Many years ago I was a mildly active Wikipedian, a hobby I discontinued once I didn't have as much idle stare-at-internet time once I began grad school. Oh, and because most of the other people actively involved were horrible.
That is unfair. I don't honestly think they are terrible people, but something about the anonymity of the internet combined with high opinions of their own intelligence brings out the absolute worst once they gather in the same (electronic) place. These days Wikipedia has taken on a life of its own and has become bigger than anyone could have imagined back in the day. Now, vote-up sites like MetaFilter and, more recently, Reddit are getting the most attention, probably because voting things up and down is quicker and more definitive than endlessly debating things in Wikipedia forums.
One of the most irritating things about these sites is the tendency of the fan bases to be overwhelmingly composed of people like…me. White males with a lot of education. And we're pretty annoying, especially when protected by the anonymity and distance provided by the internet. So people can really be dicks in these forums, and there is plenty of groupthink on display.
Regular readers know that, sometimes to a fault, I am not the type to go around shouting "Sexism!" But my god, these things are sexist. Really obviously. In a way and to an extent that the amount of willful ignorance required to pretend it isn't there is staggering. Another blogger took the time to compile a perfect example for the skeptical.
A male Redditor posted a picture of himself lying in a bed with the comment, "This is me the being dope sick when i quit heroin. 6 months and counting of being clean." The post was up-voted by other users 1150 times, and here are the first five comments, also in order of votes received:
1. Congratulations man. Thats no easy feat. Heroin has taken many a life. Good to see somone beat it
2. "6 months and counting of being clean Datestamp 3/16/11" Was there a relapse in there?
3. I know that look. I’ve made it myself…I am consumed with respect and admiration for you. keep going.
4. Awesome job! I have 4.5 months clean. Just remember: that’s the last time you have to be dopesick. Ever.
5. I don’t know you, but I love you for staying clean. It gives me hope for my brother.
Aww! Look how nice and supportive people can be, even in an environment where people are usually pretty heartless.
More recently, a different, female user posted a picture of herself with the comment: "Been clean from heroin for 2 months and this is me today". After receiving about half as many up-votes as the male's post, here are the top five comments:
1. I've never done heroin, here is a picture of a pair of old shoes.
2. Reddit just upvoted some girl's mirror shot to the front page Holy fuck, guys
3. I've been clean from heroin for 24 years, nobody upvotes my mirror pics.
4. I don't get it. This is just a picture of a person. What is interesting about this picture?
5. 9 outta 10 would bang. With protection.
Go ahead, attempt to explain how this stark difference has nothing to with gender. I could use the giggles.
Here's the kicker. While the second post itself received less than half the up-votes of the first (male) one, the asshole comments on the woman's post received more up-votes (2200+ for the #1 comment) than either the post itself (650) or the first post (1150). So users appeared far more interested in being a dick to the woman for posting a picture of herself (Reddit Law states that this is attention-seeking behavior when women do it) than in either of the posts themselves.
Just another day on the internet. Move along, there's nothing to see here.