On many interactive sites, like YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, etc. there are community guidelines that users need to follow. These guidelines are essentially a set of “rules”, that tell users what they can/cannot do on the site, which includes but is not limited to commenting (as we discussed in lecture). The intention behind the guidelines is usually to foster and maintain a respectful community environment for all users. Therefore, the importance of guidelines is quite evident. The concept of creating my own community guidelines for my site was interesting to think about, as my blog isn’t extremely interactive. That said, there is a comment section that I would encourage my audience to use. As Gardiner et al. (2016) stated in their article, “comments allow readers to respond to an article instantly, asking questions, pointing out errors, giving new leads” (para. 1). Through comments, I would love to interact with my audience, and also allow them to interact with one another. However, for this to occur in a respectful and fluent way, I would need to make all readers/uses aware of my community guidelines.
In creating my community guidelines, I would ensure to make it clear that using respectful and clean language is the only language-use tolerated. In essence, any negative/hateful commentary would be restricted and against the rules. Additionally, I would encourage my audience to use an empathetic approach when commenting and interacting with one another. Due to the intimate nature of my blog, and the fact that my posts are centred around mental health, therapy, emotions, and sharing these aspects of my own life, I would want my audience members to feel comfortable sharing their own experiences and stories as well. Therefore, being empathetic and caring would be at the forefront. I would want viewers to be able to happily interact with one another in the comments, and not feel worried that they were going to receive hate comments or backlash. Ultimately, respect would be the overarching theme of my guidelines.
An example of what a few guidelines would be regarding commenting are as follows:
- Communicate with one another respectfully
- Approach conversations with empathy
- Respect others privacy and opinions
- Do not post anything that would be harmful to others in any way
- Only appropriate language use will be tolerated
- Hate speech is not permitted
Due to the respect aspect of my community guidelines, I also wouldn’t mind if commenters remained anonymous. In her article, Konnikova (2013) described the dangers of this, and also the “disconnect” that could exist, emphasizing Suler’s “online disinhibition effect.” (para. 2). However, I think the anonymity aspect on my blog in particular, would allow my users to be more vulnerable. I understand first hand that talking about mental health, therapy, and your inside feelings can be frightening and intimidating at first. Therefore, remaining anonymous may encourage users to still comment, knowing that their identify is protected. As Konnikova (2013) also stated, “anonymity has also been shown to encourage participation; by promoting a greater sense of community identity, users don’t have to worry about standing out individually” (para. 3). With this, my viewers would feel support from their community, which would likely be helpful to their mental health. Also, perhaps my audience may eventually gain the confidence to share their identity, which would also illustrate the growth that I encourage on my site.
In regards to implementation, I would post my community guidelines on their own page, or perhaps at the bottom of my blog (i.e. the footer), for everyone to see. I would also encourage my viewers to check out my community guidelines, on posts that gain a lot of traction and comments. Additionally, a feature on my blog is that I need to approve or moderate comments on my posts, before they go live. It would definitely be useful for me to continue utilizing this feature, as it would allow me to monitor what is being posted. This way, I could ensure that my set community guidelines were being followed by everyone. If they were not being followed in any way, I wouldn’t allow the comment to see the light of day, and hopefully this would deter the commenter from making a negative/inappropriate comment again. Overall, determining community guidelines for any site can be quite beneficial. I intend to implement my guidelines more formally in the future, especially if my site were to expand and gain more traction/comments.
Becky Gardiner, Mahana Mansfield, Ian Anderson, Josh Holder, Daan Louter and Monica Ulmanu. 2016. “The dark side of Guardian comments.” https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/apr/12/the-dark-side-of-guardian-comments
Konnikova, Maria. 2013. “The Psychology of Online Comments”. http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/the-psychology-of-online-comments
Cover photo created with Canva