Rude People on the Internet Are Rude in Real Life.
Frankly, I'm tired of blaming the Internet for every mistake we're making. Rude people are rude, and that's that, whether they're on the Internet or shoving past you to get on a subway car before you have a chance to get off, or giving you the finger when you order before they do at the bar. Does the Internet give us more accessibility to these people? Yes, certainly, we can interact with them without even leaving our homes. So, sure, that makes it seem like there are more of them, that perhaps they're growing in numbers and perceived misdeeds. But I disagree, regardless of the study, that we can make an exact correlation between Facebook and and the Internet in general and our personal rudenesses and bad behaviors. We've been being bad since well before Facebook or even Mark Zuckerberg existed.
Again, yes, perhaps the Internet makes it easier for some small group of sad sacks to hide behind anonymity and shout from commenter sections that we're filthy, terrible writers who shouldn't be paid for this garbage. And, yes, that's pretty rude: Do we comment on how you're doing your job? No. We wouldn't dare. But the point is, rude people at comedy shows heckle comedians. Rude comedians heckle them back. People on the street bump into one another and shove and make faces. People in front of one another tell each other, sometimes, the most awful things; even your own mother is not immune to saying something rude about you! (Do you really need that bag of Doritos, honey?) This happens even when we do see each other's reactions. Maybe, if anything, the ability to do this online without seeing reactions makes us unfraid to do it in public. But, again, the Internet didn't give birth to rudeness. It's only a place where we demonstrate it.
But sometimes the counter is true. In fact, with all this social media stuff we're up to, the Internet has started to become a place where we are, in fact, nice. Remember earlier this year when Slate's Jacob Silverman called out author Emma Straub for being representative of this terrible unholy new "Internet niceness"? Perhaps that was in some ways rude of him, but he was railing against the way writers use the Internet to be, well, not rude at all, and, in fact, completely the opposite—congratulating, back-patting, and being kind to each other. How dare they!?
Maybe, in that vein, there's an argument to be made that offline, we can snark and yell and complain about what jerks everyone else is with no one to hear but our immediate friends and family, who aren't ultimately going to hold it against us, but online, our moves are public, there forever when we say or do the wrong thing, with the machine of Internet rage ready to act if it's truly, truly bad. We are not free from punishment online, which is enough to make you start hugging people virtually, sometimes. At least, those of us who are nice. xoxo — Jen Doll
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.