Of course, the conclusion above is already well documented, and it was even a discussion in a class I took entitled “Computers and Ethics.” Because of its anonymity, the internet prevents the social filters that otherwise stop people from acting like complete jerks. Two recent stories:
1. My friend Lia just got two traffic tickets for running reds and being caught on tape. I commented that indeed, she broke the law, and it was only fair that she got caught. Others who commented quickly agreed, including one guy who decided to go anonymous. Anon, (which means ‘now,’ for the record, not anonymous) however did not leave it at that. When someone commented supporting Lia’s driving, Anon went crazy, saying that women are bad drivers and that this is indicative of that.
Of course, someone jumped in and the conversation began escalating toward Godwin’s Law, except that some (rare) restraint and a lack of response from anyone else ended the argument.
2. My past two blog posts involved two crazy baseball ideas, and both generated a fair number of comments, on- and off-blog. Because I posted the links on two Astros blogs I read, I was able to get comments there as well.
On my blog, comments were civil, people who knew me realized that I wasn’t under the illusions that these ideas were perfect and, far from it, knew that they were, as I titled the posts, ‘crazy.’
Off the blog, comments were more virulent. “That is the stupidest thing I’ve heard all day” was quickly followed by “Other ideas were probably the stupidest things ever, be more open-minded.”
I guess that a relatively good conclusion can be drawn from these examples: though there are monsters on the internet, there are as many, if not more, sane civilized people who rather than engage in an argument just back off or who are willing to refute the anger present in these anonymous monster types.
Me, I just thought it was too coincidental that these events happened basically at the same time.