One of the problems I often notice both professionally and online is the attitude of some people that respect is like something you purchase – you pay your price once, and then have it forever. Maybe in some hierarchical environments such as the military respect some semblance of it based on rank really does work that way, but in most of society respect is more like a rental – it dissipates over time, so you have to keep earning it anew. Unfortunately, people who are fairly new to the experience of feeling like an expert on something often seem to have trouble adjusting to the idea that they can’t just sit back and rest on their laurels forever. They often react very badly when they feel that they’re not being given their due, almost as though someone were trying to steal something from them.

This problem is particularly insidious in online forums, because anybody who ever became a regular at one starts to consider themselves an expert at discussion itself. Just as nobody on the net knows you’re a dog, though, nobody knows you’re a god either. Somebody who believes they have earned universal respect might be shocked to find that nobody else knows that, and that they still have to work to have their views taken seriously. Countless stupid flame wars have started for no other reason than that such a person tried to take out their frustration about this on the people who the feel cheated them of their deserved position in the local pantheon.

The solution, of course, is as simple is it is unattainable: simply accept that respect can only be rented. Railing against that is like railing against gravity, which of course doesn’t stop people from doing it but does cause them to lose even more respect in others’ eyes.