By: Kristen Paquet, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

If you have ever read a newspaper online or a blog, you have probably glanced at the reader comment sections. These comment areas are very popular among online readers and have grown to essentially become a part of the article itself. But, are they of any benefit?

When I glance at reader comments, more often than not, I read one, maybe two relevant comments that actually pertain to the article. The rest are people either commenting on the most minor of details or are using this platform to rant their personal and political views. That is the good and the bad with reader comments: anyone can say just about anything–but they most likely won’t face any serious consequences for doing so if the comment is inappropriate (other than to have their message reported or taken down).

But that is what social media is about: to engage in a conversation with others. It is a wonderful concept which means there will be comments you agree with and those you disagree with. But as I read the Good Morning America message board, I really have to stop and say that a conversation on whether George Stephanopoulos should wear a tie every day or not can only be taken so far. Really, with all the news in the world, this is what people are talking about most on the message board?

That’s the problem. Social media has given us a huge opportunity to have our voices heard and debated, but we forget that it doesn’t have to be every five minutes with silly comments. It’s like the person that sends out a tweet every three seconds about what they are doing: “Taking the dog for a walk!” “Sitting on my porch reading a magazine!” It’s just not necessary. And don’t use this voice to hide behind your computer and make inappropriate comments, either. That is just bad form. What you say online should be something you are willing to say face to face.

When I look at reader comments and message boards to see what people are saying, there are times when the comments are more entertaining than the story. From time to time I leave my own comments as well. That is what social media is all about.

So what is your feeling on online reader comments and message boards? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment of your own!

Writers note 4/28/10: George Stephanopoulos wasn’t wearing a tie this morning. The GMA message board must have got to him!