I have noticed, off and on, people on discussion boards (e.g. forums, comment sections) seem to have an abrasive, if not downright toxic (hostile) attitude towards people. I know, this is not surprising. There always have been people that have acted this way on the Internet.
However, why do people act this way? While I do not pretend to be a psychologist, I have some ideas of why people engage in this kind of behavior online (or offline).
(Please take note, everything I say are my own opinions.)
Some people are clinically depressed. They do not necessarily mean to cause anyone problems, but they just see their life as one big mess. They in turn let their feelings about themselves (and their life) bleed into their online conversations with others.
- Life Stress
Stress can be the cause of someone being frequently irritated. For example, some guy on a truck/SUV forum has just lost his job and is in danger of losing his really nice truck. He makes large monthly payments each month. He is also struggling to pay his rent. With these life problems, I would not be surprised if he were to get fussy with others online.
Many times people being hostile online is due to arrogance. They believe their opinion is the only correct one, and that no one else can be right.
If they happen to be right, they become even more smug and arrogant. If they happen to be wrong, they will never admit it and unfortunately, most of the time, never change their ways. Either way, not a pretty sight.
This happens a lot on comment sections of websites. There is always someone that wants to ask “smart” questions to other people. However when the person they asked the “smart” question to is able to answer their question, they typically either insist on a stupid “comment war” that leads nowhere, or they sneak out like a thief in the night, never bothering to give a reply for courtesy.
Someone being insecure (not being sure/confident of themselves) can drive someone to get frequently defensive (usually without justification). They also show signs of paranoia and maybe even arrogance, since someone telling them they are wrong causes them to become even more insecure.
This one is similar to arrogance. Someone being prideful online is not hard to spot. Usually it is recognized by the “tone” of someone’s message.
For example, someone who has lots of money (e.g. a rich businessman) writes an online article. He says that he is of the opinion “poor” people either cannot or have a very small chance of becoming rich like himself.
Now most people would read his article that think “Wow! That guy is a jerk.” Well they would be right. A prideful online post, as mentioned before, is not hard to spot.
I believe people who post similar to my example above, are insecure, and need to put other people down to feel better about themselves. In my experience, they will even act as if they are being sincere, when they are not.
Also, their entire post does not have to be putting someone down. Just one or two sentences will give away the author’s true intentions.
As everyone knows, there are people out there who cannot rest until they have caused someone trouble. The Bible talks about these kind of people (Proverbs 4:14-16 *). When it comes to online conversations, they will give pointless talk with little to no technical arguments, wasting everyone’s time in the process.
They also semi-frequently say something like “I’m done with you.” and stop responding, as if you were the one being ridiculous. However, they are just projecting their own ridiculousness onto you, in an effort to coverup the fact they are the troll (troublemaker).
* Proverbs 4:14-16 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Do not enter the path of the wicked And do not proceed in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not pass by it; Turn away from it and pass on.
For they cannot sleep unless they do evil; And they are robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble.
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