Internet Forum People: A Taxonomy

Spend any time on the Interwebs these days and you will inevitably end up reading one kind of forum or another. These days there seems to be one of these for every normal human interest and probably the interests that aren’t all that normal. I have two observations to make about these forums, one short and one long.

First, for some reason, they all use the same sort of shitty PHP forum software. What’s up with this software anyway? Readers old enough to remember the original USENET will also remember a terminal-based message reader called “trn” which, while primitive did three basic things that all of these shitty forums do not:

(a) Keep track of what I have read and only show me new messages. (2) Organize the messages into a nice threaded tree of messages and replies. © Let me edit my own messages in an interface that does not blow.

Almost 20 years of web forums and almost none of them do even one of these things correctly. Let’s hear it for the march of technology.

Second, for the most part, they are populated by the same types of people.

Here then is my humble and no doubt incomplete taxonomy.

Smugly Superior

This guy is smarter than you, better read than you, knows more about food than you, and in general is just better than you in every way. Most importantly, he has better taste than you. Just ask him. He will pontificate in the most pompous and self-important way about any subject while at the same time steering the subject of the conversation to why his sense of taste is refined and erudite while your preferences are no better than the drunk homeless guy lying near that sewer grate across the street.

Douchebag

Very common in the forums, but is really native to the Xbox Live service. Never has anything interesting to say, but does have a large catalog of racial slurs, sexist attacks and generally just mean things to say. Would call his own mother a gay useless n00b without a clue about life if it would make him feel more like a man on the Internet.

Mr. Can’t Let Go

Here is the conversation that you will regularly have with this guy:

You: I like marbles. MCLG: No way man, oranges! You: What do oranges have to do with marbles? MCLG: No way man! ORANGES You: Ok. You win. MCLG: NO WAY MAN, ORANGES!!

You get the idea. This guy is so on message that he can’t tell when people have given up listening to him anymore.

Too Much Information Guy

Posts to Internet forums for dating advice, or legal advice involving his divorce, or to rail against his idiot co-workers, or to come out as a moonlighting prostitute. You get the idea.

Knows it All

This person’s entire self-worth is tied up in a single activity: correcting factual errors, no matter how small, in any forum post on the entire planet. You used to need a fantastically huge library and a good memory to be able to do this, but these days all you really need is google.

Reflexive Contrarian

Constructs all of his opinions by simply reversing whatever the current consensus is. If the majority of people decided that the sun comes up every day, this guy would decide to be against that position just so he could avoid being lumped into the “mass market” bucket of dweebs and morons.

The Persecuted Idiot

Finally, the true inspiration for this catalog and the probably the single most common driving personality in your average active forum. Everyone is against this person. No matter what the subject, any discussion with him will eventually turn into an argument over how many times he has been abused, attacked, mischaracterized, patronized, misunderstood and in general, well, just persecuted.

The problem is that the guy will consistently make indefensible statements and then dig himself into a trench and defend them against all comers until the heat death of the universe. Of course, this just adds to his persecution complex.

Usually this person mixes parts of all the other personalities in the list into his overall “forum persona”. God help you if you get two of these guys at once talking to each other. I’m fairly sure that the known physical laws cannot yet model what would happen to the Internet if this happened.

Hopefully this guide will help you in your interactions with the various personalities in the Internet forums. It can get ugly, so be careful out there.