Sunday, March 22, 2009

Webrage: It's not just about traffic anymore

I have noticed a trend in online communication lately on some blogs.

I am calling it webrage: cousin to roadrage, but much more personal.

Someone doesn't like the way you drive on the highway, they may honk at you, give you the finger, tailgate you, or worse, hit and run or threaten you with a deadly weapon. There have been cases of people getting into fist fights that started as road fights. Some have even lost their lives.

However, it seems this same mentality is being transferred to people's behavior online.

People say things to other people-- total and complete strangers--- that they would NEVER say to the someone in person (well, at least the majority of mentally stable, socially well-adjusted people).

Imagine you are in a cafe having a cup of joe with a friend. Your conversation is about politics, religion, the economy, or health care.

Out of the blue, a total stranger comes up to you and your friend and starts shouting personal attacks about your appearance, your clothes, your job (keep in mind, this intruder is a total stranger to both you and your friend). Not attacking what your positions are on the issues, but attempting to attack who you are.

This is exactly what happens online in comment threads all the time.

I have personally experienced it here on this blog; see my post from a few weeks ago about the inflammatory New York Post political cartoon and the three or four posts following it.

I had people lobbing all kinds of vitriol at me about my appearance, the way my blog looked, the fact that I am a fan of V for Vendetta and that I am a "retard" because I apparently didn't understand who Guy Fawkes was and what he represents. I'm a fan of the movie, f*cktards, I wanted to write. And it so happens I started this blog on November Fifth-- the day after Obama was elected president. But I knew these were immature, ad hominem attacks that had absolutely nothing to do with the blog post.

I got death threats. My cat even got death threats.

All over a blog post in which I *literally* copied and pasted a thread of comments from another public online domain.

I got reamed up one side and down another. 2500 hits in 48 hours.

You dare to stand up for yourself, to call someone out for doing something underhanded and completely cowardly, you're the shithead.

That's so not how it works out here in the real world.

You act like an ass hole.

You are the ass hole.

How long before the last barrier of civilized behavior is destroyed and people just start screaming at total strangers on the street or in line at the grocery store or at places of work?

I don't know about you, but the way some people treat others online, that time is not far off...

People who are cowards in real life, are cowards online.

Sticks and stones, my friends.

Sticks and stones...


Seeing Eye Chick March 22, 2009 at 9:04 PM  

I think that there are several issues at work.

First of all you are dealing with Jingoism. People who in their nationalistic fervor, cannot understand that other Patriots might not look or act like them, or agree with their version of Patriotism.

The Last administration practiced emotional bullying by making broad statements about others in dissent with their policies, singling those dissenters out for public abuse in a variety of forums in realtime or virtual reality.

And a general lack of logic or debate skills. See Skye--you used a big word, which some people claim a real American would never do. Ad Hominen. They dont understand what that Latin Phrase means. So they are going to look at that and see Hom in it and think you are calling them Homosexuals or something equally inane.

I have mixed feelings about the thing concerning blogs. Blogs are like diaries that you let people read. So on one hand, some people are going to get pissed, and maybe go back to their blog and bitch and moan about whatever they see. One hopes that they use common sense and try and stay on topic, but it seems that is asking a bit much.

I believe that what you are seeing is indicative of the ongoing political vitriol between factions in this country, Vitriol that has prevented people from having any kind of dialogue at all about these issues.

Shady Lady March 23, 2009 at 12:10 AM  

I will never understand people like that. Like my mother-in-law used to say, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything.

Arlene March 23, 2009 at 11:39 AM  

There is a Tango group forum that I belong to and most of the time the arguments get personal and is why I started my own blog.
You can make a point without getting personal. It takes thought and creativity and a sense of fair play. I find that the men are the worst.
I want to know who the mother is that started that line about not saying anything if you haven't got anything nice to say.
I hope that the idiots are not being too mean to you.

skyewriter March 23, 2009 at 11:58 AM  

No more meanies; they are lurking but not commenting.

I think they finally got the hint that their screen names get the automatic knee-jerk reaction: "Delete".

Ahhh, the loveliness of the delete button....

Electricfunk March 23, 2009 at 12:05 PM  

Internet: Serious business.

A good part of the reason people are willing to scream at others like raving madmen is that there is no consequences for their actions.

On the other hand in the real world if you start screaming at someone like a raving madman they might decide to give you five across the jaw for your trouble. Or officer friendly might saunter up and give you a chat as to why you are going to stop freaking out or you're going to take a nice trip down to the PD.

I wouldn't worry about the fabric of discourse breaking down that far in real life until someone can walk up to another person and scream in their face without an fear on consequences.

Chris March 23, 2009 at 1:13 PM  

Scary thought that we could deteriorate that much in our society, but somedays I'm thinking we're almost there! I liked the concept of consequences being a deterrent to real life behaviors...might keep a few snakes under their rocks!

Aliceson March 23, 2009 at 4:42 PM  

A few months back I wrote a post about children, religion and public school. A friend of mine, an actual real life off the computer friend came to my site called me all kinds of names including an atheist, communist, left wing nazi, etc. all because he didn't like my views on religion for MY children. He never (I don't think) would have said those awful things to me if we would have had that conversation face to face. And now since I do hold a grudge, that is one friendship lost just because he couldn't control himself. Too bad for him!

I think people forget that there is an actual person with feelings on the other end.

WV: welike. We like Skyewriter! March 23, 2009 at 9:24 PM  

As someone who has experienced exactly what Skye experienced, I think it comes whenever you strike a nerve in them. You point out a truth, and indefensible position, and because they have no retort, they get personal. It's a distraction from what is real to the land of let's blame everything on you so that we don't have to talk about the real issue.

I think this is crippling the media and the government. Too much is getting lost on what matters so little and the more we allow the dialogue on important issues to switch to the personal, the lower our national discourse sinks.

At what point is it not OK to attack a person. Is a public figure fair game? Should a blogger's entire life be fair game simply because you have a blog? What are the bounds of blogging decency?

Based upon what I have seen, a segment of the blogging community has gone way overboard in their reactions to what people put on their blogs and in comments. You are talking about a very, very angry segment of society. I saw that on one blog they were actually talking about being abusive to squelch the dialogue about a particular topic. Now that is about control and manipulation. Yet these are the same people who also like to rant about the First Amendment and their other "rights."

Webrage indeed. It isn't pretty and it has caused me to reconsider blogging on more than one occasion.

Kelvin April 3, 2009 at 10:36 AM  

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


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