Because I completely feel the need – and the pressure – to update, so there you go, blog-dumps!

I’m not much of a forum goer. Oh, I’ve tried a couple of forums before, but somehow, I simply drop out of existence after a few months, tops. I admit that forums are a nice online place to hang out though. Just think of it – several people all over the world, from different cultures and ways of life, converging in one place to discuss. It doesn’t even have to be about the forum’s ‘main topic’. Sure, there’ll be people talking about the latest Bleach episode, but in the other corners of the forum there would be threads about music, video games, food, politics – practically anything under the sun. It might not be instantaneous like YM, but the conversations are there to stay and you could always check out what had been said an hour or three days ago.

Flame War

You have no heart otherwise

Of course, where people converge – especially in large numbers – conflict arises.

Bring out the popcorn and the marshmallows, ladies and gentlemen. We’ll be talking about flame wars.

Firstly though, what’s ‘flaming’? Wikipedia defines it as the “hostile and insulting interaction between Internet users”. Also, it could happen in a discussion board, Internet Relay Chat, email, game servers and video sharing websites (I’m focused on forums though). A flame war then happens when one or more users jump into the fray, either fueling the arguments or trying to diffuse the situation. An entry in the Urban Dictionary says it best though: “Like paintball, but with flamethrowers”.

Some flame wars start innocently enough. It could be that the starting topic wasn’t even controversial – it’s only when users ‘hijack’ the thread by posting insulting, polarizing or unrelated to the original post that a flame war sparks to life. These users – called flamers (more precise and subtle) or trolls (less subtle, more insulting) – could also be deliberately setting up  a flame war with a topic sure to cause rifts large enough to drive a backhoe through.

Flame war

Because everyone could be anyone online.

I admit though, flame wars can be extremely amusing to follow. First, there could be a mundane topic, even phrased decently. Or it could be deliberate ‘flame bait’, a post which could be insulting or very polarizing. Then sooner or later a couple of forum posters would rather throw insults at each other than intelligently discuss the topic. With enough vitriol and childishness it will evolve into a magnificently messed-up verbal battle, with each participant vying for the best ad hominem. If you have the same sense of humor as I do, you will find these wars very entertaining indeed.

Here are some of the topics which may incite a flame war in the vast wilderness of the Internet:

  • The Console Wars. There’s even a PC gaming vs Console gaming.
  • Ninja vs Pirate. In the realm of anime, it translates to Naruto vs One Piece.
  • Windows vs Mac OS
  • Facebook vs Friendster (or any social networking site, for that matter)
  • Twilight (the book series)
  • Pluto’s status as a planet
  • Politics and Religion

For additional amusement, try looking at these sites.

Black hilarity aside, I think flame wars are a sign of computer-mediated communication’s shortcomings (at least, when it’s not deliberately incited in the name of shits and giggles). Since forum users come from all sorts of backgrounds, there’s no social context to base their words. How do we know if they’re already being sarcastic, or it’s just the way they express themselves and mean no harm?  Also, as every forum user is shielded by the anonymity provided by the Internet, he or she feels free to say anything without fearing social retribution. Sure, the boards could kick the flamer out, but it’s easy to get another account and return to the warpath. Then there’s the problem of non-verbal communication being nonexistent in the online setting. We can only judge these people through their words.

Flame war

Make sure you're fireproof

While I do admit that a flame war could be entertaining, it is also disruptive. Forums get swamped by negative posts and a negative rep. And yes, while sticks and stones can break bones and words don’t, flame posts could still affect the person behind the computer. While forums do have rules against flamers and trolls, maturity is still the way to go. Firstly, forum users should think of the statements to post. Secondly, don’t feed the flames and the trolls. They’re hungry for attention and want nothing more but your irritation. You don’t get paid for having high blood pressure, so why bother posting an equally childish reply?

Anyways, marshmallows still taste good without being roasted.


Wikipedia (