Why Is It OK To Be Mean Online?

Thankfully in the many many years I’ve been online, I’ve managed to avoid drama (with a few exceptions) but I know that but I know that many of my friends have had this experience, and I wanted to hear your opinions on why people do it.

As you lot know far too well by now (especially if you follow me on Twitter), my boyfriend has been away on business for over a fortnight. (He came back yesterday, woo hoo!) At the weekends, when he eventually finds some free time, this means trying to catch up on everything else thats been going on during the week, trying to relax – and included in both of these things, faff about online.

A famous businessperson was talking about prime numbers for some reason, and Alex replied with an example of a large prime number. The businessperson retweeted it. I thought I’d have a look at what people were replying with – perhaps they had joined in the number geeking on a Sunday night.

So many of the responses were just rude. (Annoyingly, Twitter search wont go back that far, and Google Twitter search isn’t great) Want to see the actual tweet?

I know I sound like a crazy girlfriend, but honestly, I’d be pissed if this was directed at any of my friends. I restrained myself from giving abuse back (I’m far too lazy to do that, and most of the time, no response at all drives rude people online crazy.)

It got me thinking though – why did these people think that the best reply they could give was irrelevant and rude? I fail to see how a response other than “here’s the next one in the sequence” (etc) is justified.

Its very easy to hide behind a computer screen (or mobile phone). Just this week, Letters of Note disabled comments, due to “a fast growing section of society to whom the concept of even vaguely civil discussion means nothing”. How sad, that blog owners feel like they can’t allow conversations to happen on their own website.

So, to the original question. Why do people act like this online? Would they be this rude in “real life”?


  1. Claire Q says

    In real life you can choose who you spend your time with. Online, it’s everyone, and there aren’t any consequences for pissing off one of the millions whom you’ll never meet.

  2. Ann Patey says

    I truly believe that some people are just plain argumentative. It says a lot about them and their lives. After a couple of smallish online spats I decided the best thing to to do is ignore the trolls. If you respond, however politely and whatever FACTS you give they will twist your words or just not read them. All they want is to be mean and nasty. I’ve learnt a lot about human nature just from watching comments on news articles and blog posts. Thankfully most of us are nice people willing to help each other and be supportive so my faith in human nature is still alive and kicking. :-)

  3. The Girl says

    It’s faceless isn’t it? It’s like another step removed from talking about someone behind their back. I won’t pretend that I don’t whinge about people behind their back and say things that I wouldn’t say to their face. This is just another step along the line, you can say it to their face because you’re not saying it to their face are you?!

    It’s a mask you can hide behind and it irritates me no end. It really gets my goat when people go ‘anonymous’ to write mean comments to you and then switch back when they’re making less negative comments. If you’re going to be a bitch, at least sign your name to it!

    I think another problem with this specifically in blogland is that people get a little carried away with the notion of whether they ‘know’ you or not. When people have been reading about you for a couple of years I think they can mistakenly think that they’re entitled to be “upfront and honest” (a nice way of saying “being bitchy”) in a way which your ‘real-life’ friends would. But they forget that what they see is a snapshot of me and my life that I choose to portray online – my blog in no way reflects me as a whole person, just certain aspects of my character.

    Oooh I could talk for hours about it!

    But I won’t.

  4. Gillian says

    I agree with a lot of what ‘The Girl’ said in the comment above – somehow because you don’t know the person/are not physically talking to them face to face it seems acceptable to be unnecessarily rude. On the internet there are no real repercussions, the worst that will happen is you’ll get banned from that specific website/blog.
    Having said that, just because you don’t ‘know’ a person in real life doesn’t mean you have to be rude. You’re not just going to make rude comments to a stranger you walk past in the street. I hate it when people say snide and bitchy things when there is absolutely no need. Many nights have I come home drunk and forced my flatmate to listen to my speech on “why I think everyone should just be nice to each other all the time” as I eat chips and cry haha!

  5. Dena says

    They are cowards who hide behind their screens. Of course they would never be this rude in real life. I too have been spared drama and nastiness on my blog but I’ve seen other bloggers get bullied, being left nasty horrible comments. Now who does that? who intentionally tries to hurt someone? I say a very miserable person who is unhappy with his or her own life. Great post hun- got us all discussing.


  6. Amii says

    I think it’s the whole ‘no consequences’ thing that gives those kind of people a rush – they’re hardly going to bump into you the next day on the bus, or get called out over the phone about it. It’s the fact they can say something like that, and in some perverse way boost their ego by belittling others, without any rammifications (sp). Sadly enough though, those kind of people are a minority on the internet who just ruin it for everyone else, and who feel like their negative input makes a difference.
    I hope Alex wasn’t too bothered by it!


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