Oh, so this forum IS a popularity contest?
Most social events are popularity contests. It's how our social hierarchy is built. While we may walk around on two limbs, use silverware to cut out our food and wear pieces of cloth and skin combined into garments, we are, at the core, still animals. As with all animals, a flock needs a leader, and usually that leader is the most popular person (intimidating people are popular) in the flock - the alpha. The problem with modern society is that the number of alphas has gone up. We are no longer afraid to oppose "the man" as it were, so we have an abundance of alphas competing with each other for dominance.
The internet is no different. In fact, with anonymity being so prevalent in cyberspace, even more people are emboldened to challenge the alphas. Betas and omegas, who would normally support the alphas, are now also battling for acceptance and their slice of the hierarchic top. Some people feign apathy, like myself, but in truth we long for acceptance. You don't know me, or my past here, but if you did, you'd see that I'm not just blowing smoke out of my ass. I came, I saw a social hierarchy, I was placed in the omega caste and I tried to break out. I failed, largely due to my poor command of the language and the lingo, and had to seek out a new flock. Like with any challenge, be it social or not, you risk losing.
So, why am I comfortable enough to tell you this? Is it because I have the security that comes with dominance? Short answer would be "yes". I'm not the "Lord of the Board" so to speak, but I have been accepted into the social hierarchy of this new flock as a beta. As a beta, I constantly fight for dominance with the alphas, but I also know that I am "second in command" - if you can call it that - and it gives me a measure of satisfaction and tranquility. That doesn't mean I've left the social hierarchy, though, which is why, if you look at a closely knit social forum, like the Bored Druid Thread, you'll still see that whenever someone posts something that might threaten the position of another poster, that poster will disagree quite strongly. We don't fling feces at each other, anymore. Having discovered the art of counterarguments, we now choose to present our own opinions and back them up with facts. A philosopher with a degree in didactic pedagogy would say that we have become "educated".
Of course, sometimes, when the challenge is brutal enough, we revert back to the primal stage and start screaming and throwing bodily fluids around - figuratively speaking, of course, since this is a textual medium.
Edit: I'm speaking from an ethological point of view. It's not like we have a coronated leader, and no one would ever agree that they were locked into a social hierarchy (independence is a vital deception for humans), but it's there.
Look at me sounding like I know sh*t about sh*t. I don't, I really don't; but it's always fun to pretend, right? Edited, Nov 25th 2012 11:12pm by Mazra