Are You %&*#ing Kidding Me?


Disagreements can arouse passions. The blogosphere can be a battlefield, with rapid fire blog posts and comments flying to and fro, sometimes helpful and thoughtful, sometimes off point unbridled ranting.

There's been a lot of discussion amongst my fellow Sciblings and our sponsors on this topic - dare I say it? It begins with the letter "C" - no, sorry, I can't use it - at least at this moment.

Here's a simple test: would you feel comfortable for your spouse or your employer to read what you posted?

There is an allure to venting, especially anonymously, because the reader - and sometimes the writer - is protected. The allure can be so strong, that in some cases can mimic the fleeting pleasure of drunkenness. I wonder if there's an equivalent of an internet hangover, next day regrets?

From a recent study:

According to a study by the Northwestern University, anonymity affects the judgment of people similarly to alcohol intoxication and excessive power.

When a person is operating behind a mask such as the Internet, they're more likely to make decisions that align with their true motives or character -- be that heroism or hedonism. "This is why intoxicated individuals can be aggressive in one instant and altruistic in another," said Hirsh, and it could help explain why people tend to express such extreme views when they get behind a keyboard.

He noted that people have two personas: one driven by raw animal instinct, and another that's more conservative. The former kicks in online.

"What you've got [online] is people who are prepared to let their instinctual personality out rather than really taking a second perspective, looking at it in a different way, and then saying the second thing that comes into their mind instead of the first." Naturally, this occurs more frequently when you have an open system like ours that encourages "guest" posters, versus strictly registered commenters.

"Anything that requires personal responsibility has got to be a plus," Cross said. "Once they have to register and they're held accountable, then that's really going to be a major step forward." Worried that you're a troll? Cross suggests that you establish a method to determine the demeanor of your comment. For instance, consider what your grandparents might say about your post before submitting it.

For the record, ScienceBlogs does have a clear Code of Conduct (sorry I used the "C" words - OK, I'll go ahead - civility....) that is equally important for both writers and for those posting comments.

Here it goes:

Code of Conduct

1. Be courteous

Treat your ScienceBlogs colleagues online as you would in person. Respect their boundaries, beliefs, and opinions. Keep things civil--we all share at least one common goal: to advance the conversation about science. Whatever our differences, it is easier to work together toward this goal if we are polite to one another. We recognize that there are often strong feelings about issues we discuss here; but while we encourage honest and passionate debate, we will not stand for misplaced or ad hominem attacks.

2. If you disagree, do so respectfully

Attempt to resolve miscommunications or conflicts that arise in the forums directly with whomever is involved, rather than attacking them publicly in the forums or on your blog. If you are offended by something someone has written, explain to them privately why you are offended and allow them a chance to make amends or to explain themselves in return.

If a problem arises on the blogs and you choose to respond publicly, do so in a way that addresses the problem directly without escalating personal conflicts.

If you find that someone is unreceptive to your complaint, tell your community manager. If s/he agrees that what they've posted is unacceptable, they will ask them to remove it themselves and explain their decision.

3. Take responsibility for what you post.

Post what you know to be factual and accurately representative in any given situation.

Do not post anything that:

- slanders, defames, threatens, or harasses another person
- is bigoted, pornographic, hateful, racist, sexist, intolerant, or excessively vulgar
- compromises the confidentiality of the forums or your fellow bloggers' privacy

4. Respect and protect the identity of pseudonymous bloggers.

Regardless of your personal view on blogging under a pseudonym, those who do have strong reasons for doing so. As a member of this community, you may become privy to information about these bloggers that is not public, including their identities. You are asked to keep this information in confidence and not threaten fellow bloggers with intentional exposure or encourage similar indirect activities.

More like this

I'm always sorry to see people suffering from AADS.

People post differently when anonymous. Why does the cartoonist see this as a bad thing? People vote differently when anonymous, which is why privileged majorities want to see a show of hands, and why we have chosen instead to have a curtain on the voting booth.

Closeted gays, closeted atheists, anyone whose political or social stances are at odds with their family's, cannot and should not be expected to apply the "what if your grandmother read what you wrote?" standard. My employers' paycheck does not entitle them to my conscience. In the original article, one author says of the disinhibiting effect, "that's not necessarily good or bad in itself." I, for one, am actually a better person online than I am in meatspace, and I am better in part because I am anonymous and do not have to bow to practical considerations.

As an aside, I am annoyed that none of the reports on this study have actually linked to the study itself, and I cannot find it through searching (yet--I have not yet brought out the big guns). I've seen enough studies butchered in the popular press, that I would like to see the original. Anyone have access?

"- is bigoted, pornographic, hateful, racist, sexist, intolerant, or excessively vulgar"

The problem is people have different, even opposite, ideas of what these terms mean, especially the terms bigoted, racist and hateful.

For example, you can say any ugly, stereotypical thing you want on Science Blogs about "white people", West Virginians, southerners (American) "rednecks" etc. If you complain about this you are instantly called a "racist".

One Science Blogger feels it is fine to say really offensively sexist things about female commenters he doesn't like (she's on the rag etc) and it is okay because he doesn't like that particular commenter's contributions.

I swear this is just like trying to explain patriarchy to frat boy. Civility is a truncheon used by the powerful to silence those who would try to upset their position of privilege.

By MonkeyPox (not verified) on 13 Jul 2011 #permalink

So when I came on here and commented on some post that I thought was in poor quality with "what the ****** is this," which of the rules was I breaking exactly? Really, I'm trying to figure this out. "What the ***** is this," is a harmless expression with a swear in it that only serves to emphasize the incredulity of the poster. Is it literally because of the word? I respect your opinion if that is the case, but honestly feel that if your audience can't handle that word then....

By Herp N. Derpington (not verified) on 13 Jul 2011 #permalink

See you later Dean's Corner.

By Herp N. Derpington (not verified) on 13 Jul 2011 #permalink

This guy is a clueless joke, and his "university" is an even bigger joke. I have no idea why ScienceBlogs hired him.

By Comrade PhysioProf (not verified) on 14 Jul 2011 #permalink

Sb Code of Conduct: "we will not stand for misplaced or ad hominem attacks."

Reminds me of a story... When I was an undergraduate I had comics posted on my dorm room door, some of "questionable" content (some was sexual, some had curse words, etc.). Eventually I was brought before the head of residence halls for a complaint about the content on my door. The key part of the conversation we had went something like this:

Him: The thing you ought to ask yourself before you put something in public is, "How would my mother feel about this?"
Me: Your mother?
Him: No, your mother.
Me: Your mother?
Him: No, YOUR mother. The woman who gave birth to you.
Me: Well honestly, she would find this fucking hilarious.

Really, when one asks you to consider how any/every possible person may consider your comments, they are asking you to look for anyone in your circle (read: someone the poster respects/may not want to offend) who may be offended by your point with the goal being to quiet you. Honestly, "codes of conduct" in the electronic world, especially comments on a blog post, are just a way to justify removing certain elements of speech. If highly anonymized commentary is to be censored... I can't come up with a, "Then we will [something horrible!]" because I can't think of anything more crappy than that.

By Keek the Sneak (not verified) on 14 Jul 2011 #permalink

On the other hand, incivility can also be used to quiet people. You know, calling people "loons" or "racists" and attacking them relentlessly because you are threatened by their views. That's a much more serious situation than simply requesting that certain words not be used. How does that silence anyone? Physioprof has his own words that offend him and cause him to ban people from his blog. He would like to be able to spew the most hateful venomous screeds imaginable about certain ethnic groups, but considers his own ethnic group completely outside the realm of discussion. Talk about silencing people.

It is rather disappointing that you continue this tone-troll sniping without showing the slightest interest in educating yourself. There have been many robust discussions of civility on the Sb alone. Taking account of the points that are raised and responding to them in your future pleas for "civility" is the expectation for academics. Repeatedly advancing a simplistic position is just politics or demogogery.

By DrugMonkey (not verified) on 15 Jul 2011 #permalink

By all means, please "educate" us, anonymous blogger.