Thursday, October 10, 2019

Off the Cuff

While it's been years since I first noticed the phenomenon, I'm always kind of surprised at the level of Spontaneous Dickery that's endemic to the Internet. If you're lucky, you don't know the type: the comment on a post that's tangential or even completely off-topic that seems to have no reason for existence than allowing someone to let random stranger know just how much some other random person hurt their feelings.

So someone will share a post like: "Hey, check out the new super-cute puppy I bought!"

And in the stream of comments will be something like: "I had a gerbil once. But it was run over by a car. Must have been a (insert name of political, religious or professional group here) behind the wheel, because they all suck."

My first reaction is always: "WTF? Where the Crack did that come from?" Then, I start reading carefully. Half the time, there's no real clue as to what could possibly link the post to the comment. Sometimes, you can see how, with some serious effort, you could make a logical connection between the original post and the comment. But there's a sizable minority of times there will be a line in the original post or some other comment that if you squint just right and angle the monitor a certain way, you could possibly take as some weird sort of provocation. Something like (to continue my example): "Have you checked out my buddy Jack's Puppy Page? He's really good with animals. He's also a (insert name of political, religious or professional group here) activist, rock climber, bass guitarist, brain surgeon and all-around great guy!"

I'd say that it's something about the Internet that brings out the Vitriolic in people, but I suspect that there have always been random bitter people who plan their lives around plotting petty acts of pseudo-revenge for some slight that was dealt them back in the lunch line in second grade. The internet, and social media in particular, allow them to think that they're striking back against the world (or at least those people in it with the temerity to not be like them) from the safety of their kitchen table.

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