I found myself checking out my You Tube website this morning, to see if any messages I left weeks and months back thanking or commenting on videos had elicited any responses. I only do this once every few months.
It turned out I had several responses back to my past comments. A couple of them were nice--people acknowledging my thanking them for posting some rare video clip or something. I never expect that but its a nice gesture.
But the majority of comments on what I thought were simple corrections or reasonable rebuttals backed up by facts as I knew them, were hostile. It was suggested that (a) I must be on drugs (b) a brainwashed idiot who takes orders from a cable television news station and (c) simply brain-dead. A couple of the other comments were backed up by the kind of foul language I personally reserve for when I accidentally fall off the roof while mucking out the gutters.
If you've been around the Internet, visited You Tube or a small to regional newspaper "comments" site or any website where politics, sports, religion, or any debate-able matter is open for discussion, you'll know what I mean. You Tube itself has started to cut off commentary on many videos if they have a glut of these angry missives. Other still open have page after page of this junk that passes for "debate." I went through a couple sites today and was disheartened to see there was no end to some of the crud that passed for argument. Is this what has become of the greatest personal communication system since the invention of the telephone?
By now many experienced hands on the 'Net are saying "Well, what do you expect, Doug?" Same old, same old as they say. Well, frankly, I think things are getting worse out there, not better. And that's my point.
Shouldn't more web users be getting the knack of this by now? Why do more sites seem polluted by rancor and nastiness. When did typing "you suck" (and that's just the lowest level of abuse) become a clever debating gambit? What is It about the anonymity of the web that causes people to sink to the verbal level of a childhood schoolyard, or at the worst a prison exercise yard?
CNN's Tod Leopold interviewed a communications professor on this subject for a November 2008 article. Here's a portion of it:
"One reason for the vitriol that emerges on the Web, experts say, is the anonymity the Internet provides. Commenters seldom use their real names, and even if they do, the chance for retaliation is slim.
"'In the [pre-Internet era], you had to take ownership [of your remarks]. Now there's a perception of anonymity," said Lesley Withers, a professor of communication at Central Michigan University. "People think what they say won't have repercussions, and they don't think they have to soften their comments."
"'Contrast that with a face-to-face conversation, or even a phone conversation, where you can judge people's moods from facial movements or vocal inflections, observes University of Texas psychology professor Art Markman. "It's hard to be aggressive when you're face to face," he said.
"'A lot of times, real anger is an attempt to get control over a situation where the person doesn't usually have it," he said. In that respect, comments to blog posts are attempts to strike back.'"
Let me first off say that I am not talking flaming from any of my regular friends here on Multiply. People seem to be able to disagree here and there and get along okay. Those who want to spew some kind of personal attack on me can have at it here--to a point.
Those strangers who come along to my site just to raise ire for the sake of drawing anger---well, horseman or woman, please gallop on by.
Criticism I can handle. Most people can. But what I'm seeing on under-monitored sites is appalling. I'm curious what if other people have experienced this flaming lately and if they think this is getting better or worse?