As part of my fumbling entry into the world of blogging, I have been reading a number of other blogs, including some of the lofty ones that are nice enough to pick up RBC postings from time to time. In this process, I have come across a particular type of angry comment on lofty blogs that is intriguing to try to explain.
It is not hard to explain why angry comments appear from readers who disagree with the blogger’s opinion on some controversial issue, but I am puzzling over the phenomenon of the commenter who blasts a blogger who clearly agrees with him (it’s almost always a him). The exchange typically runs something like this.
Famous blogger writes: I love apple pie. But I think cherry pie is great also.
Commenter: I hate apple pie! How dare you not mention cherry pie! Cherry pie is way better than apple pie!
What seems to have happened in a non-negligible number of cases is that someone has read a blog entry only far enough to identify a point of possible disagreement, and then stopped reading to post an angry rebuttal. This is hard to explain in that, if one is reading a lofty blog with a large following, it would normally be satisfying to find out that the lofty blogger shared one’s views, and that prospect might lead one to read a few more sentences to learn that in fact, the lofty one agrees rather than disagrees with you.
It may be that there is a population that reads big time blogs for the purpose of disagreeing (even with those bloggers with whom they actually agree), but then one has to ask why, what reinforces this behavior? Why would a person put effort into something of this sort, and endure the negative emotions of anger and upset involved?
One possibility is that the emotions are not experienced as negative subjectively by the commenter, even though they are negative from a health viewpoint (repeated rages causes the adrenal glands to swing into action, causing wear and tear on the heart and other organs). Another is that some people come to the web with pre-existent free floating anger and are looking for an object upon which to fix their rage because it gives some sense of control (But then I think, that can’t be right because wouldn’t it be more satisfying to fix that rage on a genuine enemy rather than a friend, so to speak).
This phenomenon seems to fly in the face of much of what is said about the web and modern media generally: Everyone just reads things they already agree with, they are looking for reinforcement of their pre-existing views. That analysis has a lot of power, but it doesn’t account for the man who is angry at the authority figure with whom he is in violent agreement.