Flaming is the often deliberate act of posting or writing messages on Internet bulletin boards and message groups that have the intent of insulting or creating dissent within a group. An Internet flame is often filled with coarse language and personal insults. It is meant to hurt people’s feelings, get them fired up, and not to further conversation on a personal issue. It is never conversational, but it may be meant to upset an entire group, provoking conversation about someone’s flame or on the practice of flaming in general.
Sometimes, people called Internet trolls intentionally practice flaming to provoke a group of people. This may be merely for the purpose of annoying a group, or may be an attack aimed at a group of people who have an interest not shared by the flamer. In a political message board for electing a certain presidential candidate, someone from an opposite camp might join the group and deliberately practice flaming to disorganize the efforts of the group. Piles and piles of messages that divert the group’s interest from their initial intent can follow a flame.
At other times, egotism causes a person to practice flaming. A person may feel that his or her opinion is the only valid one on the subject and state so in an insulting way. This may result in flame wars, where people on two different sides of an issue state opinions only and insult the person who “started the war.” Flame wars may only be resolved when the people involved decide that multiple opinions on subjects are to be expected.
Sometimes people are provoked into flaming by the content of someone else’s discussion. For example a moms' Internet group could get fired up by someone’s comments on spanking. Instead of offering support to each other, discussions and flames can erupt around this controversial issue. Often these issues cool down after a week or two of flaming posts or emails, but they may get brought up again and again, especially as new people join the group and old people exit it.
Flaming also can be the practice of offering criticism that is not constructive. A product website might receive flames about their product. These flames are usually laced with strong language and multiple expletives.
Some people theorize that flaming is common on the Internet because there is relative anonymity in Internet posting. People who flame are not that likely to actually insult people in person. Flaming on the Internet offers a degree of protection not likely to be afforded in a face-to-face conversation. On the other hand, people with the right spyware can find out the identity of others, so it’s simply not a good or safe practice. It’s considered in most cases, a grave violation of netiquette to practice flaming.