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When online venting turns into social media lynch mob mentality, no one wins

All-too-often, online commenters respond with bloodthirsty calls for violence.
Mean comments collage final

Anger can be therapeutic.

That is especially true when that anger is justified and in response to cruelty, injustice or inhumanity.

And social media platforms are a perfect place to vent that justifiable anger, often in concert with others feeling the same way.

We have published a handful of stories this past week that have stoked the fires of justifiable anger: unspeakable cruelty to a tiny puppy , criminally irresponsible parenting, domestic violence leading to horrific animal abuse.

On our social media platforms, reaction was swift and severe. And that’s OK.

But we have noticed a troubling trend. All-too-often, online commenters respond with bloodthirsty calls for violence against those they deem deserve it.

Now, we don’t actually believe these folks really want to see perpetrators hanged, bludgeoned, tortured, stabbed, burned or stoned to death (these are all actions called for in comments on WQAD’s Facebook page this week). We understand this is venting anger.

However, when such comments pile up, one-after-another, day-after-day, it can begin to sound pretty scary and threatening. We put together this collage from comments culled over less than a week to give you an idea of the steady drumbeat of calls for violence:

Mean comments collage final

We would like to ask you, our audience, to please take a deep breath, pause in your anger and consider whether what you are posting is positively contributing to making our community a better place. Our belief is that calls for retributive violence do not.

Again, feel free to vent your anger, dissatisfaction and ire online. That is one of the great things about social media.

But please do so responsibly.