Do online forums bring out the best or the worst in the people who use them?
Really, this question speaks for itself, however...
...I've always tried to avoid forums wherever possible. It seems that the distance and anonymity can really allow people to express a very nasty side of themselves sometimes.
Equally, I have found some great support and advice on forums when I've needed it. Asking the right question in the right forum can be a great way to get to the people who know.
It's a mixed experience. What do you think, on the whole? Brings out the best or worst in people?
For me it does. Especially when I come up to a post that is controversial and it gives me the time to formulate a response that involves some contemplating rather than rushing into a response that peer to peer conversations can often lead to.
Being online and talking with others through forums have helped my mental thought process to take in the ideas of others from all angles and has helped me in peer to peer conversations as a whole. Forums are broadcast to a lot of users, generally, so a dumb response can lead to a lot of backlash so people usually learn quick when it comes to nettiquette.
There will always be those who try to ruin peoples fun and take away from the intelligent side of conversation. During my time in the gaming community, literary community, and linkedin community, I have found that most people offer good insight and very nice conversation.
It's a little of both. The people who tend to be good listeners and helpers in real life, seem to be even better online. I think that's because, like Fred said, they have a chance to slowly read through things, gather their thoughts, and write a response. People who tend to be confrontational in real life seem to get worse online because they do have that anonymity and don't have to face the person they're trying to hurt.
In my opinion, it depends completely on the person and what he/she chooses to be. Many people offer genuine answers to questions and engage in productive discussions, because that is the kind of people they are. Then there are others who are generally nasty by nature and online forums are just one more outlet for them to display their true colors. Everyone benefits from the first kind of participants who partake in exchange of useful information and offer fresh perspective to topics. The second kind of users are out there to annoy and criticize people. They are best avoided.
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