by Sean Adams

Okay, so that title is little misleading, but I meant it to be that way. There are no politics in this post, but I titled as such hoping you might come here with your fingers twitching with anticipation to type out some all-caps angry comment against me or against those who are against me. Instead of talking about politics, we’re going to talk about negative Internet commenting.

The New York Times recently published an article about a site called Topix that was “initially envisioned as a hyperlocal news aggregator with separate pages for every community in the country.” Now, though, its main purpose seems to be for anonymous users to perpetuate gossip. On the Mountain Grove, MO board, for example, tempers run very high, causing residents to get divorces, consider suicide, or leave town altogether. I only had to click on the first post I saw to find this juicy tidbit...

I’m not much of an acronym expert, so I’m not sure I understand exactly what “the truth” is trying to say, but it sounds pretty mean. Now, though, something different seems to be happening. The Times article has roused the do-good-o-sphere of the Internet into action. And what are they doing? They’re… also posting kinda mean stuff to this forum. But it’s for the greater good, right? Just look at this intelligent little thread:

Nothing says “I’m above this” like an accusation of inbreeding! And, as if that wasn’t enough, some of the comments on the Times article itself are equally frustrating. Here is what David from NYC has to say:

While it is well-worded and more insightful than the above posts, I can’t help but feel it is just as condescending. Coming from a small town three hours north of the city, I’m not that excited to hear New Yorkers analyze small town dynamics. In fact, my town, Pine Plains, was featured as a weekend haven in a condescending Times article of its own in 2003. One line sticks out in particular: when discussing the local wine and spirits shop, the author writes, ” was hard to distinguish weekenders from the full-time residents with people bundled in uniform layers of turtlenecks, flannel shirts and down jackets.” Because get us out of those turtlenecks and we'll look like a different species or something, right?

Now, I don’t mean that, because I grew up in Upstate New York, I understand Mountain Grove, MO. I don’t. Not at all. In fact, a lot of people from there there probably also don’t understand Mountain Grove, MO. That’s why analyzing Mountain Grove, whether from without or within, isn’t going to bring some greater understanding; it’ll just bring frustration.

What I see as the value of the article (as well as the reaction to it) is to show that most of us are naturally inclined towards negativity. The Internet gives us a place where we can express our opinion anonymously, which is to say without much concern for the consequences of our words. However, the reaction to our negativity will occur regardless of whether or not we have to watch it or a be a part of it at all.

I, on the other hand, am contractually obligated to watch the negative reaction to this post unfold, so please people, let the comments fly!