Why Older Men Love to Gripe in Internet Forums

Research has proven time and time again that many internet forums have become breeding grounds for irate individuals, and particularly disgruntled middle-aged males who anonymously interact in threads for no other reason than to let of steam. But is this just another poke at the over 40s or is there something in these findings?

The 50ish Study on Forum Netiquette

Over the past few weeks, we lurked in a handful of online forums where there are lots of male members. I’d like to say our findings were positive and that all this harping on about how middle-aged guys are hostile and lack any kind of netiquette inside forum threads is unfounded. Unfortunately that wasn’t our experience.

Although some younger members might eff-and-blind just for kicks, the real nastiness, persistent arguing, and soapbox ranting, came mainly from the older guys, identifiable by their profile pages and various posts they’ve made over time.

Is Anonymity is to Blame?

The majority of these rabble-rousers were totally anonymous in that they revealed very little ‘actual’ information about themselves. There’s nothing wrong with online anonymity per se, and many forum participants chose to be unidentified for all manner of reasons personal to them. But our studies showed that it was those shrouded in the most secrecy as to who they were, where they came from, and what they do, to be the most unpleasant members.

When summing up, the worst of the worst were the most secretive characters whereas the more pleasant members often signed off using their name or handle, and some even had an actual photo of themselves in their personal profile pages.

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The Conclusion

Our research showed that the men that live in Forums (logged in all day every day), are largely from the same demographic, which falls into these 4 categories:

  1. Angry, strongly opinionated, white western male.
  2. Stuck-in-the-mud (comparing everything negatively with how things used to be).
  3. Age range typically 40s and 50s.
  4. Retired, semi-retired, or unemployed.

Point 4 is assumed by the countless hours these guys spend interacting in forums daily.

Although we didn’t get to interview any of these blokes, we got the feeling that a lot of them are either divorced, or in unhappy relationships. We came to this conclusion by the way so many of them slagged off women (all women), at any given opportunity.

Ole Misery Guts or Desperately Unhappy?

There have been numerous reports floating around this past 18 months or so that suggest Western middle-aged men are perhaps the most unhappy members of modern society. The huge increase in suicide rates with the over 45s seems to back this up. Even so, being hostile and augmentative online is certainly not a solution to problems that obviously have little or nothing to do with the strangers we meet on the World Wide Web.

We’d love to take this research further and look for the root cause into what makes these men so aggressive and self-opinionated. But this would surely be an impossible task even getting them to admit to their online obnoxiousness, let alone have an open conversation about it.

Some of the Nicest Men you could ever wish to meet?

Older men probably participate in forum threads because they’re dead easy to use and it gives the individual the opportunity to be whoever he wants to be, thanks to the anonymity provided by cyberspace. There’s also a chance that some of the nastiest men found in forums are perhaps some of the nicest people you could ever wish to meet in the real world, face to face.

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Name and Shame?

We did think about providing links to our random collection of sites, but after giving it some careful consideration, we decided it wouldn’t be fair to the webmasters of those projects to highlight their interactive forums in a negative light.

The unpleasant characters found in forums are usually a minority (even though they stir up the most trouble), so it would be unbalanced on our part to zoom in on a marginal area on what are otherwise well run and popular interactive message boards.

What was interesting though, was that the most foul-mouthed men were all discovered on local forums, i.e. general topic forums specific to cities or regions of countries. Expatriate forums were the worst of the worst. The more respectable members found online tended to be most evident in the health and fitness type message boards.

Summing Up:

The internet is a wonderful invention. It brings people together, gives access to information and education, and in many ways, thanks largely to social networks, it has become the great uniter. However, there is a darker side to this infobahn of ours.

Cyberspace has also become a Great Divider.

Cyber bulling, cybercrime, and the option for total anonymity, have created criminals and undesirables out of people who would perhaps never become such unsavory characters should the internet never have existed.

In many ways, the so called Information Super Highway, is unstable, unsafe, unpredictable, and at the time of writing, largely unpoliced. And despite all the data out there, there is also huge amounts misinformation floating around, a danger in itself.

It’s Nice to Nice

It’s nice to be nice. It’s not nice to be nasty! But the one thing the internet seems to bring out in many men who frequent interactive sites, blogs, and forums – is their worst!

We have the 50ish interactive forum here. It’s still too young and quiet to analyse in any great detail, but with our small membership, there have already been a couple of agitators trying to stir up fellow members on various topics. Rest assured we will do everything to moderate it so that is becomes a place for camaraderie, rather than enmity 😉

About Andy Aitch

Musician, writer, netentrepreneur and founder of 50ish.org, the site created for uniting middle-aged men the world over.

Motto: a man is not old until his dreams become his regrets

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