Is the Internet watering down attitudes/opinions?

On general-interest message board it would be hard to find someone who would write something controversial like “Black people should quit milking the welfare system” or “Hillary is the greatest person ever.” It would just invite a flame war because everyone can get their 2 cents in and will.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Does it moderate people or castrate them?

Maybe that’s why we blogs have become popular, you can talk about stuff without the replys having the same weight as the post.

I’d argue that it is stratifying them more than watering them down. People are gravitating to the forums that suit them. I belong to a private forum where people hold some opinions that people here would find extreme, but the tone is still much more civil than it could ever be here.

I’d argue the opposite. If you look at most boards (i.e., not places like the Dope), like imdb boards, the people just trolling and saying stupid things for the sake of it is mind boggling. Don’t underestimate the people who like starting flame wars.

If you have an established “reputation” on a board you don’t troll though, unless you do it with smilies appended.

I would think that the Internet is making people’s opinions a lot less watered down than they would be otherwise. First, anonymous Internet users don’t face the possible stigma and consequences that would come from expressing an extreme opinion in front of your real-life family/coworkers/whatever. Second, if that person did express their opinion in real life, it’s likely that not everyone listening would agree, the opinion would be challenged, and they might change their mind or at least see another perspective. On the Internet it’s easier to find and stay within a like-minded group that will reinforce, not challenge, the extreme opinion.

The kinds of people who troll or post outlandish opinions often don’t care about establishing a reputation. They never establish a reputation. Or they change user names.

Right, that’s the inverse of what I said.

So there are still going to be people whose opinions aren’t watered down because they just don’t care. If anything, it’s probably a lot easier for them because they can get away with saying things that would get you ostracized in real life, due to the anonymity of the Internet, as Autumn pointed out.

As for the people who do care about their reputations, they’re probably the types who would never have made trollish statements, or would back up their controversial opinions with cites or well made arguments.

I would say it’s watering down opinions, but in the opposite way the OP opines. It’s not that a breadth of opinion is lacking, it’s depth of opinion that’s so hard to find. There’s no shortage of people who want to shout out controversial or offensive things just to watch the shit fly, or simply say ‘me too’ to everything just to feel like they’ve had their say. What’s rare are people who are interested in actual discussion and exchange of opinions, controversial or not.

I’m certainly guilty of it. It’s a lot easier to read what everyone else has written and toss in an occasional one-liner than to marshal your sources, prepare your lines of reasoning, and put together a thesis to present and defend.

I’m kind of with Autumn Almanac.

Sometimes I talk to people in real life where I get this feeling like they’ve just been reading real hard-core internet opinions. They’re dug in. They have misconceptions and stereotypes about the other side.

They don’t sound like someone who has been reading through the opinion pages of the Times or the WSJ, or even watching Tim Russert.

Sure, the majority of opinions you read from people online might be shallow in the way that Sublight suggests, but I don’t think the internet is responsible for that. It just lets us all recognize it.

I’d hate to have seen the opinions of some of the people posting in Great Debates before they were watered down! :eek: