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Monday, July 10, 2006
The Psychology of Blogging:
What is it that makes so many people react with such voracity and anger on blogs, primarily political ones? I find this to be true for both commenters and posters. I have some theories as to why this has become the norm for many blogs.
I think for some people, anonymity allows them to say things they wouldn’t otherwise say, and act in an irrational manner. This is why it is far easier for me to drop a note into the anonymous “Dialog” box telling my boss how horrible his decision-making process is, as opposed to confronting him directly. Anonymity provides cover in the form of removing any consequences of one’s actions.
Others are drawn into such behavior simple because they respond to how others around them are acting. This would explain why a few comments on the Democratic Underground can morph into a verbal free-for-all wishing death, pestilence, and disease upon anyone labeled by the mob as a neocon.
Still others feel compelled to post vitriolic comments because they feel like they belong to an intricate online community, and directing such things at the “other side” is an act of affirmation to them. This is somewhat an extension of the previous theory. (Maybe the two should be morphed into a single theory, but I digress.)
Another reason such bile gets spewed forth in the blogosphere is a really simple one: quick trigger fingers. I firmly believe that a great many people type and post before they think. They do so in a knee-jerk reaction to something that angered them, or perhaps they figured that what they had to say would surely never lead to a posse of hackers finding their IP address and directing a DoS toward their website.
Finally, there is the distinct possibility that the poster really believes what they are saying. God help us if this is the case with those who frequent the DU.
I recall one time trying to engage in a discussion about the privatization of Social Security, which I happen to support. All I wanted was a rationale for confiscating a large percentage of my income for redistribution; what I got was labels, and anger, and frustration, and even a threat or two. I changed no one’s mind, and no one changed mine.
This discussion occurred in a forum-type atmosphere, one where participants were masked behind anonymous nicknames. I’m reasonably confident that, had this discussion taken place at the local bookstore, most of what was said would have remained unsaid. (At least, I’d like to think so!)
The truth is that the desire for civil discourse is eroding, even in the “real world”. The name-calling, the insinuations, and the verbal barbs solve nothing, and contribute nothing to the debate. Many blogs tend to make the situation worse, not better. And I guess that’s just human nature.
POST-SCRIPT: I should add that, despite my citations of the popular site Democratic Underground, the phenomenon I discussed above is not exclusive to one party or ideology. There is enough anger to go around, it seems.
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