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OneWriter
03-12-2010, 11:26 PM
I would like to share a general reflection of mine, after months of lurking around public forums, and browsing blogs and twitters. I have to say, I'm a little uneasy, and I am curious as what other people think. I believe the Internet has brought out many, MANY voices (including mine) that would otherwise be quiet and shut in their shell. So my question is: is this good or bad?

See, when I'm browsing a forum or reading a blog, and ponder whether or not I should reply and most importantly, whether or not my thoughts on the matter are relevant enough to be posted, I am sitting at my computer, most likely still in my pajamas, and staring at my children as they smile back at me from my computer wallpaper. I have to say, my children are LOVELY when they are holding STILL and QUIET, something that happens ONLY in photos. So there, that instantly puts me in a good mood. So I sift through the Internet and my jaw drops. Because what I see -- well, not always, most of the times what I read is enjoyable and useful, yet often enough to make me ponder, I see people snarl, rant, ramble (like I'm doing now), whine, seek revenge through long, whiny posts on their blogs. Is that what the whole blogging and posting on forums is meant for? Why is it that it is so easy to stray away from its original purpose? And why do I often feel that the Internet has become a huge kindergarten?

After much brooding on the subject, I have come to the conclusion that the main problem with the Internet is that it is faceless. I stare at my kids, maybe somebody else has flames and red devils on their wallpapers. Think about it though: would we have so much to say (between blogs and posts), if each time instead of typing in the comfort of our homes, we'd be standing on a stage, mike in our hands, thousands of people staring us? But wait: the thousands of people ARE out there, even more, it's just that they are reading instead of staring (even worse: verba volant, scripta manent!!!), and I don't see their faces, and they don't see mine..... Ouch. Problem. Because you see, I think that this has a soporiferous effect on our frontal lobes, that part of the brain that prompts us not to snarl a F.O. when somebody steps on our toes in the street and grimace instead a pained, "It's OK..."

I think right now my lazy frontal lobes are telling me that I have been rambling long enough and it's time to quit. I wonder though if other people have been thinking about this, or if it's just me going through a philosophical stage in my life. As a disclaimer though, I will say that I had browsed a few literary forums before finding AW, and I have yet to find a more civilized, composed, and useful forum. Which is pretty amazing given how many members it has. So, thank you all!!

Al Ross
03-12-2010, 11:40 PM
I've always been aware their is some other human behind the words or characters in online games. I always treat the people the way I would someone I meet. Maybe even better.

I do admit the distance makes in different, not that they are less human to me but more that for me it is easier to open up. I approach someone online sooner that offline. What takes offline weeks can take online in minutes hours. People I meet or talk to online see earlier the me the people offline see. It works great for me.

I do understand why people do the things they do online, it's indeed cause like you say most do not see the human behind the words. They use the distance as a shell to keep emotions and feelings away, to shield them self. They do things online they otherwise would not dare to do, in a way showing the bad side of them, but not owing up to it, cause it is just online, not real. That way they do not have to see the bad in themselves. They stay in the mirage they created for themselves.

It's difficult for us humans to see our own wrong and accept them. Cause of society we want to be our best, conform to the norm, be political correct and just all the time. (except at those times online. ) In a way it is human nature and in my opinion simultaneously against our nature. We should embrace what we are the good and the bad. (Bah I am preaching now...)

Anyway it would help if we make our self see the other human behind the screen.

Polenth
03-12-2010, 11:49 PM
I'd still have something to say if you put me on a stage, but I'd be shouted down by the audience before I had the chance to say it. I think it's a good thing that people who'd usually be silenced can have a say.

It's not as though anyone is forced to read what someone else posts on the internet. You can walk away from an internet rant at any point. The same can't be said for an angry person in real life... try to walk away from them and they'll follow you. They may even attack you.

shadowwalker
03-13-2010, 12:00 AM
I have no problem with the glut of angry, rude or generally immature people who spout off about anything and everything on the 'net; I can read or not read, respond or not respond. My problem is that so many of these people think that the same behavior is acceptable in real life. They mistake rudeness for being "blunt", and cuss words for "free expression".

There's a time and place for almost any kind of behavior or speech - the problem is recognizing when and where they are.

geardrops
03-13-2010, 12:17 AM
normal person + anonymity + audience = total fuckwad

Otherwise known as the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory (http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19/). Sitting proven since 2004 :)

OneWriter
03-13-2010, 12:40 AM
normal person + anonymity + audience = total fuckwad

Otherwise known as the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory (http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19/). Sitting proven since 2004 :)

:roll:

OneWriter
03-13-2010, 12:45 AM
Geez, it's sad though... Sort of that bitter feeling the movie Idiocracy leaves you with... You laugh and laugh, and at the end you think, Geez...

Of course, I put myself in that equation as well!!!

Sevvy
03-13-2010, 01:01 AM
normal person + anonymity + audience = total fuckwad

Otherwise known as the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory (http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19/). Sitting proven since 2004 :)

Agreed. As soon as I started reading this thread, my mind went to this comic.

Phaeal
03-13-2010, 01:28 AM
I have the Atlantic Ocean off Wellfleet as my wallpaper.

I've been in so many Internet communities now that I've got the sociology of it pretty much down. It's an exaggerated version of the power structure of the basic community, with the exaggeration possible due to the relative anonymity and immunity. If the extremes are polite restraint and trolly snarkitude, then the bell curve shifts toward right or left depending on the reason for people to be in the community. Just for a couple examples: Communities set up to support people with a particular illness or problem tend toward the polite. Communities set up for the exchange of gaming tips and braggadocio tend toward the rowdy.

I find that when you spend enough time in a community, you get a keen sense of who's who and who's what. You may even have a better sense of the person's true nature than those who have to deal with the person face-to-face, when the real-life social constraints are on. On the other hand, your keen sense may tell you that all you know about this individual is that he's working a persona, or two, or many. Which, of course, is telling in itself.

For utilitarian purposes, I tend to use these on-a-continuum classifiers for Internet community members:

-- Sincere/Trustworthy through Evasive/Unreliable
-- Good Citizens through Berserkers
-- Cordial through Lives-To-Snark
-- Unflappable through Hair-Trigger Temper/Instantly Offended

So, an individual could be sincere, but of a hair-trigger temper. Another could be evasive but cordial. Another could be a sincere snarky unflappable berserker except when she's bit by a momentary good-citizen bug. I respond to individuals as I've classified them. Since the classification is so complex, this still makes Internet life very interesting.

Ah, the Internet community, it's a fascinating study, like all things human. You know, we should never be bored. ;)

benbradley
03-13-2010, 03:01 AM
So what else have you been reading beside AW - Usenet newsgroups, maybe?

Kaiser-Kun
03-13-2010, 06:31 PM
I think it has a lot to do with punishing rude behavior. The slower or lamer the punishment is, the jerkass posts keep multiplying until they become YouTube comments.

LuckyH
03-13-2010, 07:02 PM
A giant kindergarten or a unique place to observe from a distance? A place to learn something about writing or a place that destroys your voice? A psychotherapists ultimate nightmare, or the philosophers paradise? Or simply good, or bad?

For those of us old enough to remember, what was it like before we had an audience of millions at the touch of a button? Did a quiet chat down the pub fulfil the same role as the internet does now? If we were talking down the pub we wouldn’t be interrupted by some silly troll, would we?

I believe, without any proof whatsoever, that we can recognise a fellow member after reading a decent number of their posts, and that we wouldn’t be disappointed on meeting them face to face – we wouldn’t be disappointed by our judgment.

Having thought about it some more, I believe the internet, used sensibly, is beneficial. The trouble is, I don’t feel like being sensible all the time.

OneWriter
03-13-2010, 07:30 PM
Having thought about it some more, I believe the internet, used sensibly, is beneficial. The trouble is, I don’t feel like being sensible all the time.

Nice. I agree. There are several things that got me thinking about this. First of all, it's how I came to this board and started posting. I was ANGRY at somebody, and that anger brought me to post something that I should have discussed privately with the person I was having issues with. So, I've been thinking, if I didn't have the Internet, I would have ranted for days with my husband, he would have told me at least a million times how stupid I was to give money to a person I didn't know, and after a few weeks I would have shrugged it off. I don't drink, so no pub for me, but I do have family and friends to vent with. Except I was mad, and it felt so good to vent publicly instead of privately. I regretted it.

But then it's not just that. It's that now everybody is entitled to say things on the Internet. I've been looking for an agent and found agents blogs extremely useful. At the same time, because theirs is the hell of a job, they too need to vent. Except I don't think it's right for them to vent on their blogs, even though I can see how easy a slip it is. I mean, I've made the mistake myself. And yet I see their rants and, as a writer, I'm instantly drawn away. My selfish self made great use of the info on those blogs and then, when it was time to query, decided that the one agent for me was one with solid sales and NO internet presence.

So yes, the Internet is great. It gives voice to people that wouldn't otherwise have a voice, and it lets us vent even though sometimes that venting should be kept private (but like you said, we don't always feel like being sensible, sometimes we feel like, "what the heck"). It has a ton of information and it reaches everywhere, and I would have NEVER found an agent if it weren't for the Internet. At the same time, like all good things, it needs to be used with caution, like a medicine that you take in little doses for the benefit, and if you ever overdo it, it can poison you.

Silver King
03-14-2010, 07:08 AM
...I believe, without any proof whatsoever, that we can recognise a fellow member after reading a decent number of their posts, and that we wouldn’t be disappointed on meeting them face to face – we wouldn’t be disappointed by our judgment...
I also feel that way. And it doesn't take that many posts to read between the lines and understand what most people are all about. It would seem far more difficult to hide our true selves online, where we are stripped of voice inflection and body language that often helps to mask our intentions in "real" life.

Sooner or later, given enough posts, our true colors will show, for better or for worse.

LuckyH
03-14-2010, 08:55 PM
Earlier today, I was reading an article on internet addiction. It started off, predictably enough, by describing a teenager addicted to internet gaming. I nearly stopped reading, but an interesting graph made me read more.

I became aware of an unusual smugness, anything about addictions normally frightens me and some of my habits are best left unexplored, nothing too serious, but I like a drink and, despite advice from an entire planet, still smoke. My smugness increased as the well-written article rolled on.

Treatment centres for teenagers addicted to war games – physical symptoms when the internet was withdrawn – an addiction leading to acts of violence in real life; I was safe, wasn’t I? And then I sat up with a jolt, my smugness evaporated, I read the word again, yes, no mistake, there it was – Chess.

How can these silly people equate internet war games with internet chess? I play chess every day, so what? I don’t drink every day, usually only at weekends, so what? I smoke every day. OK, I worry about the last two, but chess?

What did I miss when the storm blew down our telegraph pole and I was without the internet for a few days? What did I do when I hurried down to the internet café?

I wish I hadn’t read that article. (And I hope that guy from Ohio offers me another Queen sacrifice).

Rowan
03-15-2010, 02:05 AM
I also feel that way. And it doesn't take that many posts to read between the lines and understand what most people are all about. It would seem far more difficult to hide our true selves online, where we are stripped of voice inflection and body language that often helps to mask our intentions in "real" life.

Sooner or later, given enough posts, our true colors will show, for better or for worse.

QFT... :)

shaldna
03-15-2010, 03:37 PM
normal person + anonymity + audience = total fuckwad

Otherwise known as the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory (http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19/). Sitting proven since 2004 :)


God this.

On so so many levels.

OneWriter
03-17-2010, 03:55 AM
But do you guys think people do it on purpose, or is it that some people just can't help themselves? I'm saddened by how certain threads end up in a tunnel of hostilities. It all starts because somebody said or did something "unpopular", but then what's the point of snarling at one another, we all jump on the wrong side of the fence if we do so... shouldn't it be obvious?

Sigh. No, not kindergarten. Battlefield. That's how it feels, sometimes.

Polenth
03-17-2010, 04:53 AM
But do you guys think people do it on purpose, or is it that some people just can't help themselves? I'm saddened by how certain threads end up in a tunnel of hostilities. It all starts because somebody said or did something "unpopular", but then what's the point of snarling at one another, we all jump on the wrong side of the fence if we do so... shouldn't it be obvious?

The ones who do it on purpose are trolls. I don't think most people intend to be bad-tempered or prone to attacking others. For better or worse, it's their personality. They'd treat you like that in real life too.

Some things do change the chances. If people know you they're more likely to assume you made a mistake and ask, rather than attacking first and asking later.

The environment also has an impact. Given the lack of tone in posts, it's easy for people to attribute the tone of the sub-forum to every post. A happy sub-forum brings the assumption of an unintentional meaning. A temperamental sub-forum brings the assumption of drama and anger. About 99% of the time where someone on AW has taken something I said in the worst possible way, it's happened in the same sub-forum.

I don't think it's worth getting sad about though, anymore than it's worth people getting angry over tiny things. If people want to shout, they're going to shout. If they don't want to ask people to clarify before assuming a bad meaning, they're not going to change and start asking people. The only thing you can change is how you react: you don't have to let it get to you.

Brutal Mustang
03-17-2010, 05:21 AM
For me, the internet is a much needed outlet to unleash my inner self ... for better or worse. Before the internet, I had pen pals.

Silver King
03-17-2010, 05:42 AM
...The only thing you can change is how you react: you don't have to let it get to you.
This is excellent advice. And even when people do get to you, don't give them the satisfaction of knowing your true reaction. Play it cool and try to respond without rancor; or better yet, walk away from the discussion altogether and leave them panting for the heated reaction you refuse to convey.

Then unsubscribe from that thread and join other, more useful discussions that won't bring your blood pressure to a boil.

OneWriter
03-17-2010, 06:04 AM
Thanks guys. It wasn't personal, it was just a general consideration.

happywritermom
03-17-2010, 08:53 PM
I recently quit a moderating job on a large, social networking forum because a handful of women were just horrible, rude, nasty people. They berated me, the other moderators and the administrators of the forum routinely. They berated other members constantly and "bullied" them out of threads. I found myself spending too much time online, too much time thinking about it when I was offline and way too much time worrying for my safety and the safety of my children.

This was a geographically based moms forum, so many of these women who ganged up on others online actually got together in real life. The virtual and real collided and that was not good.

I have always believed that a lack of anominity keeps us honest. That's one reason I put my Web site and my blogs in my siggies on all forums. If you check out the forums SheWrite.com, you will see little, if any, of the malicious behavior you see on other forums and I think that's because there are no user names. Everyone uses her own name.

Some people have a hard time checking their own behaviors in face-to-face conversation. With no nonverbal cues, they are lost. They don't know how to behave. So they write what they feel. But, as others have noted, we have choices. I quit that job and I no longer even lurk on that forum. I have quit other forums that have degenerated as well. I have four awesome kids, an amazing husband and a bunch of books to write. I enjoy Internet forums, but I can take them or leave them.

benbradley
03-17-2010, 10:50 PM
Here's the slides for a presentation at SXSW on February Album Writing Month. The site has grown greatly over the years, yet is still (like AW) a great place to hang out. This is put on by the owner who learned a lot of lessons and did a lot of the right things on the way.
http://fawm.org/settles.sxsw2010.pdf

An example of bad forums where drama queens and trolls roam despite huge numbers of rules is the discussion forums on a certain large online auction site.

benbradley
03-17-2010, 11:00 PM
...
Some people have a hard time checking their own behaviors in face-to-face conversation. With no nonverbal cues, they are lost. They don't know how to behave. So they write what they feel. But, as others have noted, we have choices. I quit that job and I no longer even lurk on that forum. I have quit other forums that have degenerated as well. I have four awesome kids, an amazing husband and a bunch of books to write. I enjoy Internet forums, but I can take them or leave them.
This reminds me of the discussion email groups for some UU churches I've been associated with. This is an odd situation - there are no trolls and most people know one another face-to-face by name. Some people aren't "that" bad in person, yet they don't know they should "limit" themselves when typing online. For most, it's their first use of an online forum. I've seen a couple cases where someone has left the church because of someone else's online posts constantly asking this and that about church business.

Then there's technical problems and operator error, as in the email to the host of a dinner party - "Hi, Joan, I know I shouldn't ask this but will Mrs. Jones be attending? I can't stand her and won't be able to make it if she's there." - it was mistakenly sent to the whole list instead of only to the host.

OneWriter
03-18-2010, 12:58 AM
An example of bad forums where drama queens and trolls roam despite huge numbers of rules is the discussion forums on a certain large online auction site.

YES! People are SO nasty on that one, I lasted one week and left.

LuckyH
03-18-2010, 02:04 AM
I think the faceless internet can easily turn people into cynical forum members because of the vastness of different opinions all crammed into small places. I’ve also found writers, generally, to be sensitive people, at least when they start their journey, and sensitive, intelligent people are more easily offended than the braying, attention-seeking mob posting one-liners for cheap laughs.

Although I should know better, I’ve sometimes offended people, unintentionally, when trying to help them overcome their obvious anxieties over trivial matters.

The sticky subjects of religion or sexuality are always a problem, racism is a greatly misunderstood disaster; yet humour is essential when discussing any of them.

And the simple answer is that you can’t be hurt, upset or offended by something you haven’t read.

Rowan
03-18-2010, 03:33 AM
At the end of the day you have to ask yourself:
1) Does that person's opinion really matter?
2) Do you really care what they think?
And the answer is always: Nope.
Most of the time after you calm down and take a step back, you realize they're about as significant as a pimple on a monkey's @ss. And, no--not trying to be snide but just pointing out the reality of the internet. You can't see the person on the other end and you have no nonverbal cues to guide you. And let's face it, some people are just plain nasty because that's what floats their boat (probably in real life too).

Yeah, sometimes I'm guilty of losing my temper in here but then I put down the gun (just kidding), step back, and ask myself questions #1 and #2... and I always come to my realization and it's all good. :) You've just gotta let it go.

misselainie
03-18-2010, 05:46 AM
I expect that Al Ross is the exception; dempsey is probably more often right (not to mention funny).

I think that internet rudeness is just like road rage. Distance and anonimity allow for the courage (yes, courage) to be obnnoxious. There's no accountability. We can't get punched in the face for our bad behavior, so we behave badly. Of course, this presumes that given the opportunity and the freedom, people are nasty, and I'm not totally willing to accept that premise. People are also often anonymously kind and gentle and genuinely caring of total strangers. So maybe we're all just more extreme when we can be, and our extremes stretch from one end of the spectrum to the other. I'm just thinking this through as I type and I may not be making any sense. In any case, it's an interesting question, a good subject for discussion.

benbradley
03-18-2010, 06:11 AM
If you really want to get a thick skin online, many Usenet newsgroups are still alive and kicking, though popularity is down for many reasons - spam, trolls, splorge (don't ask), and so many people nowadays prefer web-based forums like this with avatars and other pics as well as text, though Usenet with its text-only format is much lower bandwidh, and on DSL posts load instantly compared to web forums.

In spite of it all there's still good and knowledgeable people who ignore the problems and still communicate with one another there.

Silver King
03-18-2010, 06:22 AM
...I think that internet rudeness is just like road rage. Distance and anonimity allow for the courage (yes, courage) to be obnnoxious. There's no accountability. We can't get punched in the face for our bad behavior, so we behave badly...
Road rage incidents will bring you in closer proximity with the offending person, so the chances of punching them in the face is infinitesimally greater than when they sideswipe you online.

But you already know that, so why am I even bringing it up? ;)

misselainie
03-18-2010, 06:56 AM
You're right, Silver King. But people have that same sense of get-away-ability, it's just more realistic online.