Yesterday I was treated some rude, but otherwise harmless commentary on an old post about the myth of the Apple tax. It was pretty clear from the “points” the commenter wrote that he was simply an Apple hater or an Android fanboy, making claims of less functional, smaller screens, no Flash, etc. ad nauseam. I replied that they’re simply different tools for different users and “hating” one made as much sense as hating a hammer for not being a saw.
Lesson #1- Do not feed the trolls.
From there it devolved from rude and classless behavior into all-out name calling and vulgarity from him, and me generally questioning how an internet tough guy like my commenter gets along with society in the real world. It was plainly obvious he hadn’t read any of my linked posts about my frustrations with Apple, nor was he interested in having a discussion. When I deleted his comments (for vulgarity) he got a new email address and tried to post claiming that I delete comments that “disprove” me, replete with copious personal insults for full effect. The funny thing is that while he was calling me a moron for defending Apple, the idiot was posting all this from the same IP address.
I don’t know if the commenter’s rage was due to deindividuation or simply being from back east. (Massachusetts? New Jersey? Being a west coaster, they’re all the same to me.)
From Urban Dictionary:
fanboy, n, 1. A passionate fan of various elements of geek culture who lets his passion override social graces.
It’s the combination of “fanboyism” and deindividuation that… “Distresses” is too strong a word, but these factors are why I largely avoid certain regions of the internet. I only frequent forums with good moderation, and generally avoid any Apple/Android, Glock/1911, 9mm/.45, or Xbox/PlayStation/Nintendo debates as vigorously as the plague, herpes, or YouTube comments. While the conversations have been done to death, there’s nothing inherently wrong with having them. It’s personal insults and trolling that make me question the state of humanity.
Most recently, this blog has been about motorcycles because that’s what I’m really into at the moment. But while I loathe cruisers, I don’t think buying or enjoying one makes you a moron, pretentious, child rapist, etc. (There’s a better than average chance you like classic rock, but that’s about it.) When I did the Handgun Podcast my loathing of Hi-Point pistols was no secret, but I never attacked those who owned them as a lesser life form. It’s the personal nature of the attacks that just bewilders me.
I’ve often wondered if it’s from identifying too closely with the item in question; if by pointing out shortcomings in a thing causes the owner feels personally attacked and, unable to distinguish between the two, the owner begins to personally attack the critic. It’s the only thing that makes sense to me. I hope it’s not a mental illness, because the pervasiveness of the behaviour reflects far too great a percentage of the populace for society to continue much longer. I definitely believe this ill-mannered behavior is more common of the younger generations. Is this the result of hippie child-rearing? Are we seeing the consequences of no spanking manifesting later as societal meltdown?
It’s worth noting that bad behaviour online is almost always couched in anonymity. Security isn’t a bad thing (there’s a reason I don’t post my home address, etc. online), but using anonymity as a license for bad behaviour is nothing short of cowardice and immaturity. There’s a reason I blog (and comment on select forums) with my real name. First, because I am unafraid of taking ownership of my words. But second, and more important, is that it both keeps me accountable and helps foster discussion rather than figurative bomb-throwing.
I weep for the future of America, because I spend too much time online and see a depressing lack of class. Basic civility has been forgotten, manners are mocked, and gentlemen seem to be a thing of the past.
I refuse, in person or online, to not be a gentleman. It won’t die on my watch.
In that spirit, here are a couple links that are always worth reading. Art of Manliness has a post of 6 Ways to Bring Civility Online. Another article that I should try to adhere more closely to is 37 Conversation Rules for Gentlemen from 1875, as they’re applicable just about anywhere in life.
I really do believe the greatest cause of societal ills is the failure of males to be men, or specifically gentlemen. Intellectual, artistic or athletic gifts (nerds, weirdos, and jocks) shouldn’t matter nearly as much as a code of honorable conduct that we pass on to our sons (and daughters). No man is perfect, but a dad who tries to be a better man and teaches their kids to to the same is a boon to any community.
I guess there’s no real point to my essay today, since this narrative has wandered so much. I can repeat maxims like the Golden Rule, or “if you don’t have anything nice to say…” Or the great philosophers Wyld Stallyns, “Be excellent to each other.” But I’ll break the rule my high school English docked points for and end this post with a quote. Worse, a quote that contains a quote! From the linked article above:
One simple antidote to this seems to rest in the very old-fashioned idea of standing by your good name. Adopt a pseudonym and you are not putting much of yourself on the line. Put your name to something and your words are freighted with responsibility. Arthur Schoepenhauer wrote well on the subject 160 years ago: “Anonymity is the refuge for all literary and journalistic rascality,” he suggested. “It is a practice which must be completely stopped. Every article, even in a newspaper, should be accompanied by the name of its author; and the editor should be made strictly responsible for the accuracy of the signature. The freedom of the press should be thus far restricted; so that when a man publicly proclaims through the far-sounding trumpet of the newspaper, he should be answerable for it, at any rate with his honour, if he has any; and if he has none, let his name neutralise the effect of his words. And since even the most insignificant person is known in his own circle, the result of such a measure would be to put an end to two-thirds of the newspaper lies, and to restrain the audacity of many a poisonous tongue.”