“Once a web community has decided to dislike a person, topic, or idea, the conversation will shift from criticizing the idea to become a competition about who can be most scathing in their condemnation.” – The Law of Fail

WAY back in the day, even before I had met Anne, and pretty much when I first started to see the “Internet” as something interesting and new with what APPEARED TO BE, at the time, unlimited potential, the above law was the case. I used to subscribe to various “Bulletin Boards” and USENet groups – which were, for all intents and purposes sort of the grandfather of Facebook. I mean, we did essentially the same thing we do HERE on USENet… just in a text-only format for the most part. At least at first. Someone would say something like “Who thinks that Skinny Puppy is over-rated?” and there would be seventy or eighty some-odd folks who would bicker back and forth all the live-long day about how “So and so has no clue what she is talking about” and “Dude X thinks he’s mister Industrial and so above it all” and snarf, snarf, snarf.

This is where I first encountered the term and the practice of the “Flamewar.”

Basically, here’s the gist to a “Flamewar” – and I don’t honestly give a SHIT if it’s the unwritten Internet Textbook’s definition of what a “Flamwar” is or not… I really like explaining it like this – So, if a person says something that isn’t immediately popular, they are labelled a “Troll.” Now, if you’re up on your mythology… and I HIGHLY recommend ANY VERSION of the AD&D Monster Manuals, Fiend Folios, or Dieties & Demigods if you’re NOT… Trolls can only REALLY be harmed by fire.

Set a troll on fire… he ain’t coming back. That’s the motivation, anyway.

Trying to be REASONABLE with a troll – ergo, FEEDING a troll – only gives a troll strength, stamina and staying power. He will continue with his troll-like behavior if feed with understanding, kindness, and is engaged in conversation… so we can’t have THAT. No. We have to set that motherfucker ON FIRE. YESTERDAY.

So what you get – on USENet… any organized discussion forum… and even here on Facebook from time to time – is a mob mentality. You get all of the Romanian serfs with their pitchforks and their torches charging at the troll to tie him up with wit and sarcasm and references to his parentage and perhaps even the occasional racial or religious slur to sort of galvanize the whole us versus them mentality of the mob… and eventually, the fires of their mental flamethrowers made manifest into bits and bytes and pixels and text will “slay” the troll.

But anywhere you find humans, you’ll find rats and churches. Factions are going to happen. If you put three humans into a locked room with limited food and limited resources, it is ONLY A MATTER OF TIME before TWO OF THEM start to decide HOW they are going to murder the third.

So factions start to form. Lines are drawn. I used to say “Everyone trolls,” and I DO believe this to be true. When a friend of mine posts something like “Hey… here’s something I made. What do you guys think?” and I post “I think your mom was fantastic behind the dumpster last night.”… THAT’s TROLLING.

But see, if I’m friends with this person, we’re IN the same faction. So what an outsider would see as trolling is REALLY me just “busting” some non-literal “balls” of my friend, whom I am able to bust balls on because… well… he’s my friend and knows that I give as good as I get in regards to most things.

“What does this have to do with the Law of Fail, Shannon?”

We are, at our core, communal and social animals. We need a herd. We can survive individually for an indefinite amount of time, sure, but in the end, we are STRONGER when we are in a group of like-minded peers.

Just watch The Walking Dead or The Warriors. You’ll see I’m right.

It’s all about what rats you’ll tolerate and what churches you’re welcomed into, really. It’s about keeping your friends as insulation around you so that you’ll never really have to walk out into the hard-vacuum cold of “everything else out there.” Facebook… real life… the internet is nothing more than a MICROCOSM of the world outside the wall you’re using to hide behind while you read this post. Anything that exists out there exists here, and you – YOU – are the sum total of what you will tolerate.

The ONE THING that I like about Facebook and Livejournal, which are the next logical and reasonable steps forward for USENet groups of the past and less douchebaggy and pedestrian as things like Twitter, is that you get to decide who shares your cheese or your pew. And those people you’ve let in? They get to decide whether or not you have full or limited access to their share of the cheese or the nave.

You get to DECIDE how profoundly the Law of Fail’s effects are here, at least for now, in this particular forum… and I sort of dig that, given that this has become the one reliable way for me to keep track of the Good People who form the cast of characters in my life.

Not so much a rant as a ramble.

Carry on, citizens.