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The Toxic Environment of Internet Forums and Social Media

Updated on October 12, 2018

I think the concept behind Internet forums is good, and it should be an effective way to discuss issues, share experiences, and offer differing views and opinions. This is what opens up our world. We learn so much. But in reality, most forums are nothing more than toxic, Jerry Springeresque battlefields, no holds barred. No mercy, nor respect, and hate and rage are pretty much the norm. Very seldom have I ever had a positive experience on a forum, whether it's here on hub pages or elsewhere.

My experience and the experiences of friends is there are people who go on forums for the sole purpose of spewing hostility and hate. They are piranha in a feeding frenzy. Often times they are not really concerned with the issues, they are concerned with stirring up trouble and lashing out and insulting anyone who has an opposing viewpoint. I suppose it gives them a sense of power and superiority. On the occasions that someone posts an agreeing view to the hostile person, then the two or three other hostiles huddle up and feed off each other and begin to be abusive together. They are two or more hungry vultures surrounding their prey, tearing the flesh of their worthy opponents

One may argue that the forum discussions are open to everyone (which is true and I don't take issue with that) and everyone is free to express there opinion (that is also correct). But forums are set up to have discussions, respectful discussions. Having opposing views is perfectly acceptable, and is actually part of the purpose of forums. But the purpose is not to have hostile, insulting, name-calling, demeaning behavior. I mean really, is this the most effective way at getting their point across? I think not. They are there to bully and hurt. They are predators. I believe the prevalent term is "Trolls."

Internet bullies are like piranahas.
Internet bullies are like piranahas. | Source

Another issue is when a forum is set up for a specific topic, purpose, or community, they are often invaded by people who want to bring in issues, especially controversial issues, that have nothing to do with the topic or purpose. They get insulted when people try to re-direct them, then the hostility and arguments, and name calling in. People try to keep their cool and explain logically why their posts are not relevant or appropriate in that forum or venue, but welcome them to engage in the original topic or theme of the forum. Those become fighting words to the bully and things get completely out of hand. Logic and respect are fast becoming a lost art in discussions.

When I am on a forum and someone starts getting worked up over my opinion, which I have expressed respectfully and I actually welcome discussion from those who disagree, then the so-called opposer starts spewing hostility and insult. I appeal to them and say, "Hey I want to hear what you have to say, can we talk about this calmly and respectfully?" This usually makes them more angry and hostile, and they become even more abusive. I don't get frustrated because they had an opposing view, I get frustrated that we can't have a respectful conversation, and it turns into a battlefield, instead, and they play dirty.

I value others opinions and insights and often times, if it is a respectful exchange, I am able to say, "Oh, I never looked at it that way." Or "I can see why you feel that way, I used to too, but this is how I feel now because of something I have experienced or been taught." And yes, we will probably still not agree. But that's okay. We have been able to learn something about people and the issue being discussed.

I have stopped entering into discussions on forums because I don't welcome abuse, I don't get anything from it except high blood pressure and anxiety. I am filled with disappointment that it was not a positive, respectful exchange of ideas, insights and opposing opinions.

The few forums I do go on, I usually find ones that do not have controversial topics, like religion, politics, and certain social topics, and even then I'm still not safe. It's not that I'm searching for forums with topics where people will only agree with me. I just feel I have something to offer and I love to hear others insights and experiences. And certain topics seem to draw out the angry, vitriolic people.

People who are contentious on forums hide behind their computer screens where no one can see them or strike them, all the while calling their prey cowards. Kind of a paradox isn't it.

Most people only have a desire for civil exchange of ideas and opinions, to learn or inform, or to reach out to someone. Sometimes you can make a friend and/or make a positive difference in someone's life in the process.


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    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Well Put

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I agree. From what I've seen here on HP the "forum eaters" are much like odor eaters. I prefer not to join in.

    • RevLady profile image


      10 years ago from Lantana, Florida

      I too agree with all you say here in this hub LS. It is unfortunate that many feel the need to be defensively hostile rather than open to meaningful dialogue. As no one has a monopoly on truth or perfect perspective, and all our understanding contains flaws, it is difficult to fathom why there should exist on any forum the spirit of hostility against our fellow man, simply because we differ in opinion or thought.

      May the Lord help us to be living examples of His love in all that we say, do and "write" for Jesus's sake.

      Forever His

    • lambservant profile imageAUTHOR

      Lori Colbo 

      10 years ago from United States

      My hat is off to Just. Would that more forum facilitators would take that responsibility. Thanks you so much for your response.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Excellent Article, lambservant

      I have run an Expat forum and after 13 years and have been stressed to the max from it.

      I now have a posted Zero tolerance policy. If you are rude to our members, I will delete your posts, you do it again I will delete you.

      People seem to think the nets anonymity gives them license to be rude, crude and downright mean .

      And when some tosses the word censorhip at me, I remind them I pay the bills, they are a guest, and if they don’t like it, please don’t let us hold you up. I am sure there other forums more to their liking. Enjoy!

      Forums can be fun, but we should always treat the people we talk with as we were doing this face to face.

    • lambservant profile imageAUTHOR

      Lori Colbo 

      10 years ago from United States

      Thanks for stopping by Kate, and being "nice" and "respectful". Even if you had disagreed with me, I would have appreciated hearing from you because you would have done so without hostility.


    • kateperez profile image


      10 years ago from pasadena, tx

      I wrote an article on social media etiquette too. I believe much like you do.

      I AGREE!! :D

      I think that differences of opinion make us all a little more educated, however when comments start off with "right wingnut" or "Liar" or any other term to get the blood pressure raised, I read no further.

      It seems to me that civil exchange of ideas has progressively gotten worse through each passing year. Is it the belief in the right to speak up, or is it the right to believe that only *you* have the right to speak up and anyone who opposes your comments is an idiot, or a wingnut (left or right) or a gay basher, or a gay lover, or ignorant, or ill-informed, or a liar.

      I am so with you, lambservant. Very good hub.


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