I miss flame wars. (Weird thing to say, I know, bear with me…)
It’s been a long time since I’ve heard that term, or seen it used in any fashion to describe something happening online. So long, in fact, that I wonder if I need to define it because there may be some reading this who are not familiar with the term at all: A lengthy exchange of angry or abusive messages between users of an online forum or other discussion area.(src)
But wait, you say, that definition doesn’t sound unfamiliar. Not at all in fact. That kind of thing happens – well, it happens all the time.
Exactly. That’s just it.
I don’t miss flame wars per se, and I certainly don’t miss the animosity and the vitriol, I miss the fact that they used to be rare enough, confined enough, and specific enough that they had their own term to differentiate them from the more ‘normal’ online interactions.
There were certain topics that were known to be flamebait. Or occasionally a thread may strangely devolve into a flaming pile, full of hyperbole, personal attacks, and back and forth screaming. But they were outliers. Today, it seems that just about everything can, and often does, devolve to that level. It’s so ubiquitous that we’ve lost the need for any specific name for it. It’s just “the comment section.” Or “Twitter.” Or “Tuesday.” Post you don’t like a certain kind of cake? Look out…
So that’s really what I miss (while fully acknowledging all the rose coloured glasses effect that goes along with nostalgia): A time when flame wars were flame wars, and there was still a greater chance than not for good faith discussions. Discussions that might well become quite heated, but nonetheless remained squarely in that realm.
* To give an example, there’s this one online forum for D&D that I occasionally frequent… my usual thing is to read the first page or two to get a sense of the discussion, then jump to the last few pages to see what consensus seems to be forming. Or, at least, that’s what I envision. Instead, those last few pages have typically become five random posters hurling barbs and insults back and forth ad nauseum. Most unfortunate.