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Thursday, February 23, 2012

How to Resist Drinking the Internet Haterade

Posted By on Thu, Feb 23, 2012 at 9:30 AM

click to enlarge DearAnnaWeb.jpeg

Lately I have seen more and more rudeness online -- or let's call it socially inappropriate or rude remarks, name calling, denigrating, lying -- that is personally offensive. When the Internet first became open to the public, there were chat rooms that usually laid down a few rules to safeguard against obnoxious remarks, "calling out," bullying, and downright illegal behavior like soliciting minors and stalking. Why is it that many people feel it is okay to say things that they generally would not say to a person's face? Recently, I was censored (comment deleted) for defending someone else's right to an opinion and said nothing inappropriate. Where do you draw the line between censorship and good manners?

~Miss Manners

All good questions, Miss Manners. Unfortunately, we live in an era where it doesn't matter what you say. The mere act of saying anything in a public forum (be it a blog, comment, chat room, website, whatever) regardless of whether it's controversial, is enough to incite the lynch mob, perpetually lurking, black eyes to match their black hearts aglow in the dim light of their computer monitors, which are, I imagine, filled with pictures of sad kittens.

click to enlarge FLICKR/PINGUINO
As someone who writes about some of the most controversial topics on the Internet -- grammar and Groupon -- I get my fair share of Haterade in my inbox and elsewhere. "Why don't you try eating a live chicken and see if I give a shit?" said one particularly enraged commenter, for no reason I could discern. Another called me a slut, and followed it with, "Sex is so overrated, try smoking a joint or volunteering instead of being 'so cool' or a 'young professional.'" Yeah! Stop trying to have it all. It's volunteering and drugs, or nothing!

As Megan Daum wrote in her insightful Believer article, aptly titled, "Haterade," some strides have been made to combat the hate, but not much:

Although some sites are making efforts to weed out the trolls by disabling anonymous posting, filtering comments through Facebook, or letting readers essentially monitor themselves by flagging or promoting comments at their own discretion, most are so desperate to catch eyeballs wherever and however possible that they're loathe to turn down any form of free content.

Because I'm not the Moral Barometer of the Internet (I'm next in line after Kristen Bell steps down), I can't be your weather vane for what should be censored on the Internet, though I am sorry your comment got deleted for defending someone's honor. Please accept this sword.

click to enlarge FLICKR/VOLPIN

I think people are mean on the Internet for the same reasons that so many people watch Jersey Shore -- schadenfreude, emotional release, and for the simple fact that they can. There's very little accountability when you're online. Social media, for better or worse, provides a buffer, a middleman that temporarily absolves us from our otherwise functioning sense of humanity. Take heart though, the offline world is slowly going to pot too, as evidenced by the fact that Rick Santorum is an actual GOP presidential contender. Wait, that wasn't helpful at all. At least we still have Hungover Owls?

Social-media mistress Anna Pulley likes to give advice about how to play well with others on the internets. If you have a question about etiquette involving technology, shoot her a question at 

Follow us on Twitter: @annapulley and @ExhibitionistSF or Facebook

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