Online Comments and Character

A string of text, a collection of words and phrases forming sentences, paragraphs, and so forth. Disconnected from the author, yet it has an author, and with an author comes ownership.

This body of words and phrases is more than just text, it is thoughts and opinions formed into a narrative. It seems too easy to view the narrative in a distorted lens. Reading what you want and fitting the context into your own narrative.

This happens regardless if an author is known. However, when an author is unknown, people criticize and label the body and parts of the text in ways to fit their own narrative in relation to their perception of the author. Sometimes, perception of the author comes first, creating a bias that modulates the experience and alters the content.

Sometimes, the content comes first and then perception of the author is formed. Reading text and then attributing some sort of character to the author based on your perception. The character traits attributed to the author is based on only knowing a fragment of who they are. Yes, any body of text does reflects a thought that the author had, but does it actually reflect the whole?

Especially, when online communication is considered. When someone reads a tweet, comment, and whatnot is it a true honest and complete reflection of character or is it a fragment, a piece, often crafted in an ironic way? Anyone online can be brash and insensitive, and anyone can be defensive and aggressive behind a mask. Though I would suggest that consistent brash, insensitive, defensive and aggressive communication indeed telling of a one’s character.

But then there is intent. Even consistent brash, insensitive, defensive, and aggressive comments can be crafted in an ironic way for the sake of eliciting an emotional reaction. This isn’t a new phenomenon. There are people that enjoy manipulating a reaction out of others. They’ll leave nasty comments in hope that someone will react to it. They’ll maintain a counter to a popular and accepted narrative just to get a rise, and sometimes profit. This counter narrative may not actually reflect their own held beliefs and opinions.

Analyzing one’s character through their comments then seems prone to error and creates a misperception. When you read something that appears sexist, does it mean that the author is sexist? When you read something that appears violent, does it mean that the author is violent? What about with seemingly racist comments?

I wouldn’t be surprised if many thought yes. Though, my question is do you really know enough from that fragment of experience to cast judgement on someone’s character?

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