Flaming (Internet)

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Flaming is the hostile and insulting interaction between Internet users. Flaming usually occurs in the social context of a discussion board, Internet Relay Chat (IRC) or even through e-mail. An Internet user typically generates a flame response to other posts or users posting on a site, and such a response is usually not constructive, does not clarify a discussion, and does not persuade others. Sometimes, flamers attempt to assert their authority or establish a position of superiority over other users. Other times, a flamer is simply an individual who believes he or she carries the only valid opinion. This leads him or her to personally attack those who disagree. In some cases, flamers wish to upset and offend other members of the forum, in which case they can be called "trolls." Most often however, flames are angry or insulting messages transmitted by people who have strong feelings about a subject.

Some equate flaming with simply letting off steam, though the receiving party may be less than pleased. Similarly, a normal, non-flame message may have elements of a flame—it may be hostile, for example—but it is not a flame if its author seriously intends to advance the discussion. The word "flaming" is also sometimes used for long, intensive and heated discussions, even though insults do not occur.

Although the trading of insults is as old as human speech, flaming on the Internet, like many other online actions, started in the Usenet hierarchies (although it was known to occur in the WWIVnet and FidoNet computer networks as well). Recently, several online forums have actively encouraged flaming amongst fellow posters.It may be that computer users are more likely to flame online than insult others in the real world, as the latter may lead to embarrassment and physical altercations, which online "anonymity" can avoid.


A flame war is usually started with what is called baiting: someone deliberately posts a provocative post that would offend some other participants and thus instigate hostilities.

Causes of flaming

There is no general agreement on the causes of flaming, although a recent study has led to somewhat conclusive evidence. Some common hypotheses are:
* incorrectly interpreting the tone of a written commentcite web |url=http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,70179-0.html?tw=rss.index |title=Wired News: The Secret Cause of Flame Wars |publisher=Wired.com |accessdate=2007-05-22 ]
* social or psychological weaknesses and self-control issuesfact|date=September 2008
* those guilty of flaming may justify it as getting even for having had their feelings hurt initially, so they see it as doing justice by inflicting serious emotional distress on another.fact|date=July 2008
* some flaming may be done with no stronger motive than to get a reaction from the target of the flame, or for the feeling of power or moral freedom of causing emotional distress to another. This is more accurately termed trolling, not flaming.fact|date=July 2008

Flaming has evolved into a competitive internet sport, with organized rules, cash prizes and a cult following. The original website devoted solely to flaming is www.flame4cash.com, which went online in 2000 and is still online. Created by Jeremy "Ruthless1" Daspin and Redeye, Flame4Cash is where organized flaming started and also where the callout was invented and given formal rules. A callout is a challenge by one poster to another to a flame war (judging optional). The standard format is 3 posts per person, 72 hours between post with the person making the callout taking the first post.

See also

* Godwin's Law


Further reading

"Visualizing Argumentation", by Paul A. Kirschner et al (ed), Springer-Verlag, ISBN 1-85233-664-1.

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