I don’t know a lot of things, but during my short time on this earth, I have observed what I believe to be some predictable tendencies of the particular animal we call human beings. The males of the species are arrogant and proud, yet they have the most tender of egos. They swell with self importance, and rage when insulted. Both males and females are born defensive and only become less so through careful conditioning. When they collect in the groups we know as communities they have a tendency to squabble, opine, piss off, and otherwise make fools of themselves with occasional utter abandon.
Online communities are fantastic microcosms of such behavior, and because posting electronically is such a “low stakes” game, all the issues of human society become amplified and accelerated in the small petri dish that is a bulletin board or forum.
These online communities also provide the ultimate succor for yet another typical human trait: our fascination with social misfortune. Humans also love disaster. We eat it up on the news. We slow down to watch the car accidents. We both bemoan and secretly crave the largest of tragedies. And the smallest. But especially those of a social kind.
There’s just no substitute for the enjoyment of watching people behave badly, and there’s no better place to do it than online community forums.
If you ever needed proof, I’ve got it for you right here.
Witness, if you will, the degeneration of a single dissatisfied customer of eRobertParker.com, posting his criticism of the service, into an eight page, 632-post free for all. For those who don’t have the patience or the desire to wade through the epic monstrosity, one of the highlights most certainly includes Robert Parker referring to some of his customers, and specifically the one who started the thread, as “point pimps and whores” — sort of the online forum equivalent of the Zidane World Cup head butt.
I don’t have the time or energy to participate in most online forums like this one, but even more importantly, I’ve seen too many dissolve into rancor again and again. But they certainly do make for entertaining (and instructive) reading sometimes….