As anyone who has ever written anything even slightly critical of an Apple product can attest, saying something other people disagree with is likely to inspire a volley of abuse. But just what inspires people to spend time screaming online at someone with different views?
Picture by mmoorr
The Lifehacker community is pretty well-mannered, but you don't need to Google very far to find sites where the forums and posts are dripping with venom. In a recent blog post reflecting on the torrent of communication (electronic and otherwise) he's received since exiting the Liberal leadership, Malcolm Turnbull argues that there's a mixture of laziness and therapy involved in this kind of behaviour:
So why do people write really poisonous things to politicians in language so vicious and nasty they would never utter it to someone's face or probably wouldn't utter at all? . . . It is one thing to write a poisonous email filled with hate, but to handwrite sentiments like that on a Christmas card?? The only explanation I can find for this is that for some people writing vicious emails is a bit like letting off steam by standing under a railway bridge when a train is passing over and shouting out curses and profanities. (I haven't done this, but apparently it is therapeutic and nobody can hear you because of the noise.)
The area where this analogy seems to fall apart for me is the "nobody hears you" bit — the person whose blog post you respond to quite likely does — but it's an interesting thought. Got any theories on why online nastiness prevails? Share your wisdom in the comments.