In any case, it struck me today that for as long as I’ve been online, whether on a message board, Myspace or now Facebook and Twitter, crowd mentality seems to be par for the course. Generally speaking, people like jumping on a winning bandwagon. Or just a bandwagon altogether. I’m not saying that a particular bandwagon has more merit than another, only that it seems to happen everywhere. I can remember days on DDM when a spat would break out, only to become such a spectacle that I would hear about the argument on a completely different message board! There are any number of hypotheses that can be asserted here: people love drama, the more outspoken like to get involved in such things, and social media of all kinds tends to drive people to extremes.
Most people, most Duranies anyway, would agree that people seem to love drama. Some love to create drama, some like to participate, and still others like to watch it all unfold. I’ve seen it happen on many a message board, on Twitter…and even here on the blog. Let a little controversy happen, or a less-than-positive comment come up, and sure enough we’ll almost double our page views for the day. Yes, it really IS that obvious. Let’s face it: some of the longest running TV shows in history have been dramas. There are daytime dramas, nighttime dramas, and entire series of novels to feed that addition. Drama is so fascinating. I suppose part of it is that we all have troubles in our lives, and it’s nice to see we’re not the only ones once in a while. Someone else’s drama is our entertainment, isn’t it? Sometimes it seems as though we forget our humanity in the daily “mess”, and that this entertainment that is happening isn’t always just a TV drama, it’s someone’s life. Hey – if someone is willing to put it all out there for all to see, then we should definitely be able to read it and secretly (or not so secretly) get a chuckle or more out of it, right? You tell me.
Back to those message boards again…no matter the subject, no matter the message board, when drama happens, there are those that are directly involved, and those that feel the urge to comment anyway. Maybe they were watching the whole thing take place and have an opinion. Maybe they felt that as an innocent bystander they could add another dimension to the discussion…maybe they feel that as a user of the message board, they have the right to get involved. Maybe it’s something else entirely, but I am sure we’ve all seen it – a discussion or spat starts between a couple of people, and the next thing you know there are 20 pages to that particular thread with at least several other people involved. The same holds true for other sorts of social media, like Twitter – but perhaps it works a little differently there due to the mechanics. Maybe one user tweets a comment about a particular subject, and still others retweet that comment. Someone sees it, disagrees, and not only replies but retweets that reply to all of his/her followers. Before you know it, the entire world is weighing in, and more continue to join in as they see fit. Again, if someone is willing to tweet their opinion on something, then surely they are begging for someone…or several thousand people…to argue with them, aren’t they?
There is a certain comfort in social media. It could be the degree of anonymity, or perhaps it’s the idea that there’s a computer screen separating you from the rest of the world. Maybe it’s the idea that no matter what you say, there’s no sense of accountability (whether that notion is true or false). Amanda and I have often wondered if we turned off the ability to comment anonymously, whether that would change the tone of the comments. We know of many blogs, increasingly so, that no longer allow comments at all. Why is that? Surely when we blog, we expect to draw discussion, and with discussion comes an abundance of opinion, right? Even if the opinion is submitted anonymously, it is worthy, and we accept this. However, there is a certain sort of phenomenon that tends to take place occasionally, and that’s when a comment is submitted that isn’t just a difference of opinion, but it’s one that might be filled with anger and the occasional put-down or four. When I first found myself online, probably about 17 years ago now, I wondered if people really spoke to one another in real life the way they did online. I know that none of the people I was friendly with in real life (such as neighbors or coworkers or other friends) ever really did. Nowadays though? The world is much different. I don’t see people, especially younger people, but even people my age, taking the time to watch their words and how the address others, whether they are online or right next to one another. It does certainly seem as though social media allows for a false sense of zero accountability. I say false because, like it or not – many times we know who you are, whether you post on Twitter as yourself or a made up screen name, if you’re on Facebook and we’re friends, or whether you post here and assume that simply because you choose to post anonymously that there’s no way to find your IP address and know where it came from. I tend to believe that we’re all accountable at least in some way for who we are as people and what we project out to the world, but that’s just me.
The other night I was watching TV and came across an interview that Piers Morgan was doing with Ricky Gervais. I was interested because they were talking about Twitter of all things. Both Ricky and Piers are active Twitter users, and it is clear that they each enjoy getting their followers riled up from time to time. Ricky commented that Twitter is all about extremes. You can post that the sky is blue, and there will be people that not only tell you that no, it is actually pink…but that they are personally offended that you would even mention the color blue, and they demand an apology as such. Then they retweet that comment to their followers, and before you know it, there is an angry crowd after you. It breeds not only a crowd/mob mentality, but an extreme one at that. Is it just that only the most “extreme” amongst us use twitter, or is it just that it’s only the extreme feel it necessary to comment? What do you think??
In the meantime, I’m staying off of Twitter for the day and working on “real life” work instead!