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Flaming usually occurs in the social context of an Internet forum, Internet Relay Chat (IRC), Usenet, by e-mail, game servers such as Xbox Live or Play Station Network, social media services, and on video-sharing websites such as You Tube.

It is frequently the result of the discussion of heated real-world issues such as politics, religion, and philosophy, or of issues that polarize sub-populations, but can also be provoked by seemingly trivial differences.

These users specialize in flaming and target specific aspects of a controversial conversation.

In addition to the problems of conflicting mental models often present in online discussions, the inherent lack of face-to-face communication online can encourage hostility.

Professor Norman Johnson, commenting on the propensity of Internet posters to flame one another, states: The literature suggests that, compared to face-to-face, the increased incidence of flaming when using computer-mediated communication is due to reductions in the transfer of social cues, which decrease individuals' concern for social evaluation and fear of social sanctions or reprisals.

Perceived unfairness can include a lack of consideration for an individual's vested interests, unfavorable treatment (especially when the flamer has been considerate of other users), and misunderstandings aggravated by the inability to convey subtle indicators like non-verbal cues and facial expressions.

Evidence of debates which resulted in insults being exchanged quickly back and forth between two parties can be found throughout history.

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