Why is it that, so often, the Internet turns people into abusive dickheads? I’ve been wondering this for a while now. I mean I get that with the veil of “anonymity” some of the worst tendencies in people come to the forefront. I believe this is known as disinhibition, but I think back to the day of the Roman Forum, where, if you wanted to pontificate on a topic, you had to be present as did your detractors.
I am firmly of the belief that, as it relates to discourse, the Internet has been an epic fail. The rules of rhetoric are disregarded and people’s first reaction is to go to the ad hominem attack. We even have new words for this – trolling.
Where is all this coming from? I was reading a post – found originally on the Passive Voice which I read daily – entitled Refunds for Amazon Ebook Sales, Should You Be Worried by Lindsey Buroker.
In the comments, one T.O. states that she (I don’t know if she’s female, but I’m defaulting that pronoun) is now banned from returning Kindle books because she has a 60% return rate which exceeds their threshold. She wrote a comment letter in response to this. Now, for the record, I don’t return books. Period. If I’m unhappy with a book I either delete the electronic book or I donate the hard copy to a library. Why don’t I return the books? Because that comes directly out of the author’s paycheck. Every book of mine that is returned by the user is deducted from my royalties. I only get paid for what is sold minus any returns. Hence, I don’t personally return books. However, that is my choice and returning books is T.O’s (though my personal advice to her would be to utilize her local library, most of which allow for Kindle book downloads now).
What was so disheartening is how many commenters immediately began calling T.O. a “thief”, a “manipulator” of the system, a “freeloader”, etc. Now, whether you believe this or not is irrelevant, why can’t we just stick to the topic at hand and discuss the merits or lack thereof regarding returning books and Amazon’s policies? That is the topic under discussion, not T.O’s.
I apologize for the rant, I’m just sick and tired of how poorly we treat each other these days.
For the record, Harvard has provided a great summary of the rules of rhetoric as well as a discussion of the logical fallacies. I highly suggest more people get back to sticking to the rules of productive argument.
UPDATED: To reflect that commenter T.O., not Ms. Buroker, had the 60% return rate.