Controversy provides interest. That's why bloggers vie for high comment count, right? Tons of comments must mean something interesting happened. I read a comment once in which a blogger confessed to bypassing blogs with low comment count, because surely nothing interesting could be said on a blog hardly anyone cared to comment on.
I know I feel this way sometimes on a discussion board I frequent. Sometimes I will skim through the archives and look at the page count. A post that has elicited 15, 20, or 30 pages of responses is generally much more likely to contain that magic of the internet: anonymous (or nearly anonymous) snark. When the topic has 22 pages of responses and has been locked, I know I've hit pay dirt. Some pretty nasty snark usually has to happen for a topic to be locked after 22 pages!
All of this is fine, but I've begun noticing a phenomenon that is bothering me more and more: online hating.
I define this as someone who goes to great lengths to seek out groups of people who love something, and then bash it in the most offensive, objectionable terms possible. These terms may or may not include obscenities; I'm referring more to the personal insults.
I'm not really including things that are up for general comments, like news stories. Those are designed to elicit opinions from all sides, and though you often see snark there, it seems to be welcomed by those asking for the comments. I'm talking about finding a website, forum, or blog dedicated to the love of something, and then posting about hating it, even returning to the site again and again to post about their hate.
An example would be going to the Eggplant Lover's discussion forum, registering for membership, getting a user name, and then responding to posts with comments like, "Eggplants are the dumbest vegetable. Only complete losers would waste any time with eggplants."
I have learned, in my time on the interweb, that sometimes these are "trolls," that is, sad, lonely people who just like to make other people angry, so they submit posts designed to infuriate. "Don't feed the trolls" is an oft-quoted aphorism many groups and discussion boards, and with reason. But I don't think they all are trolls. In fact, I'm starting to think many aren't. They are intelligent, otherwise reasonable individuals who are allowing themselves to become obsessed with something they hate, and that makes me sad.
If I, for example, saw a movie I disliked, that I thought was a bad movie, that I thought sent negative messages about femininity or sexuality or relationships, I might go to Rotten Tomatoes or Amazon and write a review. If the movie came up in discussion, I would express my opinion of the film, but in such a way as to not malign the people who liked it. I understand that we all see art, news, current events, and people differently. For example, I have yet to find someone who agrees with me on the misogyny in Independence Day. That being said, I would not watch the movie over and over, noting its flaws, even those unrelated to my case, and post them to Independence Day fansites. I wouldn't write nasty personal things about the writers, directors, producers, or actors, implying that they were somehow defective emotionally or personally because they produced a piece of entertainment I don't happen to enjoy. Why is this now "okay?"
It is the internet that has made all of this possible. In the old days, what could you do? Write a letter to the editor of your newspaper? Tell your friends you hated the movie? Forbid your children from watching it? That was it. And most of us were satisfied with that. Most of us didn't become so obsessed with what we hated that we allowed it to consume huge chunks of our time. We couldn't. If we had, no one would have listened to us, and we wouldn't have been invited to parties. Now, by giving us an arena to vent about what we hate, what we hate is overtaking us and growing beyond all proper proportion.
It makes me sad, sometimes. How many wonderful things are passing these folks by, unnoticed because they have to post to another Star Trek forum about how the new movie is going to be terrible? How many good books have some people missed because they feel they have to re-read Twilight to count all of the typos?
Now, please excuse me. I am working on a frame-by-frame analysis of Pootie Tang. Expect my next blog to expose the truth behind this supposed "classic." I suspect it may contain some cultural sterotypes that may damage the next generation!