For good or ill, David Anderson occasionally gets me to think. Quite often, it’s done out of irritation, but sometimes he’ll ask a question that actually prompts a serious answer — I owe him my piece on the genocide in Darfur , among others. I guess it comes from having a “reactive” mind — I think best when prompted by something else.
Last week, David got fed up with a few fights he’d been having online and posted this piece, asking “Why are people such Richards?” (title slightly sanitized for your protection). I answered him in a comment, but I thought the topic deserved further attention.
I’ve noticed that many people view cyberspace as an opportunity for role-playing. It’s a chance to set aside your day-to-day self and become someone else. Some people (and I include myself in this group) see this as a chance to be seen as more than we are in meatspace — smarter, quicker-witted, more assertive, more clever, more thoughtful. We can rise above our nothing-filled daily lives and stand tall (some taller than others — thanks for the pedestal, Kevin!) and shout and be heard and listened to by countless other people. It’s a truly heady experience.
Others, though, take a different tack. They take all the frustration and anger and venom and bile and hatred they are forced to repress in real life and give them vent all over the cyberspace. They spew vitriolic attacks on others, tossing around baseless accusations and vile slanders and strings of vulgarities in hopes of getting the attention they crave while not having to actually face the consequences of their words. Every time I find myself angered at these people, I end up more angry with myself for falling for their games.
I freely admit that on a few occasions, I’ve fallen into the second category, and regret each and every one. I strive to fit into the first category, and hope to actually move my “real” self more towards my “WizBang!” self. (This could be a challenge. On WizBang, I’m 3 inches taller, 30 pounds lighter, and have a full, luxurious head of hair.)
And then there is the third type of online persona — that which is completely divorced from their “real” selves. I have it on good authority that my WizBang! colleague “Paul” is actually a genetically-engineered dwarf hamster in a lab in New Jersey who posts through a cybernetic link implanted into the base of his skull…