Flaming is the online act of posting insults, often laced with profanity or other offensive language on social networking sites. These insults may turn into flame wars where two or more individuals unite to exchange or unite against a third party with verbal attacks. Many attribute the emergence of flaming to the anonymity that internet forums provide. Anonymity can lead to disinhibition, which results in the swearing, offensive and hostile language characteristic of flaming. More than just anonymity contributes to the offensive behaviors of flaming such as lack of social cues, less accountability of face-to-face communications, textual mediation and deindividualization are also probable factors.
While these behaviors may be common or expected in some forums they can have dramatic, adverse affects in others. Flame battles can have a lasting impact on some internet communities where even once a flame war has concluded a division or even dissolution may occur.
Deliberate flaming, as opposed to flaming as a result of emotional discussions, is carried out by individuals known as flamers, who are specifically motivated to incite flaming. These users specialize in flaming and target specific aspects of a controversial conversation. In modern Internet parlance, this term has been almost entirely superseded by the term “trolling.”