I’ve paid attention to how things work ever since I was little. My mother tells me that when I was as young as two, I would go to relatives’ houses and take apart their vacuums. This may explain my almost pathological avoidance of that device these days – who knows? I graduated to electronics and computers, but the big one has always been people. I’m not all that crazy about them but I’m fascinated by how they work.
When I started working, I started driving. It took no time at all to get fed up with driving, mostly because of the drivers. One thing that really stuck out was that behavior while driving ranged from stupid to homicidal. I was watching people do, while driving, things they would never do if they were standing next to you. Cutting other drivers off, flipping the bird, leaning on the horn, driving with absolutely no knowledge of or concern for others.
I started social computing in the ancient days of computer bulletin boards. The net got cast wider with the formation of nets like Fidonet. Eventually usenet newsgroups started to appear so you could talk to people from around the globe.
With the larger audience came Bad Behavior on a larger scale. You could hurl insults at larger groups of people as time went on. One of my theories was that it was an influx of college kids from usenet (one of the few places with access those days). Since they were in college, they already knew everything and wouldn’t hesitate to let you know. We used to call it Welcome to Thirteenth Grade.
With the Web came a whole new audience of people on which to unleash antisocial behavior. Some of the behavior looked downright sociopathic. Now that I have a blog, I’m meeting all sorts of people who I’d prefer not to have met. I suspect if I knew them in person, they might be decent folks. But since there’s an internet between us, they feel free to let the toxicity flow.
Notice a pattern here? In cars, they’re shielded by a few thousand pounds of metal-like substance and maybe some windows. Bulletin boards were insulated by modems. The internet provides computers, anonymity, and technology to shield the actions of the miscreants.
With all of these shields, these folks feel free to get out there and behave repulsively, aggressively, and dangerously at times. I’m going to guess that if they were walking down the street, they wouldn’t dare pull any of their antisocial nonsense because they don’t have the shield of metal or anonymity. I think the technical term for this is cowardice.
After years of reading this garbage, I sometimes wonder what they do in their spare time. Do they pull the wings off flies? After they get banned from a newsgroup, do they run over to the religious forums and offer free abortion chat? Find a gay blog and tell the audience that aids is God’s punishment? Do they have seven different free email addresses because they’re so used to getting kicked out?
They go to the houses of relatives and complain that the place is so ugly they can’t bear to stay: why don’t they make the place nice?
How do you combat this in different areas of your life?