Among the internet’s greatest features are the forums for virtually any interest known to man. They allow for the exchange of in depth information and are awesome for newbies. Likewise, the uber-experienced and generous among us use them as a means to guide and assist the neophytes.
But as with any human pursuit, the forums contain a sprinkling of bullies in the form of condescending know-it-alls. How many? Probably less than 5 percent, but that 5 percent seems larger, as they have a penchant for trolling around the forum and sticking their opinions into every post or conversation.
I currently belong to four different forums; two for motorcycles, one for RV’s and one for power equipment. I’ve observed dozens upon dozens of these verbal bullying events, but I’ll give you just a single example. In a motorcycle forum, I went to the Tech section and submitted a question/feedback request for a very specific issue with “Stella,” my Honda ST1300. I understand the value of reporting issues in very specific, enumerated “steps to reproduce,” as I am a Computer Software Test Engineer by day. So I described Stella’s lagging throttle response condition, at low rpm, throttle barely cracked, along with a dozen other descriptors as to load, gear, rpm, road speed, temperature, etc. Three guys responded by critiquing my throttle technique. Sigh. They’d never seen me ride, apparently ignored my profile chronicling 40+ years of riding experience (“you must be new to riding a multi-cylinder motorcycle”), and suggested that maybe the ST1300 was too technical for me to ride correctly. It gets better.
A couple other guys responded and reported they’d experienced similar symptoms on their ST 1300’s, and what they’d done to remedy them. But then the first three guys also belittled them. That was truly amazing, and disgusting. Long story short, one of the two technical responses turned out to be exactly what Stella needed and the problem was solved. I reported that, and the result, back into the forum, but of course the original three bullies had nothing to say.
So what is it about human nature that causes some of us to bully others in this way? How does one derive a sense of power through the act of belittling someone who was reaching out for help? And doesn’t that behavior discourage others from asking for help? I’ve heard the say that “information is power,” but why does someone join a forum like that in the first place, if not to share information? When you venture into those forums, are you there to contribute, to help? Or to show the rest of us that you’re a merciless Headmaster, bent on ridiculing us for what we don’t know? Be the former, and elevate all of us with you.
Until next time, stay tuned and upright.