03 May 2008

who is there?

ok, this is gonna be my "holier than thou"-post of the month. but i have been wondering about something for some time now and i feel like exploring it.

i have been chatting online since 1992. i started out with mirc chatting on the undernet and made a lot of *wonderful* friends there, some of whom i visited half way across the world and still stay in touch with over 15 years later, and some of whom i have never known as anything other than a screen name in a chatroom. i have then gone the route via messageboards and newsgroups to blogging where i am still somewhat of a newbie.

something that soon got very apparent after starting interacting with ppl online, was that many ppl (if not most ppl) are different personas online than they are in "real" life. i say real life like that because the sense that some ppl have that ppl they meet online arent real somehow. that the worlds and connections we make and maintain i cyberspace are any less real than the ones we make in the face-to-face world.

and when i say ppl are different personas online, i mean, some ppl might feel more free in exploring other sides of their personalities behind the safety of the keyboard and computer screen. u dont have to worry about the consequences of ur actions as much as u would have had to if u were interacting with ppl face-to-face. its liberating to think u can act in any way u want without having to answer to anyone for ur actions.

but another thing that also became apparent, but not for a while, was that it really is very hard to hide who u truly are, even online. as much of an actor one might be, as many lies as a person can tell or as much as a person tries to be someone they are not, somehow, sooner or later, the real persona starts to shine thru.

what really tickles my curiosity tho is how some ppl can just let go of their good (hopefully) senses, their manners and their compassion for other ppl just because they can. somehow the anonymity of the online world makes it easier for ppl to let go of (what i consider) their basic humanity. what is it that makes ppl think that it is ok to attack other ppl just because they can?

dont get me wrong. im the first to admit i a have a temper. i enjoy a good argument from time to time. but my view is that once u start using personal insults in ur argumentation, u have lost! it doesnt matter if the message is pure as snow, if u start degrading ur opponent or use personal traits or characteristics as a way of discrediting someone, thats it for u. its like shouting against the wind. all ppl will hear are ur insults and the message will get lost.

now, i have met some ppl that dont think twice about using this kind of behavior in face-to-face conversations. they havent been many and really far between. its a funny phenomenon tho, that there seems to be so many *more* ppl like this online. is it because ppl like that gravitate towards the anonymous communities they can find in cyber space to live out their hostile personality without facing the social stigma that comes from it? or can it be that ppl that are usually polite and well behaved somehow see it as appropriate to act differently just because their opponent cant be seen or touched. that if we cant see the hurt in someones eyes, if we cant see their tears or hear their cries, its ok to treat them badly? i dont know. it truly puzzles me.

the story "lord of the flies" comes to mind. kids without supervision, with no parental guidance or consequences. no one to chastise them for bad behaviour. faced with total freedom, some kids chose to let go of their humanity. to become savages. yet some kept their integrity. even when faced with the option to let it all go. faced with threats and hostile attacks, they stood their ground. they did the right thing. even if they didnt have to.

maybe im naive. maybe im an idiot. maybe u are naive. maybe u are an idiot.

but in the end, in my naive world, i will always strive to do the right thing.


Caroline said...

This is one of the best blog posts I have ever read.

eb said...

I think for many, being online is like being in a car. You might have a normally mild mannered person flip you off if he feels you cut him off. That's because he can get away with it. There won't be any real retaliation (most of the time, anyway). Like you suggest, anonymity allows people to act like asses.

Then again, there are lots of people who simply are asses. I'd say many of the real asses on the internet are boys between the ages 13 and 30. I imagine if you were a boy in that age range, you'd probably meet up with more of the online a-holes than you do as a mom of two.

As for meeting people in real time and finding them different than who you think they are online; just like with any art form, it's part of the person, but it's not the whole person. The same can be said for other art forms. You might have an artist who paints dark paintings yet, in real life, they're light hearted and not very dark at all.

You call it a persona. But most of the time, it's not a persona. It's simply one dimension of a multi-dimensional being. Yes, there are those who take on a persona (see the teenage boy thing), but most people don't. It's just that their written words are only one aspect of who they truly are.

The internet is very much like Lord of the Flies but I bet you find those "doing the right thing" are the adults who actually do end up supervising the noisy kids.

SassyFemme said...

I'll use my blog to bitch about things in general (as well as write about the good), but if I have an issue with you I'll either ignore you completely (as in you just no longer exist to me) or I'll email you directly to discuss the issue.

I will also defend myself or friends/family if someone "comes over" and has something negative or inappropriate to say. As in 3-D life, you don't walk into someone's house (cyber home online) and use bad manners or say inappropriate things. If someone does then they'll hear the same thing from me, whether online or in 3-D.

Fran and I have been online since about the same time as you. What we've also noticed over the years is that people can only keep up a front for so long if they're coming across as anything other than who or what they are. Issues (emotional and mental health) and other baggage also tend to come out the longer someone is online.

On our blogs people see snippets of us, good days and bad, nice thoughts and not so nice. It's when you look at the pieces as a whole that you see the person, IMO. Based on that I would disagree with your statement that many, if not most, people are different online than in person. Based on the time I've spent in person with a number of bloggers, you and KL included, they're almost all essentially the same as who they present themselves to be online. Sure there might be pieces of us that didn't show during the face to face time, but the essential makeup of that person came through.

None of us, IMO, are angels, we all have good and bad sides. As in "real life" both sides tend to come out online. Sometimes it stays in emails similar to any conversation two people would have face to face. Other times it might be in comments or a blog entry as part of a larger group discussion. We do need to remember there is no anonymity online, and when something is said, whether appropriate or inappropriate, there is someone behind the screen.

That said, I will stand by anything I written on my blog or in a comment on someone else's blog. I don't do anything anonymously. I don't claim to be an angel, but I will certainly own up to anything I written. Nothing is published in a blog entry or comments that hasn't been looked at and thought about. The sum of the pieces is who I am. If someone decides based on that they don't like me, or I'm phony, then so be it. I know the truth about who I am, my wife knows the truth, and in the end, that's all that matters.

alter rigo said...

eb - i wish it were just young boys acting this way online. i have seen dispecable behaviour on parenting boards as well as blogs and other chat places from ppl who have kids and are well educated.

i agree that there are different sides to all ppl. most of us have a "mean streak" to us, but we keep it to ourselves as much as we can even if we mutter under our breath or flip someone off on the high way. this is because most ppl realise that it is socially unaceptable to act this way with ppl we meet face to face.

sassy - u are one of the sweetest, most caring ppl i have met. everyone is entiteled to protect their home and their loved ones. i am the first to admit that if someone threatened the life or health of my kids i would kill them. simple as that.

SassyFemme said...

No, I'm actually not, not all the time. I can be bitchy and catty like most people. :)

Anonymous said...

"what really tickles my curiosity tho is how some ppl can just let go of their good (hopefully) senses, their manners and their compassion for other ppl just because they can."

Amen to that. Here's a story you might be interested in. Mary Spicuzza, a print journalist, attempted to "out" the Wikipedia editor who had been tormenting her sister. She used her newspaper's resources (she worked for the SF Weekly) to unmask the guy, and for her efforts she was forced to resign for violating "journalistic ethics."

You can read about it here:


You can read what the creepy tormented has to say about it here (scroll to "tawdry tabloid journalist"):


traci said...

I came over from Caroline's place. This is such a true post. I've experienced some of what you write about here and it was very traumatic. It made no difference that it was online. It was painful and ugly. I don't understand people.

Anonymous said...

From the SF Weekly web site:

I edited this story [Wikipedia Idiiots] and I can assure you that Mary did not get fired for this story or any other. Mary decided to leave the paper to take a job with a local documentary filmmaker. She gave her notice before the Wikipedia story was published. She disclosed to me early in the reporting process her sister's fights with Griot and her sister's role is mentioned high up in our story. Bottom line: We stand by the story.

Comment by Will Harper, Managing Editor, SF Weekly — February 26, 2008 @ 01:55PM

Anonymous said...

What is the best way to contact the author of this blog?

Anonymous said...

"Amen to that. Here's a story you might be interested in. Mary Spicuzza, a print journalist, attempted to "out" the Wikipedia editor who had been tormenting her sister. She used her newspaper's resources (she worked for the SF Weekly) to unmask the guy, and for her efforts she was forced to resign for violating "journalistic ethics."

The above post was most likely submitted by former Wikipedia user and subject of the article "Griot." "Griot" was not "outed" by this journalist, but due to his own raucous actions, per http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Griot. Further, per article comments page, SF Weekly Managing Editor Will Harper confirms that this journalist was not fired or forced to resign for this or any other article. The ongoing posts by "Griot" to various blogs, many of which are promptly removed, demonstrate what the attorneys involved refer to as "knowing and reckless falsity." Please remove this post and forward the corresponding IP information to Will Harper, Managing Editor of SF Weekly. Thank you.

alter rigo said...

Anonymous said...
What is the best way to contact the author of this blog?

a good first step is to not leave an anonymous post but to leave some identifying information behind so i know who im talking to.