There are some debates that inspire vitriol out of kilter with any common sense. Mac vs PC, iOS vs Android, Canon vs Nikon, Oasis vs Blur and so on. Passion is a wonderful thing; there are few things more irritating than insipid apathy. Sadly though, something is happening in our internet age that is destroying debate and free expression of opinion.
There seems to be a fad at the moment to leave the comment 'kill yourself' on articles. This is so utterly moronic, so despicably and shamefully inhuman that it is hard to know where to begin in protesting against it. Have we actually reached the point where it needs to be explained that this is not acceptable?
I watched a half-hour YouTube video yesterday in which a perfectly rational man pointed out why he thought very little of the Samsung Galaxy S4. He openly stated that his qualms were almost entirely regarding the TouchWiz layer Samsung slap on top of Android, not with Android itself which he says he likes.
You can imagine what the comments were like. 'Kill yourself,' 'You are simply an idiot,' 'old man,' and so on. Why? He doesn't like your phone so he should kill himself?
I left a comment on a video of a live performance Joy Division gave of Transmission. Someone commented on the vocal and I agreed it wasn't a strong vocal in that performance. I was told to 'go die in a ditch.'
"I'm not serious, though…"
Three things upset me and anger me about this spectre:
- Sometimes people actually do go and kill themselves. Yes, it's not always a joke. As grown men, this phone reviewer and I were well capable of simply shaking our head and moving on. Sadly, this is not always the case. Recently, we've seen cases of teenagers ending their lives because of abuse left for them online. (1, 2). This is more than one comment left on a YouTube video, sure, but it's the same thoughtless, horrid, evil-minded thing. If you are someone that leaves those comments thinking they're funny or somehow dark wit, think again. You are sorely mistaken on every level.
- It leads to tepid opinion pieces and kills debate. Throughout reviews on any smartphone or camera, reviewers frequently feel the need to obsequiously state that 'it's not necessarily better, it's just different,' or 'now, I'm not saying the iPhone is without flaws, but this Samsung is...' Just say it's crap if you think it's crap. It's allowed! The reason we see this is because people don't want to be subject to abuse for their opinion, so they bend over backwards to state that they aren't a 'fanboy' etc. Say why you think what you think and let others rebut that with their own reasons. Leave the insults out of it. They're not needed or wanted. By anyone.
- It's not what the internet was supposed to be. I have been a YouTube user and contributor since 2005, since before it was bought by Google. When it began it was a community. People would encourage each other to contribute and get involved. There was a genuinely pleasant spirit to the site. It's an inevitable side-effect of growth into the de facto video source for the internet that that community spirit would diminish or fracture into smaller communities within the site, but it doesn't have to be a necessary effect that growth should invite disgusting abuse. The internet was supposed to be a nobel pursuit of greater information sharing. It was supposed to be a global human effort for betterment. That was a quixotic aim but a wonderful one. I'm afraid that a teenaged generation that has grown up with the internet doesn't appreciate it and doesn't see that the internet is used by people, not usernames on a screen. Those people should be shown the respect any person you would meet in real life would be due.
I don't like the Samsung Galaxy S4. I think it's the gaudy embodiment of corporate tech, 'good enough' thinking and insulting spec flashiness over solid software engineering. I don't like Nikon cameras. I think they have too many buttons and I find their glass (lenses) to be inferior to Canon's to the point where the bragging of Nikon users rings hollow. I don't like Joy Division. I think they deserve credit for being so avant guard in their day but as musicians were high-school band level. Guess what, I might be wrong. One thing is for certain, many will disagree with me. Just don't tell me to kill myself or go die in a ditch. The moment you resort to an ad hominem attack on someone rather than tackling their points, you have lost the argument.
...but I digress.