Are People Meaner Online than in Real Life?

I’ve been writing on and reading blogs since Al Gore invented the Internet — or at least for the past several years, anyway.

When it started, I thought the social web (along with the word “blog“) was pretty ridiculous. Now, I’ve come to love this medium for a lot of reasons, particularly how it connects you to the world.

However, this is not all rainbows and sunshine. There is a darker side to blogging.

Photo of an Angry Child
Photo credit: Gerry Thomasen (Creative Commons)

I admire the ethos of many bloggers to be a source of information and inspiration for others (as Andrew Jones says, “be a spring, not a well”). And for the most part, that’s what you get: a lot of nice people sharing a lot of great stuff.

But there is, unfortunately, another contingent to the blogosphere: Some people are mean.

Why people are meaner online

My suspicion is it’s the anonymity of the Internet that causes people to say things online that would make their mothers blush. To run their mouths in ways they’d never do in someone’s home.

Regardless of the reason, I’ve heard so many jabs, slanders, and critiques that you’d think I’d be use to it by now. As you know, I’ve had my fair share of haters. But I’m not used to it.

Even with such experience, the uncouthness of what I read online sometimes surprises me. I wonder: Did you really think about that before posting it?

Bloggers: The best at being bad

You don’t have to look very hard to find a blog blasting just about anyone. If you’re in the public view at all (and I mean, at all), there’s probably a group dedicated to disagreeing with you. Don’t believe me? Google yourself.

As a blogger, I’m embarrassed by how disrespectful my kind can be towards perfect strangers. I don’t care if you are hunting down heretics; you don’t have to be a jerk about it.

Is it idealistic to think that love could win in this arena? That generosity and being an all-around “good guy” can trump shrewdness and arrogance? Well call me naive, but I hope so.

It’s not enough to be right

Contentiousness for the sake of being contentious confuses me. No great wars were fought over the virtue of fighting. No epic debates were waged in defense of argument.

In college, I met an academician who challenged me, a religion major, that philosophy student worth his salt should be able to argue for or against his point. That always bothered me.

No, I thought. That’s not the point of philosophy. It’s not about being right; it’s about finding the truth.

The arguments in which we engage, the conversations we have, and the battles we fight are all a means to an end, not the end itself.

Which raises a question: Do you know what you’re fighting for? Or are you just trying to get noticed? Share in the comments.

Update: Check out my article today on RELEVANT Magazine: The Rise of Confessional Media

*Photo credit: Gerry Thomasen (Creative Commons)