Go read the story above. You may have already seen it, but it is a good story about police in Taiwan who decide not to press charges against a poor man who stole a bicycle for his daughter, and then they went above and beyond and took up a collection to get the girl a bike. It is a heartwarming story that reminds you that people desperately want to be good, and many times are willing to help out others.
But the reason to read the story has nothing to do with the story itself, but rather with the comments. The comments on this story are just a great example of the new world that we live in because of the internet and more specifically because of the “Internet 2.0” or the social aspects of the web. The fact that there are comment enabled for every news story means that the conversations that used to happen sitting around a morning cup of coffee or over the paper at a local diner or some such place becomes instantaneous on the web. People can immediately add their feedback and join in a global conversation.
The problem is that conversation isn’t very pretty. In fact it is full of trolls, ignoramuses, and bigots, not to mention a collection of people who are having a hard time being heard in the real world and who are desperate to find someone who will listen to them. Mix all of that together and you get this boiling false statements, name calling, and general bad manners that makes me cringe.
But that is the world that we now live in. No longer is the information we received filtered through those people that we know. Now it is filtered through a world of people, all with their own agendas and axes to grind.
And that is where I think a big part of the problem lies. If you are discussing a subject and your acquaintance (let’s call him Joe) starts spouting off crazy you have a context to put that crazy into. You know Joe and know what has happened that would make this story push this button for him. You know what his soap box might be and when he likes to stand on it, so you know when just to tune him out.
But online, it seems that everyone who disagrees with you is worthy of a three paragraph rant against the evils that you perceive them to be spewing. It can be mind-numbing.
If you would like to risk the deep scary depths that lurk beneath most posts I would suggest checking out the Relevant Magazine site. They have their fair share of crazies, but they are generally subdued by the loving attitude of the rest of the commenters. Of course it helps that most of the time everyone who is commenting all agree with the post, but that is a rant for another day.