I have been saying for SO long that I want to write this blog, so here I am. This rant has been inspired by a great many different situations over the last 18 months that have involved myself, my friends, and sometimes total strangers. But they have all involved the internet. It occurs to me that a great many also involve text messages - typing is overrated. It's good to talk.
Just to be clear, I love the internet. I have been a shameless addict of all things online (well, almost all) for a long time. It's so much fun and so convenient I fear I will never be cured, and that makes me happy. If I can't do it online, I pretty much don't do it. You can be a big or small part of a whole world and you don't even have to get dressed to do it. You can connect with friends, family, strangers, people of similar and opposite interests and opinions. It has opened up a world of opportunities to people that would never before have had that chance, and it allows the average person to really get involved and have their say, to share their opinions, push their idea, give their support and register their opposition. Social networking sites, blogs, online zines, online DIY radio... there's something for everyone, all available from the safety and comfort of a persons own home.
And that is part of the problem. There are several problems though so bear with me while I ramble a little on a few of them. This ramble is by no means exhaustive - feel free to add your own in the comments!
The internet can be anonymous. This can be a good thing - internet users in countries such as Iran and China have taken advantage of the possible anonymity of the net in order to share very important messages without compromising their safety. Many bloggers are able to write and post freely from otherwise silenced communities, safe in the knowledge that they cannot be identified. But it is not always a good thing. People can also post deliberately incorrect or misleading information and never to held accountable - the internet rumour mill has reached ridiculous levels, especially around the subject of celebrities. People can be impersonated, can create an identity for themselves in order to infiltrate groups/communities or compromise the safety of people. Examples include government officials trolling YouTube footage of the recent G20 riots in Toronto and of course the biggest fear of all parents - paedophiles pretending to be someone they're not in order to get information about and access to children.
That's not the worst problem though. That word trolling has already come up. For those that are not familiar with the term a troll is basically someone who posts inflammatory, offensive, abusive or provocative comments persistently. Just for the hell of it. Actually not always just for the hell of it. Some of these people are actually a little sick in the head and need some sort of help - except the whole anonymous aspect of the internet allows them to hide from help. So, trolls are really the only thing that spoils my enjoyment of the internet (though not enough to make me consider kicking the habit). I had never really had too many problems with this type of thing before becoming involved in The AIM but we just seem to attract them in swarms. We have come across some really unbelievable people in our time and we've been accused of all sorts by these delusional freaks who know a few big words but not what they mean. Today's idiot has spent a large portion of the last 2 days trying to argue that The AIM is racist, and that no one should fight for anyone's rights except that of their own 'kind'. I would try and explain this persons viewpoint but I still don't understand it except that I know I am against it. I don't like being put in a box, and I am even less impressed when told that I have to watch people in other boxes suffer and I am not allowed to do anything. Fuck that. Excuse my language. (Sorry Mum!)
I could go on about the trolls all day but there's more to this rant than just them. Maybe someday they'll get a blog all of their own. They do make me kinda mad though so maybe not. Anyway.... next. Trolls are idiots, but there also exists a similar breed which carries out the same actions as troll except out of spite. The thing with the internet is that you can say something (often without thinking it through) from your comfy wee sofa or wherever and completely forget that the person you are aiming your comments at is in fact a PERSON. Not a machine, or a company, or an answering machine. An actual person, with feelings. Probably the full range of feelings. People online will say things over the internet that they would NEVER say to a persons face, or even on the phone. The internet does not stop you being accountable for what you say, and it does not excuse rude behaviour.
Rude behaviour such as SHOUTING VIA THE KEYBOARD IN ORDER TO GET YOUR POINT ACROSS. I hate that. No one likes to be yelled at, and again most people would not be so aggressive with a person to their face. So why is it acceptable online? Well, in my sincere opinion... it isn't. Aggression and intimidation online is as unacceptable as it is offline. The difference is that most people really are civilised enough to control themselves in person, but many of these so called civilised people find it perfectly OK to jump onto a computer and start abusing people. It's not big and it's not clever.
There is also the thing about deleting people. This really only applies to social networking sites such as Facebook etc. I had an experience recently that I won't go into where there was some tension between myself and some people close to me, and as a result some people not at all involved just went ahead and deleted me from their accounts. No message, no explanation, no conversation. Just 'delete'. Deleting people on soc/net sites has become like a form of emotional bitch slapping. People use it out of spite and manipulation and the ideas of talking things over, of staying out of someone else's business, of having some decency and giving a damn about someone else's feelings... all gone. The internet has made everyone disposable and replaceable. If you cannot see the hurt look on someone's face when they discover you no longer wish to be associated with them, then why should you care?
Hmmm.... really? This is what we've come to? In my experience, both from what I have seen and from what I have had done to me, yes. This is what we've come to. That's not to say I have never deleted anybody. I have deleted, and in fact blocked a few people. Mostly trolls. I have though had to delete a few people that I wish I hadn't, but never out of spite, and never happily or without thought.
I am kinda bored of the sound of my own ramble now so I guess I will end soon. It sounds like the internet is evil - but I do actually believe it is good. Some of it's users I am less sure about. To summarise - my tips for being a good internet user:
- Treat people as you would face to face. You may be in front of a machine, but it is not a machine that will read whatever you type
- Avoid switching to capitals when you are in a heated debate or discussion. Everyone knows that it's the same as shouting and that's just rude
- Don't just delete people for no reason. It's not a power trip.
- Don't make yourself out to be someone your not. Just cos it's possible to lie online, doesn't mean you should
- Don't point out all the small errors in grammar and spelling when people post things - you don't know what their circumstances are, and no one likes a smart ass
- Don't belittle people, resort to name calling etc. Play nice or piss off!
- As google would say... "Don't be evil"