Some people get paid to ride herd over a roomful of squabbling adolescents, and whatever they're paid, surely it's not enough. For the rest of us, assuming we don't have squabbling adolescents of our own, there is always the Internet chat room, a place where discourse all too often is dominated by people who never matured past middle school.

Arguably the worst such venue is America Online, largely because AOL represents itself as being accessible to everyone regardless of technical skills, meaning that literally any idiot with a keyboard can get in and show off. There are a couple of AOL rooms I visit on occasion, and often it's worth the trip, but it's difficult to maintain interest in a room when you know it's going to be invaded by trash-mouthed morons who demand to be the center of attention no matter what. Actual teen rooms, surprisingly, tend to have fewer such outcroppings, largely because teens are still highly susceptible to peer pressure and overt misbehavior will drop you into the ranks of the Uncool Kids at only slightly-subsonic speed. If you're desperate for acceptance, and at this age you are, you'll revise your approach rather quickly.

Immature adults, on the other hand, are not so easily trainable. Possessed of an exaggerated sense of entitlement and an incorrect visualization of the First Amendment — no one in the private sector is obligated to give anyone even the slightest semblance of a soapbox no matter what you thought you heard in civics class — they strut into the room and spew out the most unpleasant sort of drivel, which they quickly defend when they're called out for their rudeness and lack of consideration. (Had I a dime for every time I've heard "But he started it," I could probably buy AOL.) And you know these people don't dare behave like this in Real Life. Were one of them to act up like this in, say, a restaurant, he'd be lucky if he were merely asked to leave; more likely, he'd be decked by someone who had had enough of this crap.

AOL does provide an Ignore function, but it isn't really enough. What is needed is a Snub function which, if activated by a substantial number of room occupants, isolates the offender from everyone in the room at once. Deprived of an audience, he'll have to go to some other room — or, better yet, to some other service. Life is too short to put up with people who won't grow up.

The Vent

#405
  15 September 2004

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