Why Are Internet Commenters Such Assholes? and Some of Our Worst Comments

Hes probably yelling, Youre just a virgin who CANT DRIVE! Asshole.

  • He’s probably yelling, “You’re just a virgin who CAN’T DRIVE!” Asshole.

Not all Internet commenters are assholes, of course. But many of them are. A majority? Who’s to say, really? But, yes, probably, a majority of Internet commenters are assholes. Have you ever looked at the comments on a NY Post story about Obama? Don’t! Unless you have an appetite for the most vile, racist filth imaginable. And we’re not even going to delve into the sociopaths over at YouTube. They make me lose whatever limited faith I have left in humanity. But up until recently, the dickheadedness of commenters was just something anecdotally known, it had never been proven. Now a study shows that commenters are actual, verifiable assholes. It’s nice when science aligns with exactly what I’ve always thought to be true.

The Wall Street Journal reported on a study that was done by researchers at Columbia University and the University of PIttsburgh which was designed to see why we’re so mean to each other when we talk online. Sherry Turkle, a psychologist and professor at MIT, noted that “we’re less inhibited online because we don’t have to see the reaction of the person we’re addressing…because it’s harder to see and focus on what we have in common, we tend to dehumanize each other.” Additionally, the study demonstrated that people who spend more time on Facebook and engage through Facebook commenting instead of through, you know, face-to-face interactions are “more likely to engage in binge eating and to have a greater body mass index, as well as to have more credit-card debt and a lower credit score.” The researchers also found that “people who spent more time on Facebook were more likely to give up on difficult tasks more quickly.”

So, basically, what the study demonstrates is that people who spend a lot of time Internet commenting are dumb quitters who are also probably poor and have shitty eating habits. Wow, that’s way harsh! That’s way worse than anything I would have said. Even though I have been called a racist hipster who should consider another occupation on multiple occasions! I mean, not usually by the same commenter, but STILL.

Anyway, in honor of this study, I decided to ask some of our editorial staff here about the worst comments that they’ve ever received. And some of them were pretty bad! Stop being such dicks, people!


  1. While some of these comments were inane, most of them were, at worst, lively reactions.
    Besides, the magazine is called “Brooklyn Magazine,” not “Gentrified Enclave Magazine,” and it’s no surprise that people from Brooklyn are as rude and hipsterphobic online as they are in person.

  2. The best thing you’ve done since 1976. Let’s have more of these heartwarming lists! Brava, Kristin! We love you on Nostrand Avenue!

  3. After thinking about it overnight, let me say this seriously: Kristin, I do apologize if my comment hurt your feelings or made you feel bad about yourself. Look, you do a good job doing what you’re supposed to do, and obviously people like the lists or you’d stop doing them. So I’m sorry. I thought I was trying to make a point in an amusing way. I won’t make any more comments about the lists, and I think I’ll give you a break from my comments altogether. But I’ll still be reading! Thanks from an asshole.

  4. If I can say one more thing — and, ladies and gentlemen, you won’t have Dick Grayson to kick around anymore; this is my last comment — because publicly calling me an asshole did have me lying awake at night, feeling bad and wondering about the validity of what you said — I think you answered the question title, “Why Are Internet Commenters Such Assholes?” pretty well in the introduction. Citing Turkel — and you could cite others — you get it. When you react online, you don’t see people’s faces, I don’t think, “Oh, remember, Kristin wrote this article, she’s a human being, she’s doing her job, you don’t even know if she wanted to do this or someone told her to,” and I forget that there’s a person there with feelings. It’s very tempting when you put a comment form for the end of an article.

    I like moderating comments, the way the New York Times does, or I do on my blogs, and maybe you should consider that as a policy, both to keep the level discourse higher and to block people you find annoying — like me, I guess. And it would save me and others like me from reacting the way we do online, viscerally, with our reptilian brains, without the kind of reflection I’ve had time to do with this article.

    I’m in my 60s, so most of my life I read print publications, with no way to respond to what I’m reading except to go to my typewriter, craft a letter to the editor, put it an envelope, address it, put a stamp on it, find a mailbox and send it out. Just the time and energy involved would cause people to reflect. In some ways that was a better world. Even when you can write email letters to the editor, it requires more thought and effort than the too-easy comment box.

    Also, it’s easy to be anonymous and be an asshole. I do give my real name when I comment, both as a check on myself — do I want something online that will give me the real-world reputation as an asshole? — and to let people judge me as a real person, as you have here.

    Frankly, I’d like it if you just removed all comments and taken the temptation to easily say stupid things. There’s no law that even internet publications have to have comments. If you think they’re not adding anything, get rid of them and both you and your readers might be better off.

    You know, I’d hope that not every one of the comments I made on your sites made you think I was an asshole. Like most human beings, sometimes I am an asshole and sometimes I’m not. But you did find, by making me feel bad with this article, a good way to get me to stop commenting after I finish this sentence and hit the “post comment” button.

  5. After reading this article, I’ve been thinking about the nature of internet commenting, and how we use it. I have a few questions for the staff of BK Magazine:
    1) Would you prefer more comments or less than you currently get?
    2) Do you get more ad revenue based on the quantity of comments, or do advertisers just care about page views? Or neither?
    3) What do you ultimately get out of comments, and what types of comments would you like to read that you do not currently get to read?

  6. I tend to agree that most internet commentors are assholes. But everyone is entitled to their opinion and since we all have assholes, etc. There are loads of political assholes over there and on here. Don’t force it down our throats. When FB becomes the NY Times or Wall Street Journal many will bow out of using it.

  7. I only post constructive comments. And at times sarcastic ones. Or quotes from Jerry. And then politely ask people to please buy my book. ROOM FOUR. You’ll love it, you’ll laugh, and in turn, post constructive comments. Or your favorite quotes from Jerry in ROOM FOUR.

  8. Is this a real question from the article? Maybe internet commenters are such assholes because the chances of being punched in the teeth on or from the internet are practically nil.

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