If you have been on the internet for any amount of time, you know people can and will offer their unsolicited thoughts, advice and occasionally attacks from behind the computer screen. They are bullies, pure and simple and instead of taking your lunch money, they take your self respect and more importantly your good reputation.
I don't know what it is about a seemingly innocuous article, statement or opinion that will illicit such vehemence from people who, if they saw you on the street, would normally just walk away. But the availability of anonymity and alternative personality is just too tempting. It brings forth the crazed lunatic who will rip anyone who disagrees to shreds in a heartbeat. The internet is prime real estate for people who are self-righteous, self appointed know-it-alls and pot-stirrers who like to play mind games.
Just take a gander at any highly commented article here on The Patch. You will usually find someone who has thrown down the gauntlet and put up their dukes resulting in a flurry of name calling and sometimes just down right unintelligible commentary that has derailed the train of thought so badly, no one remembers what they REALLY wanted to talk about.
What causes this phenomenon that I like to call The Invisible Enemy? What prompts a person to behave so poorly?
Sometimes (rarely, however) discussions take place where two adults are actually able to take two different sides without resorting to such junior high behavior. However, more times than not, here comes TIE (The Invisible Enemy) with their foul mouth, radical though process and argumentative attitude. Sometimes, they don't even care about the issue, they just like to argue and stir up trouble for the sake of arguement.
What can we do as fellow participants? Ignore them. Don't give them the attention they are looking for and they will go elsewhere. Remember, people, these internet interlopers are only cowardly thrill seekers who like to poke at the hornet's nest to see what happens. It stimulates them and it's a fun time to watch others get whipped up over something you said. It's flaming for a reaction and if you don't give the reaction, there's no fun.
The online discussion forum makes it possible for people to say whatever they want with little or no accountability. The offenders usually wouldn't dare to say the things they do online to someone face to face. That's why cyber-bullying has become such an epidemic.
Unfortunately, these TIEs attack in forums where they feel the administrators are lacking a firm hand, or don't monitor like they should. They will be banned and come back under a new alias. It's become the job of the forum members to self-police which usually just results in another flame war.
All in all, we're all adults who possess an edit button in our head. Some of us use it more than others and for those who don't? Just ignore them, hard as it is sometimes to do so.