Does vitriol win friends and influence people on the net?

If you read your news online, and also read comments below the news story, you've been exposed to some of the worst vitriol available to the planet.

I wonder if people just spew out venom and acid because they can, and because they can remain anonymous. No wonder we are having problems communicating.

A study was published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication about this very thing. Anderson, Brossard, Scheufele, Xenos, and Ladwig (2013) studied the uncivil comments concerning a fairly new technology: nanotechnology. They wanted to see how perceptions and attitudes developed over time. Surprisingly, more than 1,300 products are made using nanotechnology and are being sold as you read this.

I am quite sure that you have been the recipient of flaming or online incivility if you have been on the Internet for any length of time. It comes with the territory, which is a sad statement in itself. If, like me, you frequent Christian blogs and Christian publications you have received less vitriol than if you frequent political blogs or news blogs. I know I probably should use my Christian influence in a much broader sense on the Internet, but frankly I don't have that elephant hide as much as I used to. I don't have the compelling of the Holy Spirit to evangelize for Christ in the forums that are so filled with ire, venom, and hate. I frankly do not believe they listen to God's voice so I know they won't hear me... been there, done that. Don't get me wrong. I'm the first in line when it comes to witnessing for Christ when I know the fields (hearts) have been prepared for seed-planting. I just fear to tread those stony grounds that are cracked from lack of moisture, and have hardened to concrete.

Gojira, the original 1954 monster, breathing atomic flames.
Interestingly in face-to-face interpersonal communication, incivility can be curbed with nonverbal isolation such as removal from the meeting. Incivility can be curbed by those sitting next to the heckler. But online there are limited consequences for incivility. Of course the moderator can ban the person, or others can reprimand the person. The crux is that incivility never sways me to change my opinion about the topic under discussion... I am swayed about the person by the person's incivility but not what his or her opinions are.

 The findings of the study show I am not alone in how I am
affected by incivility. Polarization among blog readers (for the study) happens and is attributed to the vitriol. Bottom line lesson to be learned  is when you evangelize -- don't spew atomic acid like Godzilla. It won't change any minds and only stirs up flames.




Post a Comment