Online Sass: A Rising Problem?

We’ve all seen it—Facebook fights, “subtweets” clogging up our timelines, and hateful YouTube comments.  One place that I didn’t expect to see the claws coming out?  Pinterest.  For those of you unfamiliar with Pinterest, it is kind of like Tumblr, but people “pin” things to a kind of virtual bulletin board.  I use it mostly for fashion ideas, recipes, and interior design stuff that I like.  It’s generally a pretty happy place filled with pictures of puppies and crafts.

Lately, though, I’ve noticed a few angry comments back and forth between Pinterest users, and I have to wonder why.  The inspiration for this blog post can be traced back to a poor little pin of a cupcake recipe that ended up housing a heated fight over vegan diets.  It was far beyond the mere sharing of opinions and had instead turned into a catty mess complete with insults and name-calling.  Why, Pinterest users, why?!

In class we read Andrew Sullivan’s “Why I Blog,” and he mentions the idea that in this new age of technology and blogging, sharing opinions is easier than ever.  He explains, “Now the feedback [is] instant, personal, and brutal.”  It’s interesting to consider why f

eedback has gotten nastier.  Maybe it’s because people can say things behind a computer without ever really being held accountable for their words.  I’m not sure.  Whatever it is, it does seem to be a bit of a problem.

For my Vietnamese class, we had to create a blog and post new entries every week.  My Vietnamese writing was choppy and probably humorous to native Vietnamese speakers, as expected, but I was still fairly proud of what I had managed to get out.  Looking back on my blog one day, I realized that some random guy from Vietnam had commented on my blog post.  I couldn’t fully understand his comment, so my mom helped me translate.  It said something like this: “Your Vietnamese is terrible and sounds very awkward.  You do not sound like a native Vietnamese speaker.”

Well congratulations, you figured me out.  Seeing as it was clearly a blog for a Vietnamese class, it shouldn’t have been too difficult to tell that I don’t speak Vietnamese flawlessly.  I didn’t understand why this guy felt the need to call me out!  I wasn’t making any claims to be a fluent Vietnamese speaker, and I was obviously just a student trying out a new language.  Luckily, it didn’t faze me, and I was able to move on with my life.

Although Pinterest and my Vietnamese blog are mild examples, it does seem that tempers have been flaring online lately.  Comments have gotten mean—even cruel—and it seems that people are very willing to say things online that they wouldn’t dream of saying in real life.  I’m interested in how you feel about confidence (should we call it that?) people seem to have on the internet these days.  Have you noticed any particularly interesting examples?  Or have you yourself been the unfortunate recipient of such an attack?


One thought to “Online Sass: A Rising Problem?”

  1. In regard to particularly interesting examples, I have one that relates to “…a poor little pin of a cupcake recipe that ended up housing a heated fight over vegan diets.” Well, at least the part about vegan diets.
    I spend a lot of my time on Tumblr, and much like Pinterest, the mood there is generally happy. However, seeing people getting catty about vegan vs. vegetarian vs. meat-eating diets isn’t unusual. The running gag on the site is that a vegan will show up to yell at you every time you post about anything non-vegan. Mostly, it’s a few radical blogs that do shout at everyone and everything that have caused that misconception.
    I’ve never encountered a person like that in real life, nor have I been subjected to it on the internet. But still, since I’ve seen how some people behave online, I’m not totally surprised that the flame war was over vegan diets. And it’s not good for anyone, because going on tirades only feeds more nasty comments and gives the movement less credibility. Those few vocal people just seem to ruin it for everybody.

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