Internet forums sending wrong message

The “information superhighway” does contain information but it also contains many forums. The majority of the forums appear to be populated by people who cannot control themselves, use profanity, attack others and are generally rude and mean. This can and does lead others, especially the young and inexperienced, to imitate them. Strangely, some of these same people consider themselves to be intelligent. And sadly, this is being reinforced to some degree by people called “comedians” who no longer deal with making people laugh but in insulting people and using bad language.

If we, as a society, say we are civilized then we should be civil to others. A debate in public or private, is never improved by name calling or attacking the other party with baseless accusations. It’s unfortunate, but based on my own experience as a forum moderator, some people apparently 'go ‘off’ on certain people on internet forums because they believe that that one person represents all the members of the group they are upset about. Worse, some people go on forums in such an agitated state that they are looking for someone, anyone, who annoys them in the slightest so they can ‘kick the dog’ by going off on them.

For me, the internet has become a smaller and smaller place as I abandon forums that are filled with people whose only real method of ‘debate’ is to attack, belittle and name call anyone who disagrees with them. Or who go on endlessly about something without really knowing their subject or adding such ending statements as “I could be wrong” or “Actually, I got nuthin.”

God bless,

It’s been my experience that internet forums tend to resemble that old Monty Python skit, The Argument Clinic.

There are a few people who connect a series of statements intended to establish a proposition but there are also many who merely engage in contradition.

There are plenty of abusers, complainers, and head hitters as well.

You’re right, Ed, and what you describe has been pervasive since I’ve been online – even back in the early days of BBSs and MUDs. It was the same in newsgroups when they were popular in the 90s. I’m sure folks more experienced than I can attest that what Ed’s describing is ubiquitous.

I would say, though, that the ease of access has amped up the percentage of adolescent behavior. And, as someone famously said, many American adults tend to respond to authority as adolescents.

There’s an extremely accurate (and offensive) cartoon on this subject on the Internet…

I stayed away from forums for a while (including this one) because of that sort of thing. Basically, I think that people who like to act the way they do on forums forget that to do the same in real life would probably be provoking an assault. It is sad, really, that they cannot reign it in and be respectful when there really is another person on the other end of what they say.

Perfect description. And one really infuriating thing is that when someone makes a very sound, logical post that is full of references and citations - the opposing voice just ignores that post as if it were never written. I have to count to 10 when I see that, regardless of which side of the argument I favor, and hope that it doesn’t suck me into participating :slight_smile: At least there usually seems to be more charity on these forums than on political forums.

Oh, and that was never five minutes just then!

(sarcasm /on)
u guyz r all stoopid. take ur hate n go. Free pron 4 every1!


–9/11 truth exposed! --Stop Israel’s genocide! --Out of Iraq; Invade Wal-Mart!
(sarcasm /off) :smiley:

I’ve been trying for days to figure out a humorous response to put in this thread, that makes fun of what passes for “thoughtful discourse” on other websites, particularly the political ones, yet doesn’t get me cited with an infraction or banned from here by the moderators. It’s very difficult to do given how much profanity is on the net these days. Maybe I wasn’t successful.

Anyway, radio host Dennis Prager had a good column on this a few weeks ago: “Internet Anonymity Is as Destructive as Internet Porn”

The thrust of his argument is “Being identifiable breeds responsibility; anonymity breeds irresponsibility.”

Most of the posts in the comments section–which allows anonymous postings–make Prager’s point for him, albeit unintentionally.

I haven’t seen Prager’s piece yet, so I won’t comment on it.

Too many people have been predicting the death of the internet for too long. I remember, some years ago, when the old-school Unix crowd was complaining about all the pictures and other media content clogging up the internet to the point where it was going to die off. And, there’s been a crowd of cranks running around claiming that the “internet is broken” and of course they have the answers to fix it. Obviously, it’s still working.

It would be hard to parody some of the content on the internet, as the parody would add nothing to what’s already present…you might’ve tried using something like !!!1111111111 at the end of the sentence, tho…

Good idea! I should have included more l33t sp33k–or whatever it’s called–in the post.

I’ve discovered that on, the over/under on the number of comments before it degenerates into idiocy is about 7. Most articles have scores of comments.

And heaven forbid you try to defend anything remotely Catholic outside of these message boards. You’ll get a smug response from an atheist intellectual arguing that if only you were as enlightened as he, you would see that there is in fact no God, and that the Church exists only to maintain its own power and deny you the worldly successes and pleasures to which all people are entitled. A few posts later, you’ll read how Pope Benedict XVI is a closet Nazi, how the Catholic Church is the anti-Christ, and a helpful tip that “Ye must be born again in Christ”.

No wonder I hardly ever read comments sections after articles anymore.

Anyway, I’ve discovered that I can judge the level of discourse on a forum by looking at the .sig files of the posters. If the signatures that are truly libelous, inflammatory, and hateful are praised by others on the board as “edgy”, “thought-provoking”, or–my favorite–as “speaking Truth to power”, I try to stay away.

The internet is a country much like the Wild Wild West. The sheriffs are the moderators, otherwise, it is lawless.

Apparently, some people confuse freedom with freedom from all restraint. Freedom has responsibilities as well. On the message board I help moderate, we have a policy of a certain number of warnings and then you’re out, for good. As people leave, they try to argue that their “rights” are being violated and that because of this “injustice” others will soon leave. Their rants have resulted in nothing. The board I’m on is now more civil, for the benefit of all.

And, of course, they are reminded that if they want more “freedom” to “be themselves,” they can certainly start their own message board.

God bless,

Good thread. This is definitely something we all need to be aware of when participating on internet forums.

Forums can also be dangerous in that, you really don’t know the credentials of the person on the other end. Even if they told you, there’s no guarantee they’re telling the truth. And each opinion can receive almost an equal weight.

If you ask a question here, you could get answers from someone who has a Masters in Theology, a high school kid just goofing around, or someone just speaking off the cuff based on second or third-hand information. You just don’t know, unless you investigate for yourself, of course.

I’m not sure how you solve such a problem, though. Perhaps now it is me who is speaking off the cuff :o I could be wrong! :smiley:

I think people expect quick and easy answers. Like, “I know! I’ll just ask someone on the internet!” Instead of using the net as a starting point followed by doing their own research using books or magazine articles. Some schools are already not allowing students to use wikipedia as a reference (for those who don’t know, this is an online kind of encyclopedia that is cobbled together by anyone who wants to contribute, and it does include book citations more often than not).

But it is primarily for this reason that I think the printed book and magazine will not disappear since the authors are identified and facts are usually checked.

That’s right folks, while you can pick up a lot of useful leads from the internet, it is always appropriate to do your fact checking using printed sources.

For Catholics, we must remember that all opinions do not have equal weight and that there are absolutes, both natural and spiritual, that can be found by reason and spiritual discernment.

God bless,

:smiley: from “Serenity” for those who aren’t familiar with this phrase of Mr. Universe

As for Prager’s point, he’s right on. Anonymity breeds stupidity, it seems to me. When you corner a person face to face on something they posted they’ll turn red with embarrassment or they’ll openly admit they were posting to ruffle feathers. It’s enabling people to don multiple personalities without the consequences.

Still, the internet serves a good purpose. I don’t see it going away any time in the near future.

I’m not suggesting the internet will go away but I’m meeting people who cannot and will not go into chat rooms or discussion forums since they think they are a waste of time. Of the professional people I know, of course they use the internet but they have also abandoned the message boards since they are populated by so many who have no intention of having a worthwhile dialogue with them.

Who knows, perhaps a day will come when posts by people who have nothing to say will begin to disappear and those people will either decide to engage themselves in a worthwhile way or just find something else to do.

God bless,

I would think that has to do with the fact that most professionals generally have rather full lives that don’t enable them to sit before a computer for hours at a time to engage in message board conversations.

“You get what you pay for”. I think what helps keep the CAF boards engaging and honest is the fact that members financially support the board. Not all, but enough who care so much about the mission that they put their money where their keyboards strike. In return, management here seems to exert extra effort to ensure the place is charitable, informative and clean.

Other message boards which are totally ‘free’ are prime targets for those people who have nothing better to do with their time than search the web for boards they can toy around with. It’s how they entertain themselves, being a party crasher, in a sense.

If the professionals you know are leaving particular message boards because of the population not taking the site seriously then perhaps the site was not worthwhile in the first place.

Who knows, perhaps a day will come when posts by people who have nothing to say will begin to disappear and those people will either decide to engage themselves in a worthwhile way or just find something else to do.

Well, here we already know that spammers and really rude people get banned. Other boards have some sort of moderating mechanism in place as well. It depends upon what the owners of the board want going on in their place.

I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect all message boards are meant to be informative and worthwhile educationally or intellectually stimulating. I suspect most are just there to take a pulse on how frequently a site is being visited or get a handle on the demographics of who actually takes the time to register at a place that offers what they’ve put out there.

Lack of accountibility is one reason I have always eschewed anonymnity. It is not that I will go out publishing my home number, but I do fill in all the blanks in profiles, use my name as a user name, etc. But then I am no a female living alone so my situation is different from many.

Good point.

But it is primarily for this reason that I think the printed book and magazine will not disappear since the authors are identified and facts are usually checked.

But what about the move to e-zines? It seems as subscriptions go down and paper/ink costs increase more magazines and newspapers are shifting toward the internet as their distribution choice. This enables them to secure and protect authorship for their writers and they can still check the facts before it hits the web.

That’s right folks, while you can pick up a lot of useful leads from the internet, it is always appropriate to do your fact checking using printed sources.

Not just printed sources, though. I can remember several posts on these boards alone where people note writings of particular authors or bishops. The beauty is that they also provided weblinks to sources which have the actually text available online! I didn’t have to spend $15 and wait 3-5 shipping days to get the book from or order it from borders. I was able to go directly to the source in the same session I was learning about its existence. This included Humanae Vitae. What a blessing the electronic source can be!

For Catholics, we must remember that all opinions do not have equal weight and that there are absolutes, both natural and spiritual, that can be found by reason and spiritual discernment.

Amen. :thumbsup:

A forum is only as good as those who run it. The amazing success of CA is a testament to that. They don’t allow garbage, and so it is a good place to be and people flock here. I’ve seen other forums, on Craig’s List for example, that are unmoderated and turn into these massive swearing and idiot fests where everyone feels they can act as if their words don’t matter and no one cares.

For the most part this is the only forum I spend time on, aside from my own ( HERE ) , and another one for those immigrating to the US. Other than that, I don’t find most forums worth my time. Especially when chances are I’m going to be beat up for being a Catholic anyway.


Good points all. I find it frustrating that some don’t do their own due dilligence when asking questions. There are no dumb questions to be sure, but I notice that some folks ask things that even 10 seconds on could get them answers…

A lot of questions that get asked in Apologetics forum could first be best addressed by looking at some of the tracts and articles on, for example.

I am all for asking questions, but folks looking for answers would do well to phrase their questions (at times) "Where could I go to find a good answer to…?" rather than "What do Catholics believe about…?"

I have felt this frustration as well. You are not alone there.


This may be a tangent, but some of the most disturbing behavior I’ve seen on the Internet – and take this with a grain because I haven’t been many places on the modern Net – was in Multiplayer games like Quake, Unreal Tournament, Halo, etc.

Because most are anonymous and the violence of the game amps up the emotions, the taunts that go back and forth are truly shameful. It’s probably one of the reasons I got out of it in the first place.

BTW, those of you with children who play such games online? Be very aware of these “taunt exchanges.” They’re almost irrelevant to the specific game.

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