When you work in customer service you quickly learn that some people are just rude jerks. Depending on how bad a day you have it could be 2, 5 or 10% of the population.
For these people the Internet has been a paradise with almost anonymous forums and newsgroups allowing them to be rude and obnoxious with little risk of being held accountable for their spiteful behaviour.
One of the hopes of social media services was that forcing people into using accounts tied to their real identities would impose some self discipline among these trolls and haters,
Sadly The argument that verified identities would stop people being irresponsible is wrong.
The sad story of seemingly mature people insulting and wanting to beat up a five year old participant on a reality TV show illustrates how manners, good taste and style are beyond some people.
It’s depressing, but unsurprising that this demographic can’t figure out that ‘reality’ TV shows are anything but real. The programs are carefully edited to suit the dramatic narrative of the producers with some of the participants being portrayed as villains and others as heroes.
The little girl in question could be in a spoilt little brat, but you’d want to be careful making that judgement from what you see on TV.
Many would put the spiteful behaviour of the Facebook commentors down to being another example of social media destroying our society, but this behaviour pre-dates the web.
In the 1990s we saw a similar wave of insults aimed at President Clinton’s then teenage daughter Chelsea. In many ways it was far worse in what we are seeing today in that those encouraging that behavior were the leaders of political parties and their ideological fellow travellers in the media.
The abuse of Chelsea Clinton marked the rapid decline of standards in politics that leaves many of us now sickened by the behaviour of all parties – and that of the media that treats their shenanigans seriously.
Notable about the raucous political partisanship is that most participant are happy, even proud, to be named as they debase the institutions they’ve been elected to represent.
The reason is they aren’t accountable, they know most of us are rusted on voters and the few that aren’t can be conned long enough by expensive advertising campaigns to get them elected.
Should they not get elected, they’ll be welcomed into the arms of their corporatist friends who will find them a nice sinecure on a board, committee or think tank.
The real reason people act like jerks is because they think they aren’t accountable – the politicians know they aren’t and most Facebook users figure the odds are in their favour that they’ll never be held to account for their boorish behaviour.
Anonymity is the reason for bad manners on the net, accountability is. While our society doesn’t make people accountable for cruel, rude or corrupt behaviour then these people will thrive. With or without the internet.