I'm a relatively new Stack Overflow user. I was stung by a downvote I received when I answered an ambiguous question asked by a relatively inexperienced user. Perhaps the downvoter was peeved that the OP had accepted my answer when they thought their interpretation of the question was correct. I couldn't be bothered putting time into Stack Overflow answering questions for a few months after that.
I know some users will say that downvotes shouldn't be taken personally but it's human nature to do so. Stack Overflow also strongly emphasizes the importance of reputation to new users and encourages them to grow their reputation as fast as possible so an early downvote is particularly discouraging. I've seen some truly terrible questions and answers but it's much more useful to leave a comment requesting clarification or a corrective suggestion than downvote them. I feel far more offended by selfish fire and forget users who ask lots of questions, get lots of reasonable answers and don't accept any of those answers.
To a new user Stack Overflow can feel like a bit of a clique dominated by high reputation users. High reputation users have clearly done a great deal for the community but is it helpful to the community as a whole to reward them with the ability to discourage new users with a trivial dent in their own reputations?
I'm now half expecting a flurry of downvotes to this answer from hawkish high reputation users who like the status quo and the sense of power they get from easily downvoting other users. Let's find out...