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''Why are so many people aggressive, rude, and hostile on the Internet? (Flaming or insulting in forums, blogs, etc.)''

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''Though this world brings "us" together in many ways that suggest utopian potentials, it also functions all too well as a fertile playground for the darker corners of human nature. ''
8 years ago, March 10th 2011 No: 1 Msg: #130779  

Jason, I'm surprised at how aggressive you are towards me whenever our paths cross on TravelBlog's forums. I'd like to know why, although not on this thread. Send me a private message.



I personally think Jason is sometimes just taking the p*ss, rather than being aggressive. Irony doesnt travel accross the internet, which I have discovered on a few occasions when things I said were taken too seriouly. It is a shock when it happens though, and it can easily turn into aggression and create hostility.

This reminds me, I read something on the internet about internet forum hostility. I am not too keen on the quotes I have included, because I just dont like Psycho babble. Though, if I substitute 'The Monkey Sphere' with something I find more palatable such as 'compassion fatigue', I find it easier to pay attention to what is being said.

The first thing I think of in considering this question is a recent article on cracked.com called "What is the Monkeysphere" ... though satirical, I found it to be wise and you'll see a link to the full article in my sources below. The basic idea is that the human brain is only hard-wired with the ability to know and genuinely care about so many people as individuals--the article posed the idea that the number might be around 150. Beyond that, we may extend the goodwill we generally want to believe we feel about all of humanity, but we can't really empathize. On the internet, most of us interact with a good many people who are outside our "monkeysphere." Intellectually we know they are real people, but we don't feel genuine empathy. As a result, it can be easy to turn them into objects, and reduce them to being little more than symbols to be punished or revered at our whim.



A couple quotes: "Popularization of the Internet has distorted the separation between the “facade” uwabe and “secretive” kossori, the boundary between public and private, into a strange shape. Flaming exists as a manifestation of the confusion brought on by this distortion ...



Why are so many people aggressive, rude, and hostile on the Internet? (Flaming or insulting in forums, blogs, etc.)


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8 years ago, March 10th 2011 No: 2 Msg: #130788  
N Posts: 5
we should be receptive to ideas and change Reply to this

8 years ago, March 10th 2011 No: 3 Msg: #130800  
I have never considered people I meet on the internet any differently to people I meet elsewhere. I have many friends who began as penfriends and while of course it is wonderful to be able to meet them face to face I don't consider someone less of a friend because we haven't been lucky enough with times and locations to be able to meet in person. The '150' statistic is interesting though. I'm always bemused by people who have over a thousand facebook 'friends' - can they really remember all these people and where they're from and what they do? I admit I have countless people from high school on facebook and yet in real life I am not in contact with any of them - it's more like that school reunion 'oh I remember that person I wonder where in the world they are now?' kind of curiousity. I wonder how many online 'friends' we'd all have if we actually reduced it to the people we genuinally want to know about and care about and want to hear from. Reply to this

8 years ago, March 10th 2011 No: 4 Msg: #130802  
B Posts: 580
I think you are right Mell, “Irony doesn’t travel across the internet”. Irony which of course is intimately linked to sarcasm and the fine line between its good self and wit; which can easily be lost in translation when one lacks the context of timing, tone, and expression. If I may add an anthropological perspective; the most difficult thing to learn about another culture is the humor, but once you have that down, you’re sorted (in theory).

Incidentally, I always find myself using ;-) more than I really like to leave the element of doubt hanging out there, because I often wonder that without it people may misconstrue the “ humor” or even not see it at all;-)

On the separate point of Monkeys and Spheres; I do agree somewhat with the “danger” of anonymity on the internet – or more academically, perhaps I’m afraid of the image we see looking back at us when we are able to see into people’s actions when they think they are performing them anonymously. I saw an advertisement on the television the other day about some fitness freak that spends his whole time in the gym and he said “You can judge a person by what he does when nobody else is watching”. I felt that was a pretty damning indictment - immediately thinking of the internet - since it seems nowadays every time I want to watch live sport on the internet (whilst I should be writing my thesis, I might add!) It doesn’t take long for the two “sides” to degenerate into some pretty disgusting sectarian vitriol.

I have often wondered why people talk to people on the net in ways that they would never consider talking to them face-to-face; which leads me to wonder (part of the theoretical framework for my own research is how people socially “perform” when interacting with one another) what people we meet daily really have going on inside their heads, behind the performance, or the "shackles" of face-to-face contact.

The Facebook friends/twitter thing is another phenomenon entirely; since it has exploded onto the scene so suddenly and with such force I think we are struggling to grapple with it fully as a social phenomena, and I am sure there are academics around the world from varying disciplines clambering to study it as we speak. I think the results will say something salient about who we are.

“I have never considered people I meet on the internet any differently to people I meet elsewhere. I have many friends who began as penfriends…” Anna.

I met my wife on the internet. Actually via Travelblog! (though I should add, we have met in person since we were married)

And, Anna - to your previous post about why people quite blogging, I think some of the answer to that may be discovered in the reasons people choose to start blogging in the first place.

Anyway I should get back to writing my thesis, oh and of course living my life vicariously through Charlie Sheen;-) < see!
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8 years ago, March 10th 2011 No: 5 Msg: #130806  
Good luck with the thesis.... yeah I think we are all familiar with you and your wife! I've been reading both of your blogs for some time. Two of my favs.
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8 years ago, March 10th 2011 No: 6 Msg: #130808  
B Posts: 580
On the subject of Jenni Jen; she hasn't blogged herself since 2008. She attributes this to falling behind and never having the time to catch up; travel, travel, kid, travel, grad school, kid(s), travel, fieldwork, travel, grad school and kids will do that to you I guess. But come July it will just be travel, kids, travel!

Oh, and since she isn't here we'll keep the topic on topic, and on her, in saying that She (American) still doesn't fully appreciate my (British) humour, God bless us; think Ricky Gervais, Golden Globes!
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8 years ago, March 10th 2011 No: 7 Msg: #130811  
Not everyone is aggressive on the internet. Aggression doesn't rear its head on every thread and I'm pretty sure the number of threads where it does are greatly outnumbered by the number where it doesn't. I'd therefore say that most people who write on forums are not aggressive and when we do see aggression it's just due to that individual blogger, like he has a lot of pent up aggression or something. Some people are rude and prone to arguments in real life so why not on the net? Reply to this

8 years ago, March 10th 2011 No: 8 Msg: #130815  
B Posts: 580
Ed, wouldn't you say that the cultural phenomenon that is the internet and the certain anonymity it engenders the individual does create more "aggressive" behavior online. Or is it that this is just a reflection of aggression in society more generally, and that people are rude and prone to arguments in real life are in fact 'out there' behaving accordingly. Or indeed that the internet provides a cathartic release to people with pent up aggression, more generally? Reply to this

8 years ago, March 10th 2011 No: 9 Msg: #130827  
can't say for sure but positive discussions way outnumber the negative ones on the net.

If you get a bunch of people together in real life who don't know each other and provoke a discussion among them then it might turn out nasty just as often as on the net. Reply to this

8 years ago, March 10th 2011 No: 10 Msg: #130828  
B Posts: 580
Ha! I love it; envisioning you with a clipboard, "provoking" a "real life" discussion amongst a bunch of strangers to see if it might "turn out nasty"

Forget ethical approval, is that even legal;-)
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8 years ago, March 11th 2011 No: 11 Msg: #130893  
If you guys are short on hostility all you need to do it drop back into the Trip Advisor forum from time to time. That will cure you! Reply to this

8 years ago, March 23rd 2011 No: 12 Msg: #131804  
I wonder if it isn't the fact that there are many people who are aggressive on forum's, but that there are a few very vocal ones on each forum, posting most of the filth. The silent majority isn't heard much as most of us get severly turned off by the behaviour and just tend to move on and stop posting on the forums where it appears. Real life sees the same. If you would look at the news it would appear that there are a lot of bad people out there, whereas if you travel around you notice that there aren't. The bad apples always generate and get more attention. A prime example is Al Qaida which while representing only a tiny, tiny fraction of deluded individuals has managed to give a bad reputation to an entire religious group. Just a thought... Reply to this

8 years ago, March 23rd 2011 No: 13 Msg: #131808  
B Posts: 5,187
There are two main situations I see here;

- misunderstandings - humor, irony, sarcasm don't always get interpreted correctly without the unwritten 70% of the conversation

- anonymous postings - it's a lot easier to be rude and hostile - when you don't have any responsibility for the post

I think apart from the occasional misunderstanding - on these forums - posters from established accounts behave themselves very well.

Many sites are moving to commenting systems that require some sort of authentication - as Ralf says forums and comments sections that don't have this will have a bad atmosphere and the majority will move on. Reply to this

8 years ago, March 24th 2011 No: 14 Msg: #131895  
I agree that anonymity can lend some hostility. Many of these people are probably not as hostile in real life, where such behavior can lead to getting physically hurt, sanctions, etc.

However, at the end of the day it all boils down that person's "breeding" and tendency to become argumentative even for the most unimportant reasons / topics. Then there are those who do it for the sheer delight of antagonizing someone. So, rude comments shouldn't be taken personally. The good thing about it is we can just close the browser and they no longer exist. 😊

(By the way, I previously thought that people from the site itself actually make hostile comments just to generate discussion. The more people talking, the more hits.)

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8 years ago, March 24th 2011 No: 15 Msg: #131897  
B Posts: 847

...... at the end of the day it all boils down (to) that person's "breeding" and tendency to become argumentative even for the most unimportant reasons



....Then there are those who do it for the sheer delight of antagonizing someone.




By the way, I previously thought that people from the site itself actually make hostile comments just to generate discussion. The more people talking, the more hits.

(Quotes by fateundermined)

Interesting insights.
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8 years ago, March 24th 2011 No: 16 Msg: #131902  
What an interesting debate 😊

I've always been an advocate of free speech and believe that we should have the freedom to say what we think and feel even if it is unpopular, as long as it is not derogatory, racist or discriminatory in any way. Each and every one of us will from time to time, find ourselves being rubbed up the wrong way by someone or other and personally, I think it is liberating to have the odd vent, something that I frequently do in my blogs!

I admit unequivocally, that I sometimes come across as being rather outspoken even to extent of being a tad abrasive, not that I deliberately intend to be inflammatory you understand, it's just my warped sense of humour. I have frequently come a cropper to misunderstandings and would second Jason's comment about 'Irony not travelling well across the Internet' which has led to me making a rather over excessive use of emoticons, the use of which seems to diffuse any comments made in a ironic or sarcastic fashion.

That said, I would surmise that there are many folks out there who are jealous of people like us and the Web gives them the perfect forum to vent their somewhat unwarranted anger anonymously.

Mind you, while I don't condone flaming, trolling or other forms of online insult, the Internet has become the bastion of many a self-obsessed, narcissist who seems to think that the Universe rotates around them. I suppose in my humility, I find this kind of self-aggrandisement to be rather vomit inducing and can certainly understand why some would choose to target these individuals in a less than amiable manner 😉 Reply to this

8 years ago, March 25th 2011 No: 17 Msg: #131977  
Hana -

However, at the end of the day it all boils down that person's "breeding" and tendency to become argumentative even for the most unimportant reasons / topics. Then there are those who do it for the sheer delight of antagonizing someone. So, rude comments shouldn't be taken personally. The good thing about it is we can just close the browser and they no longer exist. 😊



Most definitely agree with this. There are people on Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree forum who delight in being nasty to anyone who asks what they see as a simple question. The level of abuse sometimes on that forum is horrendous and we can't help thinking these people are bitter and unhappy in real life as that's what all of their posts imply. We wonder if they would be that nasty to someone's face - we are naturally very outspoken people (well, Donna more than Neil) and if everyone lived by the rule that you don't say things to people online which you wouldn't say to their face, internet forums in general would be a better place!


Ali -

anonymous postings - it's a lot easier to be rude and hostile - when you don't have any responsibility for the post



People definitely act differently under the anonymity of the internet, some people think if their comments can't be traced back to them they are justified in saying whatever nasty thing they want.

Nick -

I would surmise that there are many folks out there who are jealous of people like us and the Web gives them the perfect forum to vent their somewhat unwarranted anger anonymously.



Oh yes, agree with this Nick! We know we aren't the only people to have had really nasty anonymous comments posted on our blogs. We don't mind criticism but some people are too cowardly to put an e-mail address so we can at least have a 'conversation' about what they have said. It's kind of a 'hit and run' nastiness and the only reason we can think of, like Nick says, is jealousy.


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8 years ago, March 26th 2011 No: 18 Msg: #132073  
Studies have proven what all of you have pointed out about anonymity, irony and sarcasm being the cause of these communication issues on the internet.
My question is of a more personal level about your experiences-- when you have had an opportunity to respond to the angry individuals or seek clarity with a misunderstanding-- have they been responsive. Do they back down or continue with their hostility?

We don't mind criticism but some people are too cowardly to put an e-mail address so we can at least have a 'conversation' about what they have said.



In my limited experience this has been true. They really are not interested in engaging in a rational debate or exchange of ideas they just want to make the statement and run.

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8 years ago, March 29th 2011 No: 19 Msg: #132324  
B Posts: 122
Compared to some forums I read TB seems to have a good spirited community, I rarely read anything that I could imagine anyone taking offense to. Reply to this

8 years ago, May 29th 2011 No: 20 Msg: #137436  
I agree with those who say the ratio of nice and not so nice people online is similiar to that of offline.

I think, the big difference about online forum, public blog... communicaition compared with offline is how much we stand on stage. If somebody called us names and was generally insulting offline, many of us would avoid saying all but the essential in the company of that person and probably make effort to avoid them when reasonably possible. Online, we dont know what types are reading what we say. And, it is not only when we say it, that we risk bringing abuse in our direction, but for years to come. The internet keeps our opinions alive, long after our opinions mature and develop.

As well as that, we tend to tailor our offline conversation to those present. For example, we would likely not say the same things with out mother in law present, as we would alone with our partner or in a group of our friends. And, what would we remove from our communication, if we were addressing the entire offline community we live in. Reply to this

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