A few days ago my pal SKU, knowing my penchant for hating on internet comment boards, sent me the funniest link I've seen in ages. NPR, a wonderful news outlet that attracts some of the most pedantic people, pulled a fast one on its "readers" -- check that out here before reading further.
I understand that not everyone who comments on the internet is a self-righteous, sanctimonious, attention-needing know-it-all. However, this little joke really shows you quite clearly where some of National Public Radio's "readers" are focused: INWARD. It takes a certain type of solipsism to read a headline, completely ignore the article and the perspective of the person writing it, and get right to typing about one's own opinion. But that's exactly what hundreds of "readers" did on NPR last week. And, man, it took some serious guts on NPR's part to punk their own audience in such an embarrassing and revealing way.
And it's probably a bad idea that SKU sent me this link because it only reinforces what I already thought was the case: a large percentage of internet users see comment fields not as a tool to discuss the topic at hand, but rather as a way to talk about themselves; the comment field is simply the vehicle for the id. But SKU also wrote something very funny himself the other day, when he posted:
If you post something with a technical error on a whiskey forum, it takes an average of .48 seconds for someone to post a correction, and the average number of posts that will then repeat that same correction is 37.
Much like comments have little to do with discussion, people who correct the mistakes of others online usually have little interest in correctness; the correction is simply the vehicle for showing you what they know. They can't just go around talking about how smart they are (because that would be anti-social behavior), but spotting a mistake gives them the justification to do so. Of course, there's no difference in the way those corrections are received (we all still find it annoying), but it allows the corrector to claim he's doing it for the public good, rather than his own sense of self-aggrandisement.
As I watched Wrestlemania last night, I had to take a deep-breath and not let some of this behavior get to me. There are more people holding signs than ever at WWE events and those signs have nothing to do with wrestling. They promote the people in the audience or their websites (and they block the views of the fans behind them who actually came to watch the show). It's no different than hijacking a comment field to direct readers to your own domain, except that in this case it's ruining the experience of everyone forced to sit near these people. But, who cares if you can't see? Who cares what you think? This is about ME!
If there's a way to interject yourself into something, you can bet that someone out there is going to figure out how to do it. There will always be people who wait to talk, rather than listen. There will always be people who skip to the bottom, rather than read the details. There will always be people who need approval, recognition, and acknowledgement, yet do not understand the proper way of going about getting it (FYI, there is no proper way of getting approval, recognition, or acknowledgement -- if you have to tell someone you're funny, or smart, or good at something, well....).
I just wonder if these people know what we're really thinking. Of course, that would require them to think about something besides themselves.