Flaming is the act of posting or sending offensive messages over the internet, particularly in online discussion forums, newsgroups, or sent through e-mails or instant messaging. A “Flamer” is the title of an internet user who engages in flaming on a regular basis. Flamers seek out opportunities to use excessively vulgar language to attack posts or discussions that are taking place. It is common for flamers to make confrontative statements, known as “flame-bait” for the sake of drawing others into a flaming war, not because they are actually defending a point of view. The primary motives for this are the desire for attention and also the entertainment value derived at the expense of others. Psychologists suggest that flamers anonymously engage in conflicts and indulge in aggressive behavior as a way to avoid the facing of consequences that would occur if such behavior were performed face-to-face. It is a subconscious way of compensating for the extreme lack of self-esteem, self-image, and self-worth.
Flamers tend to have severely immature personalities which are displayed by the blind, vicious lashing out against those whom they perceive as annoying or stupid. It typically takes very little to set them off. These people are not interested in making convincing arguments or resolving conflicts, rather choose to focus on ridiculing others over trivial matters such as incorrect spelling, grammatical errors, pictures, or anything that may upset the other party. They will then use this to discredit and refute any argument or statement their adversary makes.
Flaming varies in severity and is likewise dealt with by varying degrees of legal sanction. Generally, internet laws regard any message or post that threatens, harasses, or degrades someone, as cyber harassment and as such can be considered criminal depending on the location from which the flaming originates. While "flame wars" are not illegal, hateful threats and insults said within them may break the law. Laws vary from country to country but in most cases persistent flaming can be considered cyber harassment, which may result in action by an ISP to prevent access to the site where the flaming is occurring. As internet users become increasingly sensitive to this issue and social networks become more closely connected to the personal real lives of people, what has till now been understood as flaming could be considered defamation in future interpretations.