The other day I was perusing online reviews of iPad styli. The comments on the reviews were shockingly de-enlightening (ie, reading them made one stupider). Even an Internet veteran like myself can still be surprised by how quickly individuals trying to provide advice about an unnecessary gadget can dissolve into anger and name calling.
The problem with the comments section of most online articles is that the commenters are usually not trying to be helpful or engage in enlightening discussion. Commenters* are, instead, signaling their superiority be that through bestowing superior knowledge/experience or troll like intimidation. This is no different from normal human communication, with the notable exception that face-to-face dialogue affords one the opportunity to smack down assholes.
Not that antagonistic human conversation outside Scotland always results in physical violence. The threat is always there though, especially in Scotland.
*No I did not write this entire post just as an excuse to point out that our Marie-Claire Shanahan is often cited as the individual that introduced the term “commenters” into the academic lexicon. Marie-Claire will note that those doing the citing still use dial-up modems. I had other reasons too. Not very good reasons, but they do exist.