Like truculent toddlers going through the ‘terrible twos’, internet commenters’ emotions are felt deeply. They are filled with either rage – deep, dark, vitriolic – or the most euphoric nirvana, and they want you, YES YOU, to know it. They want you to know it with the aid of ALL CAPS, EX!!1!CLA!!1M!ATI!!!!!!ON marks, emoticons (:-( :-/ :-S ^_^ O_0 – I could go on, but then I’d have to slap myself) and of course, abbreviations that no one in the real world has a hope of deciphering – LOL, FML, KMT, SMH, LMFBAO, IJN, IMHO. Commenters know every board needs that special thread that will incite extreme wrath or joy, and they work tirelessly to take you off-track, make indiscriminate racist/sexist/ignorant/just plain offensive comments to make it happen. Someone’s got to keep the internet ticking, and these brave souls have manfully stepped into the breach. Good show.
I used to be a pretty regular commenter on Jezebel, a site which thankfully has keen moderators and a code of conduct for commenters. After spending so much of my online life there, I was astonished and a little shocked upon re-entry into the rest of the known internet. People are mean. A feature about who a certain actress will be co-starring alongside in a new film can break the dam of anger and resentment in an instant. No avenue is closed to insult, and crucially, no analogy is too flawed or ridiculous. Of course, Godwin’s Law is proven time after time.
But that’s a little bit of the joy of the internet. Internet comment boards are places to see the complete spectrum of the human race. As a microcosm of the society we all inhabit, it showcases all that we are: the idiots, the learned, the reasoned and the downright ridiculous are all here in their splendour. Nowadays, I find myself reading the article as quick as I can so that I can get to the comments. The detail that is volunteered is fascinating – people give up their family stories, their histories, their habits, their fancies, their lives, really – and often gives a fuller picture that the article it supports. And that’s what I love about internet comment boards. If you dig deep enough, you’ll often find a gem of a comment – whether it’s coffee-spittingly funny, achingly sad, or just quietly profound. They are, for better or worse, life-affirming.