Hello friends. Yes, this is a new post. It’s been nearly a year, and some of you may be wondering why it’s been so long. It’s simple.
I dropped out.
I’m generally a pretty well-adjusted and happy guy. I’ve always worked hard, enjoyed spending time with my wife, and tried to stay connected to and participate in society and culture. I enjoyed getting into the blogging scene and experimenting with the medium. I had no audience, really, except for those who are close to me, but I know my playful attempts to add something to the Internet will be out there in the ether, along with countless other individuals’ similar musings.
But the Internet is a communication medium, and my dropping out probably has more to do with a change I’ve seen since my early days on the web. I put my first page up in 1995. Things were very different then. There was no real formula for contrubuting. Bright flashing animated graphics, music in the background and links to cool things that popped up on the web were the norm, I guess. People took care in what they posted, there was a community responsibility to add value to the internet in the process of crafting a presence for yourself. But somewhere along the way, anonymity took over and the results of that have snowballed ever since.
I first noticed the shift on Usenet news groups. There, new identities were much easier to create than a webpage presence, and people started assuming multiple identities. These people were invariably the folks who would be argumentative, stirring up trouble on the news groups, and delighting in lowering the level of discourse. They are known as “trolls.” The multiple identities often times were used to back up the original troll identity, pretending to lend support and keep the regular members angry.
Anonymity breeds cruel and hateful behavior. The more savvy internet contributors get, the further away from the original ethic of contributing positively we get and the more trolls with their “nym” armies start “flame wars” and then enjoy the fireworks. With no reputation at stake, people who used to post technology articles to social media sites like digg.com are now vastly outnumbered by people spouting hostility. Anonymity on the web = no consequences for hateful behavior.
Even an article submitted telling about today’s solar eclipse is met by trolls. One comment:
“What’s new in this? Is it the first Solar Eclipse ever? wtf?”
Anonymity breeds cruel and hateful behavior.
That’s just a technology site. Don’t go looking for intellegent and civil discourse on a site like the Daily KOS. But news sites aren’t the only thing affected by this. In fact, anonymity allows for much, much nastier behavior. For instance, last year a mother created a fake MySpace profile in order to start an online relationship with one of her daughter’s rivals for a spot on the school cheerleading squad. The resulting harassment inflicted on the teen eventually caused her to commit suicide.
This is not the Internet I knew when I made my first page. That is why I haven’t spent much time inhabiting it. But you know, it doesn’t have to be this way. The web may be anonymity and hostility run amuck, but this little space I’ve carved out can be more. It, along with the spaces of my friends, family, and kindred spirits around the world can make something better here. Something that can provide some good-natured fun and elucidation. Where disagreements don’t end up in name-calling. To contribute to this web, not to degenerate it.
I’m going to start blogging again. On my terms.