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The grand unified theory of chat rooms and social media The grand unified theory of chat rooms and social media
by Joseph Gatt
2021-02-02 10:34:06
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If you're communicating in public you will inevitably encounter commenters and a few trolls. Or many trolls.

But the more important question is why would people comment in the first place?

I'll lay down here a theoretical framework of sorts. A categorization would be a better term.

There are basically six reasons anyone would leave an online comment.

chate0001_400Because they want to show that they have power: These folks want to show that they have power.

Power works like a drug. They leave an insulting comment to show that they have power. Or they leave sexually inappropriate comments to show that they have power. Or they use violent threats to show that they have power. And when they've left a comment showing that they have power, they will move on to their next prey, and show that once they have power.

People who comment to show that they have power tend to have a short-term view of life. Power is about instant gratification, and constantly satisfying the gratification cravings.

How do you deal with trolls who like to show that they have power? Much like you would deal with drug addicts. They're there, the cause trouble in the streets. You try to avoid them, but leave it to them to see whether they should seek counseling or rehabilitation.

Because they seek to highlight their individuality: Some commenters like to come out as individuals and want to emphasize their individual traits. A lot of times they are victims of trolling who believe such individual traits are merely attention-seeking or deviant or both.

The trend over recent years on social media was a shift from community to individuality. That is social media encourages users to express themselves as individuals rather than to communicate in community settings.

The problem is that eventually the individuality becomes too pronounced, and the individual ends up looking like no one else, and is of little interest to anyone.

Because they want conversation: This is where it gets interesting. Commenters write comments so they can enjoy good-natured conversation. And then the trolls come in and spoil the conversation.

Good conversation seekers are plentiful around the Internet, where many groups have rules where they ban anyone not seeking good conversation from joining.

But good conversation is also addictive, and can prevent people from focusing on their day to day tasks. The advantage is, good conversation tends to be good-natured.

Because they want companionship: Some people want to make friends online. Some people survive exclusively on virtual friendships and have no friends in real life.

Those seeking companionship often want to meet like-minded people online. They often have interests that their direct kins do not share.

So those seeking companionship find like-minded folks they interact with, in conversations about shared interests.

Because they seek professional development: Professional development is an important but neglected part of Internet use and commenters.

Some commenters form communities and bond around professional tips, job advertisements, and seeking new job opportunities.

Because they are seeking academic conversation/intellectual stimulation: Those groups exist.

But academia is so vast and specializations rarely intersect. So you're going to have one academic writing lengthy posts that other academics won't read, but other academics will still reply to with equally lengthy posts that no one will read. And that's where you get cacophony.

How do you optimize social media use, keeping commenters in mind? Social media use is kind of like walking in the streets. You're there. You're dressed up. You have a goal in mind (getting to work, going to the grocery store). You navigate the streets. Every now and then someone briefly stares at you, or someone tries to talk to you, or someone asks you for the time or for directions.

Except that on social media those small interactions leave a trace in the form of written comments. Imagine that you could remember every single interaction you had in that walk in the streets, and that you could ruminate every single encounter. That's how social media works.

So you want a light-headed approach to social media use. You want to know what your goal is (professional, academic, entertainment, conversation, companionship, dating etc.) and you want to ignore all those insignificant interactions in the form of trolls.

BUT social media is also kind of like walking the same path down the same crowded street day in and day out. Imagine strolling down 5th Avenue in Manhattan 24/7. Eventually, that could attract stalkers that could attract fanatics that could attract serial killers or psychopaths.

So you also need to know when to stop feeding the psychopaths or how to deal with and avoid psychopaths.

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