Nancy Myrland over at Myrland Marketing recently made a post about a spate of negativity in comments she’s seen recently:

A while back, my friend Gini Dietrich wrote a blog post that was on many of our minds.  It had to do with rude comments left on her blog by people who had strong opinions about another post Gini wrote about dressing professionally, or looking the part.

Gini and I, as well as many others, were a bit surprised by how rude people can actually be sometimes.  I reacted to it because I’ve always had the strong feeling that human beings deserve to be shown respect at all times, not because they’re powerful, have more money, have less money, know more than we do, have a “better” job, or a host of other reasons you might imagine.

Which made me think of a post I read at Simple Justice:

The problem is that twitter just isn’t a viable medium for expressing critical thought.  It allows for the snide remark, but not the reason behind it.  It would be great to make enemies, but poor to challenge ideas (or the lack thereof).  Which means that it’s a fine medium for a pat on the back, a cute statement, some fun chit chat…

My sense is that the whole positivity thing on twitter reflects some odd need for validation, even if from people you don’t know and with whom you will never actually engage in real human interaction.  It’s cheap affirmation to bolster some gaping hole of self-esteem amongst people who either don’t get out enough or, if they do, aren’t getting the sort of reaction from others in real life that sates their fragile self-esteem.

I think part of the problem is the spate of Johnny-Come-Latelys to the Internet. There are a large amount of lawyers and legal marketers coming online in the past few years, attempting to carve out their own little niche online. In particular, they are using their real names and identities in an environment in which, historically, people have been anonymous. I’ve posted about it before. It occurred to me that these people are probably unaware of John Gabriel’s “Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory:”

From the Wikipedia Entry:

John Gabriel’s “Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory” was posted in the Penny Arcade strip published March 19, 2004. It regards unsociable tendencies exhibited by gamers while playing online multiplayer games such as Unreal Tournament and Call of Duty. In this hypothesis, Mike Krahulik suggests that, given both anonymity and an audience, an otherwise regular person can become a “total fuckwad,” meaning a very disagreeable person with an irreverent mode of speech. New York University adjunct professor Clay Shirky, who studies social and economic effects of Internet technologies, explains: “There’s a large crowd and you can act out in front of it without paying any personal price to your reputation,” which “creates conditions most likely to draw out the typical Internet user’s worst impulses.” In an Advocate article about online homophobia, this theory was used to account for behavior on online forums where one can remain anonymous in front of an audience: for instance, posting comments on popular YouTube videos.

The theory gained popularity in 2004 after the above post, but it was already a given amongst gamers and people who been on the internet for years – “John Gabriel” just gave it a name. God forbid you were online in the 90s when people were hiding links to Goatse [Wikipedia link 🙂 ] and the like in their posts.

If you’re going to be online, you definitely need to be prepared to share space with anonymous jerks and your thoughts ridiculed by people you’ll never know. Get some thick skin and deal with it. Why be concerned what anonymous strangers think of you?

Besides, there’s not much you can do about it unless you want to fly around the country and beat the shit out of guys talking crap on the internet:

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