Social media considered harmful, part 1

When people keep trying to post hostile troll-ish comments, I end up blocking them, and then I don’t even see their subsequent attempts. But in the one or two attempts that I do see, before I realize they are either crazy or trying to act crazy, I always learn something.

Yesterday the trolls came out in force, because one of my posts was listed on Hacker News. And I learned quite a bit — mostly about the nature of anger.

One of the trolls made sure to announce himself as a troll by posting a comment that was ostentatiously insulting, and then acting offended when I didn’t post it. So here was somebody essentially saying “I will engage you not in actual discussion, but only as my enemy. Those are my rules of engagement.”

So what would motivate somebody to go up to a complete stranger and loudly announce themselves as that stranger’s enemy? What’s really going on in such situations?

I think there are implications to this phenomenon that are more significant than mere bad manners. More on this tomorrow.

One thought on “Social media considered harmful, part 1”

  1. You should look up some of the talks given by Jeff Atwood (aka “Coding Horror”) on this topic. His work over the last decade or so focuses on using software to raise the level of online discussion, and hopefully curb the bad behavior.

    His first company along these lines, Stack Overflow, is a spectacular success. His second one, Discourse, aims to fix the issues with online comments.

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