Hacker’s Law: The Internet Comment Proximity Asshole Effect

Yesterday’s post was—by far—the most read and discussed thing (to my knowledge) that I have ever published.  As of this writing, it has been shared on Facebook well over 300 times and has even generated a little bit of conversation on Reddit, mostly among people who don’t know me at all.  It’s weird to me that thousands of people I’ve never even spoken to are reading (and talking about) what I wrote.

Because I’m incredibly vain and insecure, I decided to eavesdrop on a few of the threads that a few of the re-posts generated.  I didn’t respond to anyone, but just surreptitiously let them have their say.  In the process, I found something interesting.

When the person who re-posted it made mention of the post having been written by a friend/acquaintance, the responses were polite.  Some, very much so.  Even when people disagreed on the subject—even just one or two points—they made it a point to compliment the writing and “logic” of the piece.  One comment on the article read, “Very well written. I hope it doesn’t fall on deaf ears.”  

All in all, the response was overwhelmingly supportive… more so than I could’ve ever expected.

jackie-chan-wtf-faceHowever, when the distance from the writer (that’s me) increased, I noticed that the ratio of negative to positive comments changed dramatically.  Quickly.  One guy even said something like (paraphrasing), “I’ll never agree with this.  I stopped reading after the first paragraph.”  Gotta love honesty.

Am I surprised?  Not in the least.  Am I surprised at how quickly politeness was eschewed for “fuck this asshole?”  Maybe a little.  It certainly seemed to escalate very quickly once the essay was re-posted more than one arm’s length away from anyone who knows me personally.

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