Online discourse can be civil, if we try

Like it or not, Facebook has become the epicenter of social media discourse. In the early days of the various Acorn Facebook pages we loved seeing readers react to our reporting in real time—a breath of fresh air for a publication that has a 45-year history of going to print only once a week. Overnight we were given a free platform to share breaking news stories, hunt down sources or post interesting and funny photos that couldn’t wait until Thursday to be shared.

Today it’s become a love-hate relationship with the social media giant.

While we continue to cherish the ability that Facebook—and Twitter—have given us in our everlasting quest to expand audiences, ours and other media outlets are finding that page management—the policing of comments to make sure they are civil and somewhat accurate—has become increasingly difficult.

The new technology has given practically every single person with two thumbs and a cellphone the ability to make a comment and have anybody and everybody on earth read it. And it’s not just on Facebook. We’ve seen angry homeowners bicker on Nextdoor about everything from your dog’s poop on my lawn to why the world is falling apart.

The kind of sophomoric banter that passes for political debate these days is alarming, and rarely a week goes by during which we don’t see a comment or thread on Facebook that leaves us embarrassed for having been its source.

Maybe it’s the hateful and divisive political age that we live in. Maybe it’s just human nature to begin with.

Maybe we were too optimistic in the first place thinking that because The Acorn is a local, family-oriented publication, users of our social media channels would conduct themselves just as they do when they have to stop, think and put pen to paper before sending us a traditional newspaper letter to the editor.

Perhaps we’re old-fashioned or just shouting into the abyss, but we’d like to take this opportunity to renew the call for online civility and a return to those healthy disagreements that don’t degenerate into silly name-calling and four-letter word volleys.

On our Acorn Facebook page the following content is prohibited: comments containing language or concepts that could be deemed offensive. This may include abusive, profane, obscene, threatening, pornographic, misleading or libelous language profanity used to insult, antagonize or inflame readers comments that harass people who have posted (Please be respectful of others.) comments deemed to be spam or solely promotional in nature

If you have any questions regarding our policy, please let us know at newstip@ the­­­acorn.com, and thank you for your attention.