Negative Comments - Why People Are Mean
Maybe it’s because I was raised well. Or maybe it’s because I believe that you should treat others how you would like to be treated. Maybe it’s my sense of spirituality, or maybe it’s just plain old common sense.
But it just doesn’t occur to me to attack people.
If I read a blog, editorial, or HUB expressing a contrary point of view to mine it just doesn’t cross my mind to comment to this person with anger. I don’t choose anger.
Obviously, we can’t all agree on everything. I am not talking about why we are all different or why we disagree. I’m talking about why some people react to those differences with anger and rage.
"Why Can't We All Just Get Along?"
Rodney King, you’re singing my song.
According to “O”, The Oprah Magazine, people are mean because they hurt.
According to allphilosophy.com there are other reasons too, such as fatigue. The site also mentions the misguided notion that the mean person believes no wrong is being done because they are “toughening up” other people by attacking them.
I believe there's definitely useful information in these ideas. But I believe there is a central reason at the core of attacking. And I believe that reason is identification.
We live in a society where bashing occurs. Bashers are people that physically and verbally abuse & attack others because these people are different. They think differently, act differently, look differently, or say something contrary to the way the basher thinks.
Or do they…
As of the writing of this article, on this site alone I’ve posted about 100 HUBS. I have received 300,000 pageviews, 2500 comments and about 500 emails. Most of these have been positive. By positive, I mean that they were polite, meaningful, and contributed to the conversation. They were from people that actually read the article, and then discussed it in comments. They didn’t all agree with my point of view – it would be absurd to think they would. And that’s fine.
Only a small handful have been negative. By negative I mean rude, mean, harassing or accusing. Most say something proving they didn't read the full article, or that they didn't understand it, or couldn't comprehend it.
Instead of saying – “I read your opinion and would like to offer mine,” they choose instead to angrily attack. They think they need to put you down in order to feel justified. They think there is only right and wrong, and for them to be right they have to make you wrong. And they choose to let you, a total stranger, know this by attacking.
But Why Attack?
Why would anyone attack? I feel it’s because they believe they’ve been attacked. Even though the article wasn’t written to them, they perceived it in that way. Instead of reading it as a stranger’s article, they read it as a personal attack. So they attack back.
And that’s a scary thought.
Why would this stranger personalize my article to the point where they actually feel anger? Often they don't actually understand what I wrote. Not only do they superimpose this personalization, but they also skew the meanings and decide the article says something it does not. The personalization goes that far: they actually ignore the facts to force something to be about them in a critical way, so they can attack it.
We read about celebrity stalkers in the news all the time. Jodi Foster, John Lennon, Geri Halliwell, Rebecca Shaeffer, not to mention all of the other violent stalking stories we read about in the media all the time.
We are usually horrified by these people and wonder what in the world would possess someone to feel connected to a complete and total stranger in such a strong way, with such deep emotion.
According to the stalking behaviors website one of the five categories of stalker profiles as described by Mullen (& colleagues) is “The Rejected” who experience anger and loss.
The Attacking Commenter
Let’s bring this back to the bashing commenter. The delusion of a personal connection to the article, the decision to lash out with anger at the author and the work instead of choosing to contribute in a healthy way, is a precursor to that stalker profile.
Of course I’m not saying everyone who leaves you a mean comment is going to stalk you. That would be like saying that everyone who has ever had a little cough is going to have full-blown lung cancer. But I am pointing out that coughing can be a symptom of a very real and severe sickness, and therefore it should be monitored.
Think of it in this way: I know nothing about airplanes. I have no desire to learn avionics and I have no connection or feelings about anything regarding airplane engines. If I were to come across an article about airplane mechanics I would think to myself, this has nothing to do with me, and I would move on. I wouldn't read it and look for hidden meanings and it would never cross my mind that I'm so important that this total stranger is speaking to me. I'd just leave.That would be the logical conclusion.
The connection between the article and the angry commenter is not logical. It passes through the illogical with repression, guilt, and turmoil and then lands somewhere outside of reality.
Sometimes this is an easy association to spot. For example, someone who attacks an article about why you shouldn’t forgive a cheater is either a cheater or the cheatee. They are defensive and embarrassed. They have experienced things they associate with the article. They are toxic over it, connected to the material, and then they personalize the information and apply it to themselves even though the article was not written about them. They can't disconnect, because they are connected in their minds through thoughts, experiences, and an inability to realize everyone isn't talking to them.
Almost anyone who angrily attacks an article about gay rights has repressed tendency. Period. They may claim they have nothing to do with this article, but clearly they don’t think this article has nothing to do with them. If it had nothing to do with them, they wouldn't attack it.
People tend not to have such emotional connections with subjects that do not pertain to them.
Whether the connection is an experience or an intellectual investment, they have a deep rooted connection to the subject matter whether they admit it or not. Someone who’s never been affected by cheating is most likely not going to choose to lash out over an article about affairs. Someone who is not struggling with their orientation isn’t going to be so emotionally charged that they can’t just walk away from an article about gays. The attacker has a connection, a vested interest. And then they turn that into the delusion of personal connection. It is from that delusion, that the desire to inflict pain arises.
Sometimes the connections aren’t so clear. But the inner turmoil that leads to the delusion of a personal connection is what prompts the attacker in his head to attack back.
False Illusion of Anonymity
Often the people that want to hurt a stranger online would not react that way in person. Something in their brain fears outing. Something tells them their attack is not admirable so they hide. Otherwise they'd sign their names and say who they are. They don't because somewhere inside them they know that something is very wrong with what they are doing.
If you were at a restaurant with your neighbor discussing a certain topic, and someone overheard you, and personalized your conversation to the point where they became angry, they most likely will not attack you. They will hold their tongue as if a part of their brain is capable of knowing that their reaction and behavior is not acceptable.
However, give them an anonymous comment box and they feel free to let that irrational attack loose. Some people would call this cowardice. Some would say it just marks the level of maturity the person has reached: a child does what he thinks he can get away with, whereas a mature and fundamentally good adult does what's right no matter the consequences.
Hubpages provides comment moderation. This means that a Hubpage writer can set their comments to wait for approval before being posted. Additionally, all comments appear to the author with the IP address of the submission.
It’s not difficult at all to trace the IP address, locate the city of origin, cross reference it through a statistics and hits counting site to other hits, and even trace their other activities online. Some IP Tracking services are free offering limited searching abilities. Some are expensive, upwards of $15,000 a year, with advanced services that pull associated email and billing information. They can easily surface things such as if an IP is a mask, and what IP used that mask at that specific time mark. Or, if the IP is from a public location, and collect sign-in or even server information from that host.
It is also relatively easy to submit a harassment complaint to the originating IP provider, and if worse comes to worse acquire a police report, and then request the district attorney in their jurisdiction consider criminal charges for activities involving threats, slander, and stalking.
Dealing with the Downers
I continue to be someone that doesn’t think to personalize the work of a stranger who’s never done anything to me. It still doesn't occur to me to do something secretive or anonymous, or to engage in bullying or angry comments over something that I simply disagree with. I don’t feel the need to lash out with anger at a stranger. I’m the adult, the rational person that tends to walk away.
Even though I know that negative self-involved commenter is wrong, I admit it: it is still something that bothers me. Mentally unstable people scare me. Delusional people scare me. Stalkers and obsessive angry people scare me.
I may feel sorry for the person but I don’t deny that it is upsetting. I think anyone that invests careful time and thought into an article are bothered by strangers commenting and exhibiting truly defective thinking and behavior.
Should You Post Negative Comments?
Again, I want to make it clear that I am not talking about someone who disagrees and offers a healthy viewpoint, demonstrates that they actually read and were capable of understanding your article, and has taken the time to compose a useful comment discussing an opposing idea.
I'm not even talking about heated discussions where people feel passionately about the subject and become emotional while discussing it. If you write those kinds of articles, you are often inviting those kinds of exchanges. Some people enjoy debate. There's nothing wrong with that. It's fantastic to feel deeply about something, and it's intelligent to want to share your opinion and read other's opinions. I'm just not talking about that kind of exchange.
I’m talking about a comment that bashes, lashes out, and resorts to name calling. I'm talking about comments that show the reader didn’t understand or didn't bother to read the article, but imagined a self-important connection to what they have decided the article says. I'm talking about truly negative comments.
My advice to Hubbers is to delete those negative comments. They don't add value, they don't help make your space something healthy. They only detract by pulling things down to the turmoil and shame of the commenter. And I don't think you're doing the angry stalker commenter any favors giving them a venue. Ignoring an angry unstable irrational person is surely the better choice for everyone involved.
Look at it this way: if a comment made you uncomfortable to read, then it probably wil make other readers uncomfortable too. You do not owe this angry person anything: not airtime, not an explanation, not a forum for his rage or his guilt, not directions to a therapist... nothing. Your article is YOUR article. You are allowed to keep it positive. You are allowed to make it a place where people can discuss views in a healthy way, and you are allowed to deny any commenter who wants to ruin that forum.
I think Hubpages is a great forum where we can publish our work and create something that contributes positively to the internet. Negative commentors create the exact opposite. They're worse than spammers in my opinion. They are the bullies, the detractors, the insignificant pimples that your work does not need. They need not see any light.
Dave Mason - Disagree
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All text is original content by Veronica.
All photos are used with permission.
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