People are weird. Specifically, people on the internet are weird. For one, they always have an opinion on something. And if you don't share that opinion then boy, you'd best keep your mouth taped shut.
If you're lucky, you haven't encountered the angry internet user yet — not personally, at least. But every so often, a topic arises on a blog, or a website with a comment feature, that sets the online masses off, spewing their bile and vitriol all over the place. And bile, particularly, is a bitch to clean off a keyboard.
Case in point: The other week, parenting weblog BloggingBaby.com featured a brief tongue-in cheek post detailing the news that a bag of cocaine had been found in the toy department of an Oklahoma Wal-Mart. It was called — quite humorously, I think you'll agree — "One More Reason Not To Shop At Wal-Mart: Cocaine In The Toy Department."
But, sweet cracker sandwich, did internet readers go insane. They went so insane, in fact, that after the story had been linked to the front page of AOL, more than 400 angry little online gnomes deluged the BloggingBaby boards with comments suggesting that the writer of the witty little snippet — a good guy, a great dad, the author of SweetJuniper.com — was Satan himself. You could hear the gnashing of teeth from Mount Pleasant.
"You, my man, should be casterated," (sic) read one comment. "What a self-righteous loser you are," read another. "Very crappy parent!" admonished another, directed not at the guy who'd left the coke in the toy department of Wal-Mart but (again) at the writer of the post — because he'd included a picture of his daughter crying in a parking lot.
Many of the comments contained more exclamation points that most people use in a year. A lot were written all in caps, to CONVEY THE FACT THAT THEIR AUTHORS WERE SHOUTING THEM!! BECAUSE THEY WERE ANGRY!! The poor writer was called a bleeding-heart liberal and a right-wing fascist, which must have been confusing, to say the least, and he was accused, in every single comment, of either child abuse or conspiracy to shut down Sam Walton's empire.
To which I say, What the hell is wrong with all of us? What's wrong with the internet? Why are we hurling insults at each other — poorly spelled insults, no less — just because we're equipped with a DSL connection, a mouse, and a keyboard? While the web, these days, seems to have replaced religion as the opiate of the masses, do we really have to use it as our own private soapbox each and every time we log on and find a story not to our liking? I mean, it's very sweet that all these angry, hateful people felt so strongly about their beloved Wal-Mart that they took a minute away from skinning baby kittens to defend it in a public forum, but did they lose their sense of humor down the back of the sofa cushions? They might want to have a quick look and see if they can find it. Because I bet their sense of common human decency is down there too.
Holly Burns prefers Target. Find her on the web at www.nothingbutbonfires.com.