The Internet’s Most Hated: Who Are The Most Annoying People Online?
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In the digital age, the internet and real-life can overlap to the point where they're nearly indistinguishable.
According to the Digital 2019 report, Americans spend approximately 6 hours and 31 minutes of their day online, which is equivalent to 96 days a year. This means the average internet user spends nearly 26% of their year fraternizing with fellow netizens.
But the internet, like real life, is home to millions of people from all walks of life, including people with less-than-good intentions.
According to the First Amendment, racists, white nationalists, and "internet trolls" do have the same right to express themselves as anyone else, and, of course, this can often cause friction.
We asked 1,006 people, all habitual internet users, what types of people and behaviors they hated the absolute most online. Continue reading to see if you agree or if you just might be one of the internet's most-hated users.
The ubiquity of the internet gave birth to a special breed of websurfers: the internet troll. An internet troll is a person who "deliberately sows discord among netizens" by posting controversial materials or provocative posts in an online forum.
It comes as no surprise that over half of habitual internet users cited internet trolls as the most infuriating types of characters on the web. In fact, 37% of social media users have either unfollowed or unfriended someone because of the aggravating nature of their posts.
Treading on the heels of the notorious internet trolls as the most annoying people on the internet were racists. Online anonymity has enabled cyber racism to thrive on the internet as users express their radical viewpoints with no risk of personal backlash.
Despite partisan allegiance, members of both the liberal and conservative parties shared a similar sentiment toward these bigots: 60% and 39%, respectively, recognized them as the most annoying people online.
A relatively new wave of irritating internet users, known as "anti-vaxxers," has been bothering millennials in particular. Forty-two percent of respondents in this generation found themselves annoyed by the movement. This belief system tests the limits of the "to each their own" mentality, as the US is currently seeing a higher number of measles cases than it has in the past 25 years. This resurgence has unfortunately been linked to the parents who have chosen to forgo vaccinating their child(ren) against the disease, earning them the title of "anti-vaxxers."
Some social networks have amassed user bases so large, they make some countries appear small. These days, though, what was once a lighthearted place to share personal stories, connect with loved ones, or repost a silly meme is now a cesspool for libelous and malicious comments.
The majority of respondents - 71% - agreed that Facebook was the most toxic social media platform, yet only 28% stopped logging in because of its supposed toxicity.
Following closely behind Mark Zuckerberg's brainchild was the infamous little blue bird - Twitter. Exactly 60% of internet users said Twitter nurtured a toxic audience. Instagram (27%), Reddit (23%), and YouTube (22%) ranked dramatically lower in perceived toxicity compared to the tweet-centric platform. Interestingly enough, only 11% of social media users said Snapchat was toxic in nature, yet an impressive 42% of users said they dropped the app because of its destructive user base.
When users decided to hang on despite the toxicity, how do they respond to less-than-kind posts? Sixty-nine percent followed through on ignoring, while another 45% chose to unfriend or unfollow the offender.
Online arguments have become so common that they almost feel like a rite of passage into netizen-hood. According to our survey, 20% of people below the age of 38 said they were likely to get into an argument online. Older generations appeared more docile, as only 13% of baby boomers and 14% of Gen Xers said it was likely they would participate in online arguments.
The likelihood of having a digital quarrel also changed depending on gender. Men demonstrated more argumentative tendencies, with 21% of male social media users likely to fight online. Only 14% of women said the same.
The only demographic boundary that didn't influence the likelihood of digital arguments was political leaning. Conservatives and liberals both expressed an identical 17% likelihood to engage in an online dispute.
Though online fights abound, is there ever really a "winner"? Or just two or more losers? It may depend on the topic of debate. Discussions about climate change were considered the number one argument worth having.
Things got dicier when it came to politics, though: It came in second as both the most futile and most worthwhile argument, according to our respondents. Worthwhile or not, politics constituted the number one most frequently argued topic: 27% of participants had fought about politics online before. Gun control was a distant second, accounting for just under half as many online debates.
Watch Your Language
Credibility was immediately lost if a person made a threat in an argument. Ninety-six percent of respondents said a person would lose some or all credibility in that type of hostile situation. Even cursing led to a loss of credibility for 69% of respondents. Consider walking away from an argument if you plan to make threats or curse - it's hardly worth expending the negative energy!
When respondents had had enough of a particular poster, they clicked "unfollow." Irritating posts even had the power to affect relationships: Nearly 1 in 3 respondents had blocked a friend because of their controversial posts, and approximately 1 in 5 had blocked a co-worker. There's even a chance that controversial posts could end your romantic relationship: Nearly 10% of respondents had broken up with their significant other because of something they had posted online.
The internet, though omnipresent, isn't always welcomed with open arms. Respondents were highly vocal about their reasons for disliking the internet world: 63% hated the toxic comments, exactly half hated the cyberbullying, and another 47% just hated the drama that came along with life online.
When it came to politics, only 33% of liberals said they disliked the internet because of too much politics, compared to 42% of conservatives. Though it is Republican President Donald Trump who is notorious for his frequent use of social media, liberals were much less likely to cite political posts as a reason for disliking the internet.
On an ever more serious note, mental health and the internet aren't always friends. In fact, over 25% of millennials said the internet had caused mental health problems for them. It isn't just millennials that felt this way, though: Many experts agree that mental health issues like anxiety and depression can correlate with a constant comparison of your life to what you see on the internet.
The downside of freedom of speech is that a person with prejudiced views has just as much of a right to their opinion and the voicing of that opinion as anybody else. The dissemination of hate speech is nearly impossible to regulate, and it's certainly rampant online. It's so rampant, in fact, that a shocking 3 in 4 social media users agreed that online hate speech has become the norm.
Repeated hate speech has frightening consequences beyond the immediate frustration, anger, and sadness it may cause. Ninety-five percent of social media users also agreed that hate speech at least somewhat made them more likely to act hatefully in real life. Scary stories continue to surface, like the Japanese blogger who was thought to be murdered by one of his frequent online tormentors. Remember that you reserve the right to remove hateful comments on your own posts or block users entirely, which may often be the right move in the name of internet (and real-life) safety.
Baby boomers were the most likely generation to post positive content. Seventy-seven percent said they used their social platforms for positivity as opposed to anger and rants or personal information. A quarter of millennials, however, had used their online voices to share complaints or rants, which we categorized as negative regardless of the specific content.
Positive online behaviors most often manifested as making digital connections with family and friends, followed by sharing funny posts and photos. Often known as memes, these funny photos have created entire careers for influencers - and often lucrative ones at that. The Fat Jewish, for example, has an estimated net worth of $20 million, all stemming from his Instagram page and witty comments.
Even if your digital disposition leans sunny, positive, and upbeat, the presence of negativity and other internet pet peeves are hard to completely avoid. Ultimately, life offline is vastly more important than life online, so make sure to maintain healthy boundaries between the two. And might we suggest intermittent digital detoxes, which can help reverse some of the negative side effects associated with overuse of the internet.
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Methodology and limitations
We used Amazon Mechanical Turk to survey 1,006 people who use at least one major social media platform. Of all respondents, 51% were women, 49% were men, and less than 1% identified with a nonbinary gender. As for generations, 50% of respondents were millennials, 30% were from Generation X, 15% were baby boomers, and less than 7% were from a generation outside of those. The data had a 3% margin of error for social media users in America. The average age of respondents was 39 with a standard deviation of 12 years. To be considered in our data, respondents were required to a) complete all survey questions and b) pass an attention-check question in the middle of the survey. Participants who failed to do either of these were excluded from the study.
For the visualization on "Most Annoying People* on the Internet," respondents were asked to select up to 5 options that they thought were the most annoying people on the internet. We also provided a "not listed" option for respondents to add other types of annoying people on the internet that we did not list in the survey. However, sample sizes for their answers were not large enough to include in the presentation of our findings. For the visualization on "Most Toxic Social Media Platforms*"respondents were asked to select up to 3 options for the social media platforms they felt were the most toxic.
Share Our Results
Internet trolls aren't showing any signs of slowing down, but that doesn't mean facts and positivity don't have their place online. You're welcome to share this article for any purpose so long as you link back to this page to properly credit its contributors for their work.
Please include the following citation:
- Digital trends 2019: Every single stat you need to know about the internet
- Internet Trolling: How Do You Spot a Real Troll?
- Racism on the Internet: Conceptualization and recommendations for research
- US Measles Outbreaks Are Driven By A Global Surge In The Virus
- Facebook's Hate-speech Problem May Be Bigger Than It Realized
- All the President's tweets
- The Internet's Impact on Our Mental Health
- Blogger Murdered by Presumed Internet Troll Just After Giving a Lecture on Dealing With Internet Trolls
- How social media has shaped Black Lives Matter, five years later
- The Fat Jewish Net Worth
- 5 Ways to Do a Digital Detox