Thursday, July 29, 2004

Forum Sociology 

One of my favorite pastimes for the past five years or so has been internet debate. I argue about anything from theology to cars, politics to fast food, television to morality. I do it deftly and constructively, and have found it to be an excellent mental exercise. I spend much of my time these days teaching others how to debate and put forth their opinion properly, instead of just posting "OMG OMG YUO LUV TEH C OCK!!!!1111" whenever they disagree with others.

In my endeavors, I've learned many things, not the least of which is the diversity of people you encounter on message forums. Yet despite their divergence, they all basically fall into a handful of categories. Most people fit into more than one of the categories, which I'm about to list below. I've even given them my own names.

1. Impalpables: These are the guys who post all throughout the forums, yet you can never remember their usernames after you've logged off of the forums. Sometimes they just don't post often, others are complete "post-whores" that are forgettable simply because they rarely have anything interesting to say. Usually completely lacking in humor, yet at the same time not touchy or confrontational. They're just there. Impalpables make up a large percentage of forumites.

2. Trollers: Okay, I didn't name these guys. Everyone knows what trollers are, as they are the bane of any forum. Trollers post extreme points of view, usually in a forum that they know holds the opposite point of view, in an attempt to see how many people they can rile. For example, they might go onto a pro-choice message board and post "YOU'RE ALL A BUNCH OF BABY-MURDERING WHORES!", just to see how many people will get angry enough to reply to them. Trollers are typically just bored teenagers.
3. Superiorists: These guys are the ones that are too good for everything. These are the ones that reply to threads with comments like "Wow, you have no life", since obviously their turds are laced with gold and what "life" is to you is nothing to them. Or they might say "Man, you must be bored" if you post a long thread, since although it may entertain you, they just want to let you know what you're missing by not being them. These are the same ones who enter long debates and do nothing more than post pictures of retardates with the text "Arguing on the internet is like winning the Special Olympics: Even if you win, you're still retarded", as if there's anyone in the world who hasn't heard that saw 50 million times, and as if it has suddenly become less stupid than it's always been.
4. Me toos: Me toos are very quick to offer up their commentary, whether you want it or not. They're often also impalpables, except they hold the distinction of being far more scathing, in a simplistic sort of way. Me toos will often jump into the middle of a long debate and post something like "Wow, there sure is a lot of ignorance on the board tonight", and direct it at no one in particular. Me toos are often also trollers or superiorists, and could post their unwanted commentary either to turn both sides against them or to tell the posters how inferior they are, since they're doing something so crude as arguing.

5. Peacemakers: Peacemakers are similar to superiorists and me toos, but the motive is different. Peacemakers are generally nicer people, they just want to break up the argument so everyone can get along. Peace, brotherhood, and all that rot. It never works, but they're always there to try it again.

6. Link Masters: This is the category I fall into, for the most part. Link masters are people who enter a debate, and then bombard the people they're arguing with with links to back them up. Is someone on an automotive forum saying that you can't hot-rod a Chevrolet 305 V8? Link masters disagree, and then present the person with about ten links to people who have successfully hot-rodded the 305. Link masters aren't very common, but they end arguments quickly.

7. Anecdotals: Anecdotals are the antithesis of the link masters. They believe that you can't successfully argue a point, unless it's something that you have done yourself. If presented with links, these people will respond with something like "You loser. You can talk about what other people have done, but what have you done?", as if any particular person has done everything imaginable, and somehow anecdotal evidence over a message board is irrefutable.

8. Napoleon Bonamods: Or just "Bonamods", for short. Almost all, if not all, forums have at least one Bonamod...a moderator who is impressed with the petty amount of authority he's been given. They often outright troll other users, post very inflammatory responses to anyone who commits a minor infraction like double-posting, and will not hesitate to ban or remove posting priviledges from anyone for very trivial reasons. Bonamods are always male, and are typically very small or even sickly in real life...hence their attitude on the anonymous internet.

9. Alternators: Alternators, so named because tHeY lIkE tO aLtErNaTe CaPs are people who enjoy posting in all sorts of fancy ways. They use crazy multiple colors, often in the same post, and like to make their posts into complicated ASCII artwork, so show everyone how skilled they are in the useless arts. They're usually also impalpables.
10. Illiterates: Illiterates are the ones who can't spell, don't know punctuation, use poor grammar, are very touchy, and like to describe things they don't like as being "gay". Trollers are almost invariably illiterates, but not all illiterates are trollers. Some are perfectly normal people....they're just annoying. Sometimes also impalable. You will find illiterates on every forum, without exception.
11. Joes: Joes are the "nice guy" regulars who have been going to a particular forum for years, and are often "buddy buddy" with a group of other regulars. They're usually very polite, and often invite new users into their ranks. You will find Joes on every forum that sees heavy usage. Female Joes are stilled called Joes, for the record.
12. Egomaniacs: Most people that one argues with online who aren't link masters or anecdotals are egomaniacs. These are the ones who are so afraid to admit when they're wrong that they never will. No matter how many times they encounter logic or even concrete proof that they're wrong, they will continue to argue their closed-minded point of view. They will even resort to bragging about alleged wealth and celebrity status as a way to discredit you. Egomaniacs will always either debate indefinitely (I've seen some on Yahoo forums that have been going on for over six years) or - if enough other forumites begin to laugh at them - they will finally slink away sheepishly.
That's all. Twelve groups. Which do you fit in?

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