Youtube comment sections showcase humanity at its worst, and that’s no longer just my personal (accurate) opinion, it’s science. A study in PLOS One reveals that trolls on Youtube are more frequent and make more sexist, emotional, and irrelevant comments than on other parts of the Internet. Does that vindicate anyone? I hope so.
The study was published earlier this month and compared comments on the TED talk website to TED Youtube videos. For any other field of research I might say that seems like too narrow a window to form a useful conclusion, but let’s be real: all of us (especially women) already know that Youtube commenters can be measurably evil. The researchers sought to answer these questions:
- Is there a significant difference in the type of comments according to platform?
- Are significant differences in commenting observed according to presenter characteristics?
The study looked at 595 TED Talks, examining the reception received by specific presenters and making this (sadly not surprising) observation:
In terms of the high level categories, there were no differences in the degree to which commenters discussed the talk, interacted with each other, spoke about TED, or made irrelevant comments. However, there was a significant difference in the manner in which the presenter’s style or appearance was discussed. That is, commenters were more likely to discuss the presenter if she was female. Furthermore, there were significant differences in the sentiment of the comments when the speaker was discussed: comments tended to be more emotional when discussing a female presenter (significantly more positive and negative). Conversely, comments about the speaker tended to be more neutral when the presenter was male.
The researchers determined that only 57% of comments on Youtube TED Talks were relevant to the video (as opposed to 72% relevancy on Ted.com) and that 5.7% of the comments on Youtube were personal insults, as opposed to just 1% on the Ted website. Welp. Over 5 times the number of personal insults? That’s fairly damning. The study didn’t examine the percentage of comments that were “listen to my music” spam and Illuminati conspiracies, but once again, most of us probably don’t need science to tell us it’s staggering.
Now if only someone could conduct a “no, duh” study into the futility of posting nasty, reductive comments on a Facebook page. Again, I won’t be surprised by the conclusions. I just want science on my side.