Dis Agreement

I was thinking, recently, about a topic that I recall being discussed in the old Usenet days: that the dominant social mode, for in-person conversation, is to agree. Either through direct statements, or through body language or other verbalizations. And that when discussing things online, there’s a stronger bent toward disagreement. If you agree with what someone else has said online, there’s no need to add anything; you’d only reply if you quibble with something or outright don’t accept an assertion.

I remember folks saying that a lot of people interpreted Usenet forums as “hostile” because they expected the same sort of social norms as in-person conversation: that they could say things and mostly expect to hear agreement, and instead being confronted with people’s critiques. I feel like I haven’t seen that kind of analysis out of all the “the world is more polarized than ever” thinkpieces that keep popping up.

The Internet is a different place, now, what with weaponized hate engagement and all that. But it felt useful to recall that discussion.

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