New York Times tech diva David Pogue took some time out of his day today to pontificate on the general nastiness that can be found basically on any site that allows comments. He certainly brings up some interesting points, and anyone who has spent time browsing through comments at Digg, Slashdot, or even here on our beloved Gizmodo can attest to the fact that people have a tendency to throw insults first and ask questions later. But is it that people aren't raising their kids right and that people are generally meaner today than they were in the "good old days," or is it more the nature of the beast?
I for one tend to get emboldened when I'm behind the keyboard. Typing anonymous comments to people you'll never actually meet in person is a really dehumanizing thing, even as it purports to connect us. It really has more in common with talking to ourselves than it does with actually talking to another person, so the normal filters of tact and self-restraint are peeled away. That's not really an excuse to be needlessly mean or nasty to other people online, but I think it probably has a lot to do with explaining the phenomenon.
I don't think that all hope is lost, however. I may be trying to not shit where I eat here, but I think the Giz has a collection of some of the more articulate commenters around. Even when I need to get slapped around for lax fact checking/speedy post writing the pigpile is generally only a couple people deep. It's certainly nothing compared to the fracas at Digg, which can feel more like a schoolyard than a tech site full of intelligent adults. I think it probably has a lot to do with the semi-closed comment accounts that give people pause before posting something particularly inflammatory.
So what's the deal, commenters? This whole discussion is about you, so let's hear it. Have you sometimes crossed the line into nasty territory and later regretted it? Is there something in particular about the online environment that breeds misanthropes? Is Pogue just a big wuss who doesn't come down from his ivory tower at the Times enough and can't take the heat of hanging with the proles? Do some of you want to apologize for hurting my feelings? I'm waiting.
Whatever Happened to Online Etiquette? [NY Times]