Back in December fellow blogger Venus Uncensored touched on a topic that is relevant to anyone who happens to read blogs, participate on forums, send an email, or do anything, really, that involves any kind of personal interaction on the computer. VU’s blog focused on the question of who we really are versus our online personality.
Now when you write something, as I do, in a public forum you have to realize that folks are not going to always agree with you and that they are likely going to tell you so. That’s not only expected, but also good. Definitely if one can’t handle that then one shouldn’t write publicly. But there’s a not very subtle difference in disagreeing and just being obnoxious.
After reading and thinking about VU’s post I’ve found myself often looking at the “comments” section after each story on The Observer’s online site and wondering, rather bluntly, “who the hell do these people think they are?”. I swear, it’s like a competition to find out who can be the most loathsome or cruel about whatever the news of the day is.
Interestingly, after I began this entry last week I noticed that another MC blogger, Tammy, shared her feelings of being on the receiving end of the kind of heartless and cowardly commenting that seems to have become popular on anonymous forums. I’m sure her experience is relived daily with other people as other tragic stories receive the inevitable flood of thoughtless comments from hidden aggressors.
Take for instance the article about the individual who died after falling 20 stories from an uptown condo while trying to jump from balcony to balcony. Was this a dumb thing to do? Yes, but I believe it was the fourth or fifth comment (they’ve since been deleted) that said, “Well, that’s just one bird that didn’t poop on my windshield before hitting the ground”. Wow. Just. Wow.
Or take the article on Corey Dunn, the 21 year old who died last week snorkeling in Hawaii. Here are some of the deep thoughts this human interest story generated amongst the anonymous commenting community:
- “It’s nice to see how the other half lives…”. Okaay. Class envy for a dead kid.
- “That's sad. Darn shame it had to happen to him and not that sorry Obama while he was there.” ?????
- “Why is this story on the main page? Something like this happens everyday to someone. Geez, have them pay to put it in the obituaries like everyone else.” Why bother even posting something like this? Who gained or, really, even lost because of this?
In my own experience here at MomsCharlotte I find I can always tell when one of our blogs or forum entries makes it out to the general Charlotte Observer homepage- that’s when we start getting the comments that attack us personally. Over the last year I’ve been called a moron, an idiot, an emasculated idiotic moron, and even received an offer for a true man to impregnate my wife. Shucks, what thoughtful and appreciated comments! These guys should design aggressive greeting cards.
I find it hard to believe that most of the folks I see walking around the mall with their spouse and two kids in tow would actually walk up to me and say, “Hey, you know that guy who fell from that tower uptown? I’m glad he didn’t poop on my windshield, ya emasculated moron”. But, in essence, that’s exactly what folks are doing daily on their computers. Why?
Remember that in addition to taking the time to say cruel or idiotic things to another human, someone actually even had to think these thoughts to begin with. Has the internet grown faster than our social and interpersonal maturity, as I’ve heard theorized before, or have we always been hungry for a way to anonymously express our angst and bitterness?
Are folks even reading the news any longer to learn or are they simply reading it with an eye towards where they can find the first “zinger” comment to tear someone down?
Do folks realize or care that there is a difference between a respectful debate and just being obnoxious?
I swear, sometimes it’s hard to say, but I'm fairly sure that most people behave much differently offline.