Of late, I have become disgruntled with one of the forums that I frequent. I go there because I like to discuss things with people. Things I enjoy, things that I don’t, random subjects from all walks of life. Sometimes I’m there to participate, and sometimes to read and learn, and still other times to write and educate. That might make my view of forums sound lofty and snobby, but it really isn’t.
However, I do expect a certain level of “average” behavior. I put that in quotes because I couldn’t think of a better word. What I mean is that the majority of a given users posts must be used to gauge the personality of the user. Everyone goes off the rails once in a while, but if 90% of your posts are “going off the rails” then you aren’t really. Those are your rails, and the posts where you are calm and reasoned are actually your deviation.
Think of it this way… you can like something ironically – i.e. a genre of films that is bad and you are enjoying it because it is bad, not because you think it is good – but if you like everything ironically, you aren’t, you are just liking things. This is what people mean when they use “hipster” as a derogatory term – people who are living their entire lives as some sort of “anti” statement, liking things that people don’t like, not liking things that people like, wearing clothes that aren’t in fashion because they aren’t in fashion, etc. At some point, you have to admit that you aren’t doing those things “ironically” but in fact doing them because you truly enjoy them.
Back to forums… No one likes to be called a troll in the forum world. Even the people who are trolling and enjoying the trolling, they don’t want to be called it. And if 90% of your posts are reasoned, well written posts, and every now and then you “go off the rails”, you won’t get labeled as a troll. However, if 90% of your posts are loud, vulgar, contrarian diatribes, you might get called one, you might even be one.
Mostly though, the problem I’ve been having has to do with tone, which doesn’t translate well in the written word. You often have to suss out an author’s intended tone based on their body of work. It is much easier to empathize with someone who is going off the rails because a subject has pushed their buttons than it is to empathize with someone whose default position appears to be yelling and screaming. Someone could be joking, but if all of their posts are written in the same filth-ridden snarky tones, then either they are always joking or no one is ever going to know the difference between real rant and joke rant. (Honestly, I believe they don’t even know the difference until they offend someone and backpedal with the “I was only joking” excuse.)
The other half of the problem is that when someone goes deep vulgar negative on a subject, there is simply no corollary on the positive side. No level of explanation, no amount of “I love this show and think it is good” can quite make up for the other side saying “this show is shitty, the writers are hacks, the directors are witless and anyone who enjoys this unfettered garbage is a brainless moron who plays with feces!”
When someone says, “This show is insulting my intelligence.” there are two ways you could read that.
- I am dumb and this show is smart, therefore if you are enjoying it you must be smart.
- I am smart and this show is dumb, therefore if you are enjoying it you must be dumb.
No one ever posts with the first one in mind. It is always the second.
The overuse of vulgarity and insults often serves only to shut down discussion. A person on the positive side of an argument will tire of being called stupid and of the thing they like being called “a barely watchable pile of shit” and so on, eventually choosing to leave the conversation – resulting in a negative droning echo chamber.
More than once I’ve been told, “The general consensus around here was that it was garbage” and when I go look up the original thread of discussion I’ll find that in the beginning there were dissenting opinions, people on both sides, but as the negative side went vulgar and insulting the positive side backed away and the thread ends with pages and pages of people agreeing how awful it is. I suppose if you consider running off people who like something until you are left with only people who dislike that something reaching a consensus… well, I don’t know what to say to that.
In general, when I dislike something I try to be specific in what exactly I did not like and why I think I did not like it. Was a scene in a movie unbelievable because of my own personal knowledge of the subject that exceeds the average person or was it blatantly ignoring obviously things that are actual general knowledge? And I always try to frame things with myself as owner of the problem. “I didn’t like the writing…” versus “The writing is terrible…”
And ultimately, that really seems to be the central problem with the things that get under my skin. It is okay to not like things. It is not okay to continuously frame everything you don’t like as being inherently unlikable.
To bring this meandering diatribe of my own to a close, I’ll end with one final thing I don’t enjoy on the Internet. When someone likes a thing, it is apparently okay to tell that person they are wrong, that they didn’t understand it. Doing this is simply expressing your opinion, and should be considered protected speech. However, when someone doesn’t like a thing, telling them they are wrong or that they didn’t understand it is oppression and attempted censorship of the highest order and you should be burned at the stake or banned for life, or both. Doing this is offensive and you should never ever do it.