idea. He likes to write. Thanks.