THE entitlement that exists within comments sections is something that we all need to question more. I have no issue with differing opinions and I have no issue with a healthy debate, but as I’ve said many times before, I have a huge issue with being asked to work for free. And even more so when the information that you are asking me to share is readily available for your consumption.

I am not one to shy away from a good debate. In fact, I am far more likely to be accused of chasing a debate, revelling in a discussion of different opinions and new information. This is not about my unwillingness to share, it is about the refusal of others to spend the necessary time fact-checking, learning and absorbing information about a subject that they’ve decided to publicly offer an opinion on.

Last week, I wrote about my anger and sadness and frustration in what had happened at the Park Inn.

A man shot dead and people injured is not something that a city and its people absorb easily; opinions are blended with facts and mistakes are made and people are traumatised simply from trying to understand what has happened. So I waited. I gave space to events that very few, if any of us, could know all the facts of.

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But despite the comments being turned off on that particle piece, people still managed to find their way into the comments sections of my other spaces.

My opinions are based on lived experiences, research and a whole lot of fact-checking. Put simply, I take pride in educating myself before I offer an opinion. This process appears to have been missed by some people, with the comments section now being their own personal textbook space to receive free tutoring from someone who has most likely spent years learning about the subject they speak or write about. If I make reference to hotel detention and you don’t have a full understanding of what is meant by hotel detention, Google it! The internet has far more available to you than Twitter and funny kitten clips.

Those who take the time to share are often those most exhausted by what they are sharing about. It is unfair to then expect them to do tailored learning specifically for your needs. This shouldn’t need to be pointed out by other people, we should all just be more conscious commentators.

Opportunities to learn are readily available to all of us. Free libraries, museums and Wi-Fi giving us access to an abundance of information, and while it will inevitably lead us to a lot of opinion and a lot of excluded information, it will also give us the simple facts if we invest our time in looking for it. Closed shared spaces are not an excuse for ignorance. While many public spaces are closed during lockdown, take the time to look into your community spaces because there are so many people and groups sharing books and resources and the information that you are looking for.

We are responsible not only for the words that we utter or type but also for our own learning and development. We are allowed to make mistakes, to change our minds, to expand our knowledge and to grow. In fact, are we even living if we aren’t able to do all of these things?

The comments section is not there so that you can educate yourself for free. Do your own work. And understand from the outset that the one critical element is that you are open to hearing contradictions to your current viewpoint. And if you get that information for free, it is a gift, not a right.