Recently I deleted a post on my website. After putting up what I felt was a fair and decent rebuttal to a reader, she got in touch and made it clear that she was not happy engaging in discussion. A quick check through the efiles revealed that she was one of the snarky Twi-hard fans from a few posts back. I’d run her comments then in the interest of balance.
Being me, I thought about this and decided to look into the subject of flamers. First, a dictionary definition;
‘The term “flaming” may originate from The Hacker’s Dictionary, which in 1983 defined it as “to speak rabidly or incessantly on an uninteresting topic or with a patently ridiculous attitude”. They are more subtle and precise than their counterparts, ‘trolls’, who are less professional and write obvious and blunt remarks to incite a flame war.’
Well, that just sounds like an good old-fashioned and slightly inebriated argument in a pub, I thought. A good thing, surely?
As it turns out, no. A quick call around to other writers who run blogs revealed the extent of the problem. What’s happening is that whenever we comment negatively on anything, we get hit by increasing numbers who are simply disruptive and insulting without presenting valid arguments. 99 percent of these don’t make it to the comments pages, but I have to trawl through them all and make a decision on each one, and that takes time. What I try to do is avoid any censorship that would result in a reduction of balanced argument. Socrates was the dude.
But it’s getting to the point where I don’t feel like trying to have an interactive site at all. I could run an anodyne blog filled with optimism and LOLcats, simply pushing readers toward book sales, as a great many authors do, but I want to be more wide-ranging here and make things interesting.
I think one of the problems of Facebook is that the young are encouraged to present an alternative version of themselves online – by creating permanently happy, party-going, friend-filled lives they can micro-manage their own self-image. A side effect of that is a refusal to engage in rational discussion without throwing an emotional strop. At a screening of ‘The Social Network’, Aaron Sorkin came out against Facebook, saying that this was exactly the problem for him – it could easily build artificial worlds around users, giving them a false worldview. He was hissed at by the teens in the audience.
Anyone who has ever dealt with the public on a regular basis knows that you have to be very patient and rational, or you’d end up burning someone’s house down. The public beast – as a group – can become a very alarming, illogical thing (one thinks of the pedophile panic that gripped the nation after press witch-hunts).
The end result; I and my fellow authors who run more interactive sites will continue expressing opinion whether positive or negative – hey, it’s what sentience is for – and anyone whose comment I post can expect to engage in intelligent discussion with other users. It seems like a fair deal to me. Or I could simply tell you that ‘Bryant & May and the Invisible Code’ is out August 2nd at all good bookshops. Er, and online.