Posts Tagged ‘internet fuckwad syndrome’

A Response to The Outbreak of IFS: Taking the High Road

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

The Internet is an extraordinarily powerful tool, and one that has completely retooled the mechanisms of personal expression. Here on TUSB, it allows any student to join the campus and worldwide discussion. Free speech works most powerfully when all ideas are able to be brought to the fore, which is also why we have a “comments” section on articles to foster discussion. We began TUSB with a mind to encourage students to write about topics on which they feel strongly, regardless of whether they are critical, laudatory, or somewhere in between. Many times, important and justified criticism (or, for that matter, praise) can not only open up the discussion but actively work towards fixing the problems at stake. See Jon Stewart’s brilliant, impassioned segment on the Zadroga Bill that undoubtedly had a powerful influence on the bill’s recent passage.

But there is one problem: allowing for greater expression also results in expression that is not constructive. Perceived anonymity causes people to forget that they are, in fact, humans [for a great read on the topic, try Stanford Professor Philip Zimbardo’s The Lucifer Effect, chpt. 13] and engage in oft-egregiously obnoxious ways.

On the Web, this is called “Internet Fuckwad Syndrome.” See graphic.

At TUSB, we do not allow anonymous posting, but we do allow anonymous commenting, as outlined in our f.a.q. (which, to be fair, I wrote). As a result, we sometimes receive inflammatory ad hominem attacks in the comments section. If there’s a slightly more controversial article, there is the chance that the errant malevolent comment could incite a deluge of similar comments, resulting in what the CDC would label a “full IFS pandemic.” As TUSB became (and continues to become) more popular, it was only a matter of time before this happened.