35Don’t Fan the Flames

A flame is an e-mail message that uses negative and not-so-nice language to forcefully deliver an inflammatory opinion or point of view. Flaming is the online version of face-to-face conflict, such that one person makes a provocative remark and the other immediately fires a zinger back, and so on. However, the online medium, unlike the real world, offers anonymity without the fear of embarrassment or physical aggression, so flaming is more common because there’s less personal risk to life and limb.

One single flame can start a “flame war” such that an ongoing back-and-forth rally of insults builds to a deafening crescendo. Many flames are started with the use of ALL CAPITAL LETTERS—the e-mail equivalent of screaming. Imagine ...

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