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Have you ever seen someone blatantly post something on the internet which you just knew was posted to stir up some trouble? You find it everywhere — social media, online discussion forums, e-mails, and even instant messaging programs. These offensive messages and comments are called "flames", and when it's done, it's called "flaming."

Sounds a lot like trolling through, doesn't it? While the two have similarities, flaming is a much more aggressive approach in which a person uses hostile and offensive language and verbally attacks a person online. Often flaming is found in hot debatable topics like education, religion, or global health but it can easily be found anywhere.

Due to the internet's anonymity, posting flame-type messages, known as "flamebait", gives the poster control over provoking an angry response with little implications or repercussions. This usually leads to multiple people hurling insults back and forth, getting fired up and before long, everyone's posting verbal abuse when they'd never dream of doing it to someones face. And now the original poster, the 'flamer', has achieved its goal; to entice a flame war. Now you've got multiple people arguing thanks to mob mentality, often with childish idiosyncrasies and others who are merely trying to defuse the situation, but with a lack of social cues or context, the situation quickly snowballs out of control.

So how do you stay away from being 'flamed' or finding yourself in a 'flame war?' Here are a few easy ideas

  • Responding calmly and politely to comments

  • State your case carefully and succinctly

  • Don't give in and respond. That's what they want!

  • Do not get hostile. If you feel yourself getting upset, simply leave the conversation

  • Be friendly

  • Block and report the person on whatever platform you're on.

If you'd like more information, if you've found yourself in the middle of a flame war, or if you're a victim of being flamed, you can contact many resources to receive help or support.

  • In Australia, the Esafety Commissioner website provides support for people experiencing unwanted activity on the Internet. You can report abuse here.

  • There are online counselling and support services that you can engage with to ensure you're feeling safe and supported throughout this experience. Find them here.

If you or someone you know is at risk or immediate harm, call 000. If you are having thoughts about self-harm or suicide, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.


Hwang, J., Hwansoo, L., Keesung, K., Hangjung, Z., & Ciganek, A. (2016). Cyber neutralisation and flaming. Behaviour and Information Technology, 35(3), 210—224. http://doi.10.1080/0144929X.2015.1135191

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