One of my favorite writers, Marya Hornbacher, recently wrote a piece for CNN.com about being an atheist in a 12-Step program. It was sensitive, well-thought-out, and interesting to read. And yet there were 60+ pages of comments in response to the article, many of them taking offense at one thing or another (“AA is a cult! I know cuz Penn & Teller said so!” “Miss Hornbacher I am praying for u because u can’t be sober without Jesus.” “Religion is evil!” “Atheists are immoral!”).
I mostly avoid commenting on internet articles for the same reason I avoid posting about politics on Facebook: it invites a maelstrom of crap that I just don’t have the time or the mindset for anymore. The internet, in general, is a giant pissing match where everyone’s incontinent. Gullible? Easily offended? Inebriated and itching for a misspelled tirade? Welcome to the World Wide Web, where surely you’ll find SOMETHING to set you off.
Commenters fall into several categories:
- The Kneejerker: this is the person who is going to be offended no matter what. You could write a blog about glittery unicorns romping through a pastoral field of poppies under a lavender sky and this person would respond thus: “So UR saying that its okay to be gay? THATS WRONG.” Or: “Please be more sensitive to the many thousands of opiate addicts and refrain from casual use of the word ‘poppies.'” And let’s not even get into the unicorns.
- The Comeback Artist: right on the heels of the Kneejerker, the Comeback Artist can and will engage the Kneejerker in a back-and-forth that will take up pages and pages of the comments section. The “discussion” will mostly consist of puerile insults, culminating in vague threats which become less and less vague until one or both accounts are suspended.
- The Soapboxer: this person has an axe to grind, and will find an excuse to grind it even in a thread that has nothing to do with the axe in question. For example: “There wouldn’t be so many ‘unicorns’ if this administration would GET TOUGH ON ILLEGALS.” Closely related to the Kneejerker, but typically operates independently of said.
- The Peacekeeper: always attempting to be the voice of reason, the Peacekeeper prefaces each post with “I see your point, but…”. Nobody wants to hear from this person.
- The Spammer: “Hello! welcome to online shop.we can supply low price with high quality product.You can view our website for the details. Thanks for your reading ,,, pls email us if u have any questions about business . “
- The Scholar: responses are no fewer than three paragraphs in length and are rife with cryptic allusions and references to distinguished writers and/or philosophers. They seem to make no point other than to let everyone know that they are very, very well-read.
- The Hyena: responds with acronyms indicating raucous laughter.
Am I missing someone? Leave me a comment and let me know.