Obama is known as the hip candidate, the one to appeal to those young people who understand an online life. But one aspect of online behavior might catch up to his campaign in a negative way.
Anyway who has spent any appreciable amount of time online knows that there is very little personal accountability and, as a result, people are rude, vicious, and down right abusive. They "say things" under a cloak of anonymity that they would never say in real life. For example, the site fark.com is a (hilarious) site where people submit news stories with funny headlines and people comment on them. The discussions in the comments can quickly become an all out war between atheists and people of faith, pro-life and pro-choice, liberal and conservative, you name it. The tone of the comments can be down right brutal. Nothing very productive is accomplished but then that is not the point--fark is for entertainment.
The problem comes when people take that "say anything" attitude and bring it an area where a more mature attitude is expected. Note this post from a liberal blog called the Reclusive Leftist. This is not the posting of some right-wing blogger who is going to defend Sarah Palin because the party tells her to. She writes with an online vibe, dropping the f-bomb and several other four letter words in a short post. But notice her observation:
It will complete the alienation of the rest of the Hillary supporters from the Obama camp. How? That’s easy — the Obamabots will do it themselves. Go read the Washington Post blog or anywhere online where the Palin pick is being discussed, and you’ll see the trademark Obama misogyny already out in full force. She’s been on the ticket for two seconds and already the Obamabots are saying she “looks like a porn star,” they’re making rude remarks about her childbearing, they’re ridiculing her intelligence.People are going to areas with free commenting (such as the Washington Post) and unloading on Palin like they would on fark. What is funny in one context becomes offensive in another. Actions have consequences. Imagine an independent woman on the cusp who isn't sure which way she is voting. This woman happens to be a mother, and through that she can relate in some way to Palin. When this mother reads comments ridiculing Palin because she is a mother...well suddenly John McCain might find he has one more vote.
Certainly Obama himself isn't anti-mother or anti-family. But if his supporters expose voters that are not experienced with the harshness of online behavior to a storm of hatred and insults, the consequences could be severe.