When I was a primary school kid, the deputy principal would always start his Monday morning assembly speech with “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. Hearing that every single Monday allowed us kids to mouth the words as he was voicing them, but the true meaning of it only hit me later on in life.
This is definitely something I try to abide by now, whether it is online or ‘in real life’. But it has amazed me how ruthless people have become in the online world. It seems like becoming distanced from the person they are aiming their rotten tomatoes at makes them want to throw them even harder. Although this is quite accurate according to the Laws of Motion, I’m always curious as to why people take the effort to post something nasty.
Take YouTube for example. People are free to watch any video they like, yet they choose the videos they dislike and throw all their collected sticks and stones in one go in the direction of the video owner. If you don’t like something, why not just close the tab? That’s the beauty of the Internet.
Huffington Post just announced that Facebook might be incorporating a dislike button in the near future, but I’m not sure whether that is a gain or a pain. Mark says they’re all about positivity on Facebook, which is a rare commodity on other sites like YouTube and Reddit that allow you to down vote content. Ironically, scammers hated Facebook so much for sharing the love that they duped people into following a malicious link that made them believe that could add a dislike button to their Facebook news feed. Now that needs a dislike button!
It might sound like I’m depicting all Internet users to having their pitchforks and torches ready at the get-go. This of course isn’t true yet, but I’m curious whether it’s the medium that is making the message more venomous or whether society is just becoming more accustomed to criticism. But if you can’t say something straight to someone’s face, then maybe you shouldn’t be saying it in the first place.
Is the grass really greener?
Blogger Greg Jericho voices his concern about user’s freedom to post anything and everything, especially when it’s done anonymously. This is also called astroturfing and is described as masking a message by altering or hiding the identity of the user that has posted the comment. Politicians are its biggest fan, getting caught in the astroturfing act trying to get their message across as Mr. John Doe.
Jericho goes on to debate whether this concept of astroturfing is fuelled by new media or whether it has always been there. I think the latter is true, as letters to the editor sent in by Mr. Anonymous from Unknownville are about just as old as newspapers and magazines themselves. And not to forget the champion callers to radio stations that blurt out their opinions and hang up as soon as they have caught their breath.
So should Internet users be the only ones limited in their freedom to remain anonymous? Jericho believes that only allowing registered users to post is a good way to regulate online user comments. If they really feel passionate about a subject, they sure would be willing to take the small effort to register. But then again, you don’t want to be too restrictive on the Internet or users will get annoyed and take off.
99% Crazy Free
And then there’s something else: are user comments really something we have to be worried about? According to the 90-9-1 rule found by Nielsen, 90% of users merely lurk around the corners of the Internet without contributing, 9% contribute occasionally and 1% of the users are those hard-core participants that wake up every morning to bellow their visions (or hallucinations) into cyberspace.
Just to make sure you don’t bump into them, here are 7 types of Internet users you should try to avoid. And if you do happen to bump into them, just remember that we can never entirely agree with what people say, and there will always be annoying people in the audience, just like at movie theatres, for instance. And if we can’t stand that, we may as well stay at home to watch the movie on DVD.
What type of Internet user are you? Do you think we have become more vicious because of the Internet?
Leave your comments below. (Don’t worry, I won’t delete them. Not the ones that agree with me at least.)
- Why users don’t see view counts: Facebook focuses on positive interaction (insidefacebook.com)
- Facebook Dislike Buttons May Be Closer than You Think (everything-pr.com)
- Online Feedback Rant (iamshafran.wordpress.com)
- Astroturfing: A PR No-No That Gave Samsung a Public Black Eye (marchpr.com)
- Want to ‘Dislike’ a Post? Facebook Soon to Let Users Do That with A Different Approach (hngn.com)
Source: Jericho, G (2012) ‘Never read the comments’, in The Rise of the Fifth Estate: Social Media and Blogging in Australian Politics. Carlton North: Scribe Publications.
Nielsen, J. (2006). Participation inequality: encouraging more users to contribute. Retrieved on August 16, from: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/participation_inequality.html