I believe that it has a lot to do with "the faceless voice". It is easier to insult someone that is not right there in front of you.
I worked in telephone customer service in a bank for a year and a half and many of my phone calls started with a raging lunatic, usually with profane language skills that would make a sailor's head turn. The problem they would present could be easily solved but most my time was spent dealing with the bad flow of emotions (from them and from me!)
In the rare occasions I had to work face to face customer service the same people would come up, almost meekly, to ask for help. This frustrated me to no end until our advanced telephone c.s. training classes. There we found out that the less feedback available, ie facial expressions, body language, voice tones, the easier it is for the person to dehumanize the other.
My feeling is that the internet in general takes even more feedback away, making "flames" easier.
However here at I have noticed that we do have some feedback mechanisims available: Voting, the Chatterbox and the Nodereaper. While this is not the biofeedback we are used to, it is still feedback. This is why I prefer this community over the others I have seen.
puts down the chalk and walks away from the board
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