Monday, February 7, 2011

Incivility Sucks

I agree with Obama. Our society has become too damn incivil. Today's opinion might seem a tad inconsistent, following my last post, an apologia for profanity. As well as a youthful tendency for occasional rudeness in my writing, but that was many, many years ago.

I've been writing for some blogs, and the reader comments never fail to freak me out. (Not the Fallen Princess commenters; you guys are a self-selecting, polite group.) But at these other blogs, which I don't want to complain about because they actually pay me, unlike the cheap-ass owner of Fallen Princess, the commenters are just full-on rude, illiterate and venomous. I expect that people will disagree with me, of course, but the hostility of the disagreement somehow still surprises me.

I've spent quite a bit of time pondering this feeling of being thrown to the psycho online lions. Also, I unsuccessfully tried to find studies about online incivility. This is the only explanation I could come up with: Obviously, the anonymity that blogs offer their commenters frees people to express themselves in horrible ways. So here's my solution: I suggest that when commenting, be brave enough to use your real name. If you wouldn't want your comment to be attributed to you, then don't say it.

Allrighty then.


  1. " brave enough to use your real name. If you wouldn't want your comment to be attributed to you, then don't say it." This is my policy. I don't mind profanity, by the way. I love profanity! But people are just vicious under the cloak of anonymity in ways that have nothing to do with swearing. My blog has been thankfully free of it, but I can't even bear to look at the comments on other sites -- including news sites -- because people are so repugnant. Of course, you see it on Facebook and Twitter too. I think it's such a lie for people to blame "the media" for everything ranging from women's bad body image to general snarkiness. Even the worst examples and darkest corners of the media don't hold a candle to the meanness of an ordinary person armed with a computer.

  2. Penny Arcade is a comic that is mostly about gaming, but this comic hits the incivility nail right on the head.

    There's bad language, by the way.

  3. What I've been wondering about for years now is the almost fetishistic reverence men seem to have for the anonymity provided by the primitive nature of the internet. It has been many years since the technology has been capable of identifying us as who we are when we communicate on the web, yet men seem strangely uncomfortable with the idea of standing behind what they download, look at and say on the web.

    I think it's time for the artificial, unnecessary "right" to hide their porn-viewing, character-assassinating, poorly-written bullshit from their moms and wives to be taken away from them unless there is some legitimate need to hide themselves. The internet is not a place of privacy and anonymity: it's a public space where public rules of behavior, as shockingly debased as they have become, should still apply.

    I remember vividly my first time trying out chat on the internet on AOL back in 1996. Some creep named sniffbutt tried to chat with me and I shut down the program in disgust, never to chat again. This kind of mindset is still the default for using the internet to this very day, and nobody seems to be asking why.

  4. Tony, thoughtful comments! But FYI I sometimes go to which is a site for mothers and it is pretty much insane over there. Rude! (Some nice comments and good advice, but a good % of meanness, too.) So.... not unique to one gender at all.

  5. This is quite honestly one of two reasons why I haven't started a blog. The other is that I can't believe I have anything new or enlightening to share. But mostly, the scariness of rude commenters.

    I salute you continuing to write in the face of that and I'm thankful that you do.

    By the way, I just started following you on twitter. I'm falleavesbeauty, nice to meet you.

  6. I assume that anything I say on this here series of tubes CAN be traced back to me. I'm not savvy enough to really truly anonymize myself. But I don't believe the incivility of the comment section of large blogs is reflective of the way people treat each other when they can see each others' faces. A surprising number of people can be pretty awful right to your face (I may have even done this myself a time or two) but most lose their courage. Or whatever it's called.

  7. The local town blog in my area recently disabled anonymous comments and now forces people to comment via Facebook accounts. We aren't the smallest town but many comments were just vicious personal attacks on residents that often had nothing to do with the posted article. The new policy has cut that down to almost zero.

  8. My favorite is when people pick fights with each other regarding comments. And this is just on people magazine articles! It never ceases to amaze me!