“Don’t read the comments.” “Comments are the worst.” “Comments sections are cesspools where empathy and democracy and humanity go to be stomped on and then cleaved in half and then burned at the stake, but with, like, a really, really small flame that takes its sweet time so that your consumption by fire happens slowly and with a maximal amount of agony.”
These are some of the things you might hear associated with the institution that is meant to embody the communal, conversational potential of the World Wide Web. Comments sections, far from becoming the public squares of internet-utopian vision, have all too often become, instead, public circles of hell. They are often mean; they are even more often angry; and I say that from personal experience: I am a woman, and I often write about gender, and those two things, combined, make a fantastic recipe for trollish internet commentary.
But I mention comments, today, not because of feminism, but because of chocolate. Specifically, because of a story we published late last week: “Milk Chocolate Is Better Than Dark, the End.” The story was itself a kind of long-form Internet Comment, in that it was argumentative and opinionated and entirely convinced of its own correctness in a way that would allow for no alternate viewpoints, and also in that it applied its own angry assumptions to a debate that matters not at all. (The story was also a joke; that part was not clear to everyone who read it, though. According to one gentleman who, choosing to overlook the irony, took the additional time to write in: “I can’t believe that I wasted 6 minute reading this trivia. Surely you actually have something to say.”)
Overall, though, the story ended up generating a lot of light-hearted—and, especially on Twitter, very, very funny—controversy. (It also, BONUS, generated some great recommendations for chocolate bars I should sample in order to disabuse myself of my culinary mistakes. I’ll try them with a mind as open as my mouth!) And though there will still, yes, plenty of Angry Comments in the mix—you’re wrong, this it stupid, how could The Atlantic doooooo this—I want to focus instead on the reactions that doubled as testaments to the fact that, even on the internet, people are capable of being good-humored and good-natured and delightful.
We got, for instance, quotes from public intellectuals:
“Milk chocolate is for schmucks.”
And some poetry:
Wow. You are just wrong here. Wrong wrong wrong. Dark chocolate is infinitely better and more flavorful than milk chocolate. It is complex in its bitterness. The taste of a dark chocolate chunk is worth savoring, melting over your tongue; the flavor deepening and twisting from not sweet to sweet like a chord progression meeting its resolution.
And some advice:
If you’re basing your opinion of dark chocolate on a Milky Way Midnight, you aren’t entitled to an opinion of dark chocolate. I’m not being a snob; I don’t buy fancy expensive dark chocolate; I eat Endangered Species, Giradelli, Lindt, etc. But what’s coating the outside of a Milky Way isn’t dark chocolate.
Also, I find that dark chocolate is better if you let it melt in your mouth rather than crunch it. It’s extremely smooth that way. I wasn’t a dark chocolate fan until I tried the Endangered Species mint variety. The mint was the gateway. Now I eat plain 90 percent cocoa and I love it. Still love good milk chocolate too.
And some full-on bravery (emphasis mine):
Milk chocolate is white “chocolate” with a hint of actual, you know, chocolate. It’s a fine confection for people who have suffered 4th degree burns on their tongues. For the rest of us, 70 percent is the absolute minimum. And yes, my chocolate preferences make me a better person than you. Also, macaroni and cheese is gross—all versions of it.
And, lastly, the story’s currently most up-voted comment:
This article is fantastic.
It is also objectively wrong.
I disagree with your argument, but. That, right there, is the dream. So civil! So respectful! So spiked with humor!
So, in sum: Too many internet comments these days are dark chocolate: over-aggressive and bitter and angry. Many of the comments on this story, though, were the milk chocolate of internet-land: sweet and smooth and, above all, in good taste.