Scripture, social media and online comments: Post on President Obama quoting the Bible offers a case study

It's probably appropriate that I came across this CNN story via Twitter:

(CNN) -- Online comments are on the way out.
Influential tech blog Re/code announced Thursday that it has shut off the comment forums on its story pages. Instead, the website is steering commenters to social media.
"We thought about this decision long and hard, since we do value reader opinion," co-executive editor Kara Swisher wrote. "But we concluded that, as social media has continued its robust growth, the bulk of discussion of our stories is increasingly taking place there, making onsite comments less and less used and less and less useful."
The announcement was just the latest in a recent wave of prominent websites removing or significantly scaling back their comment sections. Reuters, Popular Science and the Chicago Sun-Times have recently nixed comments.
Fairly or not, comment forums have gained a reputation as a haven for Internet trolls. Several of the sites that have banned comments noted the lack of civility in their decisions.

The Washington Post also highlighted the issue:

Back in July, Christianity Today dropped comments on some articles:

CT Editor Mark Galli noted:

At their best, online comments sections sustain vibrant, respectful, and diverse conversations. That's true on some of our own blogs and channels, we're happy to say. But too often, our efforts to carefully and thoughtfully report on controversial subjects have been swamped by comments that do not reflect the mutual respect and civil conversation we want to promote.

However, Galli invited readers to keep the discussion going via Facebook, Twitter and other outlets.

At GetReligion, we still attempt — as best we can — to moderate comments. Still, in my nearly five years of writing for this journalism-focused website, I have noticed a decline in both the number and quality of comments. Often, the best feedback and conversations about GetReligion come via social media.

A recent example: My Friday post on President Barack Obama quoting a Scripture in his immigration speech generated an interesting exchange on Twitter.

In that post, I mentioned a tweet by James A. Smith Sr., chief spokesman for the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.:

I remarked:

Of course, not everyone agreed with Obama's selection of Scripture, and Smith's question above may or may not have been an editorial comment (I honestly don't know).

Smith replied to my question on Twitter:

That prompted this discussion including Bob Smietana, president of the Religion Newswriters Association: 

Alas, that's the kind of conversation that — when I joined GetReligion in March 2010 — might have occurred in our own comments section. 

Now, many readers find it easier and perhaps more personal to engage on a social media platform.

We welcome the discussion wherever you want to have it, even as we urge you to keep reading and sharing what we write at GetReligion.

Please respect our Commenting Policy