Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

Re: anti flame capsule - emotional amplification

Author:Christopher Allen
Posted:9/20/2000; 10:40:02 PM
Topic:anti flame capsule
Msg #:21566 (In response to 21547)
Prev/Next:21565 / 21567

I have been a moderator/host/forum leader of bulletin boards since the early 80's, on Compuserve, GEnie, and AOL, so I have have considerable experience with both moderating flames between folks in our community, and flames directed toward me.

One piece of advice that I give is in regards to how emotions are amplified in the online text medium.

This happens for two different reasons: Since text is lacking tonal and visual context, we have a tendency to over-interpret any emotional content that does exist. In addition, we tend to respond to someone's emotional state by expressions of similar intensity. Both of these tendencies have been substantiated in academic research.

These two tendencies lead into a vicious feedback cycle. One person starts with a very trivial or subtle emotional context, say irony. This is interpreted at a higher level of emotions, say possibly sarcasm, and a reply is made at a similar level of emotion, say being sarcastic back. This in turn is interpreted at an even higher level of emotion, maybe an mild insult. In turn this is replied to at a similar intense level -- a flame is born.

Thus I find that now there are certain words and phrases that I avoid when responding to people online. I have to be very careful with irony and sarcasm, and when I use them to include smilies to such give the emotional context that is missing from the text. I find that even the slightest hint of blaim will be overinterpreted. I avoid the words "should" and "didn't", never tell someone that they forgot something, etc.

-- Christopher Allen

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