Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Blogtopia can be a freaky place

And yes, Skippy, I know you coined "blogtopia." We don't forget that at Notes From Underground. But before I go off on a tangent, let's get to the topic at hand: the freakiness that periodically makes its way to the wonderful world of blogging. This crossed my radar by chance tonight:
For those who think they’ve got blog “wars” to be all dramatic about, check this out. That’s what happens when people are encouraged to be anti-feminist and who don’t care when their so-called “friends” demonize people who have disagreements with them to the point where they are to be “shunned” and compared with torturers and mass murderers. Just look at the e-mails mcat got yesterday.
Every single one of you reading this - and I know you are, obviously (MB and others) - had better start thinking twice about your hateful hyperbole because that’s the kind of incident you’re contributing to. Let that be a wake up call.
If you click on the link from that comment, you'll find a lengthy post by a female blogger has been on the receiving end of some seriously deranged threats of physical harm (think along the lines of sadistic sexual torture and death) in the form of comments at her blog and over at some other blogs. It's disturbing to say the least.

These sorts of incidents are not unique to blogging. On the various bbs on the internet and on usenet newsgroups similar things have happened. One can note a number of factors involved. A couple were already mentioned by catnip in the above quotation:

  1. The influence of devaluation and dehumanization in inducing acts of verbal aggression. There is a ton of research in social psychology showing that the process of devaluation fosters future acts of aggressive behavior against the victims. Once someone has been labeled as a "troll," "bitch," "asshole" or whatever, that person becomes fair game for abuse in the eyes of other members of a group.
  2. Previous acts of aggression tend to lead to a a maintenance or an escalation of aggression over time. This especially happens when those involved invoke a tit-for-tat strategy or a strategy of outdoing the previous act of aggression. Flamewars can go on for what seems like forever as a result - sometimes across numerous blogs and eventually involving parties who had no part in the original source of the conflict.
Both of these factors are exacerbated by an important feature of everyday interpersonal communication that is missing in internet communication: namely a face-to-face interaction. One consequence of the lack of face-to-face interaction is that we tend to lose a lot of nonverbal cues that would clue us in on to what others are communicating, leading to misunderstandings that would otherwise not happen (emoticons don't really remedy that situation very well, from my own observations).

What happens then is that there is a form of deindividuation that occurs - both in terms of a sense of anonymity provided by the internet experience (one cannot be seen, and one might use a screen name that differs from their given name) and the loss of the ability for self-reflection that occurs especially when caught up in the heat of the moment amidst a crowd of fellow flame-throwers.

Folks end up doing things that they would likely never think of doing to someone in person. That's one damned good reason to consider very carefully what one is saying, and to remember that there is another living breathing human being reading what is being directed at them.

No comments:

Post a Comment