Cengiz: Web creates venue for nasty tirades

By Andrew Cengiz

Today people are more willing to express their opinion over the Internet and less likely to do so in person, according to communication research done by Shirley S. Ho and Douglas M. McLeod of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Their study found that “fear of isolation, communication apprehension, future opinion congruency and communication setting significantly predict willingness to speak out.”

While communicating through the Internet is a great tool, communicating in person is crucial to developing one’s ability to communicate effectively and intelligently.

McLeod and Ho’s study said that people are extremely apprehensive to expressing their opinion in person because of social anxiety. This social anxiety is a large reason that people prefer blogging instead of a face-to-face communication.

As stated by “Who blogs? Personality predictors of blogging,” an abstract written in the journal Computers in Human Behavior by Rosanna Guadagno, Bradley Okdie and Cassie Eno, “these results suggest that individuals who are high in neuroticism, characterized by anxiety, worry, emotional reactivity, and nervousness may blog to assuage loneliness or in an attempt to reach out and form social connections with others.”

Although communicating through the Internet is great, people need to keep practicing face-to-face communication.

People who are quiet and reserved in person tend to be more aggressive on the Internet. Because they don’t develop their argument and discussion skills in person, their online ramblings are often irrational.

Film critic David Edelstein of New York Magazine fell victim to this irrational online group when he wrote a negative review of “Batman: The Dark Knight.” Edelstein simply felt that the movie was too dark. Some bloggers, who hadn’t seen the movie yet, venomously attacked him by calling him “an idiot, fag and prick” for his negative review of the movie. He responded to the latter by saying, “I’ve always thought ‘prick’ applied to people who resorted to such name-calling in lieu of argument.”

If these communications had taken place in person, such extreme dialogue would not have taken place over a simple movie review. People tend to be more primitive in their online communication. Had Edelstein made these remarks in person, these Internet “intellects” most likely would have remained quiet because of fear of social rejection.

People should keep communicating through the Internet, but they need to spend more time polishing those communications in face-to-face dialogue.

“The Internet has a mob mentality that can overwhelm serious criticism,” Edelstein said. “There is superb writing in blogs and discussion groups…but there are also thousands of semi-literate tirades.”

Because there is guaranteed anonymity for people who blog, you see the worst in what people think. Face-to-face communication is the key to keeping all communication civil and fair.

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