Not all Internet commenters are assholes, of course. But many of them are. A majority? Who's to say, really? But, yes, probably, a majority of Internet commenters are assholes. Have you ever looked at the comments on a NY Post story about Obama? Don't! Unless you have an appetite for the most vile, racist filth imaginable. And we're not even going to delve into the sociopaths over at YouTube. They make me lose whatever limited faith I have left in humanity. But up until recently, the dickheadedness of commenters was just something anecdotally known, it had never been proven. Now a study shows that commenters are actual, verifiable assholes. It's nice when science aligns with exactly what I've always thought to be true.
The Wall Street Journal reported on a study that was done by researchers at Columbia University and the University of PIttsburgh which was designed to see why we're so mean to each other when we talk online. Sherry Turkle, a psychologist and professor at MIT, noted that "we're less inhibited online because we don't have to see the reaction of the person we're addressing...because it's harder to see and focus on what we have in common, we tend to dehumanize each other." Additionally, the study demonstrated that people who spend more time on Facebook and engage through Facebook commenting instead of through, you know, face-to-face interactions are "more likely to engage in binge eating and to have a greater body mass index, as well as to have more credit-card debt and a lower credit score." The researchers also found that "people who spent more time on Facebook were more likely to give up on difficult tasks more quickly."
So, basically, what the study demonstrates is that people who spend a lot of time Internet commenting are dumb quitters who are also probably poor and have shitty eating habits. Wow, that's way harsh! That's way worse than anything I would have said. Even though I have been called a racist hipster who should consider another occupation on multiple occasions! I mean, not usually by the same commenter, but STILL.
Anyway, in honor of this study, I decided to ask some of our editorial staff here about the worst comments that they've ever received. And some of them were pretty bad! Stop being such dicks, people!
"That one confused me because I didn't even write anything controversial," says Henry Stewart, also known around here as Mr. Above-It-All and "cool and detached" and "lucid."
"I always wonder, do you really have enough time in the day to hang around harassing other people?" asks Ashley Minette. Which, good question!
"What that commenter was responding to wasn't even a band review, it was just a thing on the opening of the venue," says Lauren Beck, who herself almost never says mean things about anyone and doesn't deserve this bullshit.
"Aside from the weird, childish text-speak, the most troubling aspect of this is that it's in response to a piece that didn't really contain any outlandish or inflammatory opinions. I was just sorta like, 'Hey, I think this record is pretty good!' Though I suppose that's exactly the kind of thing cocks are always saying, maybe?" ponders Mike Conklin. And he makes a good point about the nature of cock-speak, he really does.
"Racist gentry? It sounds fancy." Virginia Smith has a good outlook on everything. She rules. Commenters drool. Yeah, I wrote that. Don't like it? Comment below.
"How many times can you call someone banal in a single comment? And, you're right. I should enter a hospital. But for what? I'm sick with a lot of different things," says the thin-skinned Kristin Iversen, who is looking into entering the Payne Whitney Center on the advice of commenters as soon as she can afford to take the time off.
Because, seriously? It is just the Internet. Blame Al Gore if you have to for inventing it, but in the meantime, lighten up. Stop being such assholes.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen