[no subject]

From: Steve Fouts <sfouts -at- ELLISON -dot- SC -dot- TI -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 13 Jul 1994 13:23:35 CDT

Heli Roosild <HeliR -at- MSMAILHQ -dot- NETIMAGE -dot- COM>

|} I am amazed--truly amazed!--at postings that defend flames and blame the
|} thin skins of those who are offended. How can these otherwise intelligent
|} people be so apparently clueless about the common denominator between an
|} email flame and the punch in the jaw or slash of the knife of, say, a wife-
|} or child-abuser.


|} No doubt I will be excoriated for equating verbal and physical abuse. But
|} violence is violence. Think the thought, speak the word, and you will
|} eventually do the deed.

You're way, way, way, way out in left field on this one Heli. Real live
psychological studies have been done on this (nope, sorry, can't site 'em,
I'm relying on feeble organic memory here). The verbal abuse escalates
on an electronic forum because there are no emotional cues (smiles,
furrowed brows, pitch changes, etc.) of the like found in normal human
interaction. The result is that we tend to exaggerate our true emotions
to a great degree in the written word to make up for the lack of other

Have you ever seen two deaf folks speaking to eachother in sign language?
They tend to use (what hearing people would consider) very exaggerated
facial expressions and hand gestures. Its very human, very natural.

Precisely because there is no visual or aural communication in this medium,
we tend to exaggerate what _is_ available to us. I don't believe that
there is any positive correlation between someone's propensity to flame
on Usenet (O.K., bitnet in this case) and their propensity to commit
acts of physical violence. In fact, the two may be negatively correlated,
as people who flame a lot are probably gregarious, animated folks in
person, somewhat frustrated by the lack of ability to communicate in
this medium.

P.S. The first paragraph is supported by some research that I read
somewhere, the second two are psychobabble of my own making. What do
y'all professional communicators think of my untested theories?

_______________ _____
/ ___ __/__\ \ / / _\ Steve Fouts
/___ \| | ___\ | / __\ sfouts -at- ellison -dot- sc -dot- ti -dot- com
/ / \ | \ / \
/_______/__|_______\_/________\ "She understood, as he did, that all writing
was infernally boring and futile, but that it had to be done out of respect
for tradition" --Stanislaw Lem

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