Anonymity and the Internet

My name is Jason.  No, really.  I post as Jason here on my website, and on most message boards, though there are still a few throwbacks to my EQ days where I post as Ishiro or other boards where I use other names, but even then it takes only about ten seconds to get from any of those forums to here and find out my name is Jason.  I’m not really scared of identity theft, although I don’t go posting my social security number or anything on the Internet and I use secure protocols whenever possible.  I’m protected, but I’m not hiding.  Mostly its because I really don’t have much worth stealing.  I often jest that I wish someone would steal my identity and pay off my bills.  But the point is, nearly a decade ago when I decided to start posting things to the Internet, I decided to, for the most part, be myself.

One thing that I do enjoy doing most on the Internet is engaging in discussions, and to a large degree, I find that its much harder to have serious discussions with people who are anonymous.  Mostly, I find it hard because anonymous people are more likely to say things they don’t really mean or feel because there are few, if any, repercussions for saying those things.  To put it another way: anonymous people are often dicks.

There are entire communities built around anonymous people being dicks.  Oh, some of them are not anonymous, in fact in some cases there are people who are very well known, but the majority are people who only unleash their vitriol on the Internet because its the only place they can get away with it.  The bigger problem with that attitude is that it spreads.  I generally avoid forums where being condescending is the norm, but when other people go there and get used to it, they bring it with them to other places.  Sometimes I think I’m being overly sensitive, but there really are some people who can’t seem to string three sentences together without one of them belittling someone else.  And its a shame, because anonymous people being dicks don’t stop to think “Hmm, maybe what I’m saying is driving people away.” and people like me often don’t put up with it forever.  Its not that the insults hurt.  The insults often are so childish that its impossible to be hurt, only to feel sorry for the person who feels the need to hurl them.  But after a length of time, you just get tired of reading it.  The person may make a good point, but when every good point is accompanied by a personal jab…

I’m rambling.  Anyway, this comes up because lately one of the places I’ve enjoyed hanging around has been overrun by a product of Internet anonymity.  And its just not fun anymore.  But thankfully, that’s why message boards have features to ignore people.

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