8/21/2008

The Anonymity of the Internet


The internet is different things to different people. To some, it is a means to communicate with people with whom they would most likely will never meet. Some use it as a means to further a hobby, business or just for entertainment value. Most, if not all, people hide behind a cloak of anonymity that can cause some people to lose all inhibitions they may have. People tend to say things on the internet they would probably never say to a person's face.

I'm sure everyone, at one time or another, has experienced this phenomenon. I've gotten marriage proposals, business offers and threats all from people who don't know anything about me. That's something that has always amazed me. As a rule, I am wary of people I don't know on the internet. This is particularly true of people who make threats. Several years ago, I had to report a woman who would not leave me alone due to my viewpoint on a political issue. In fact, she found out where I lived and left a note threatening me on my mailbox. I was married at the time, and embroiled in difficulties with my wife (x-wife now). This caused us even more problems. I had to eventually report this woman to local authorities.

Since I started this blog, I've met some very interesting people. I think I could become friends with some if we met in the real world. But, there are some who take this whole internet thing too seriously. Since I finally placed a "contact me" button on this blog, I've gotten cussed out and threatened. I have had disparaging remarks made about this blog and myself in general. I'm at a loss to understand how people can take this so personally. I can’t comprehend how it can get them to the point of near madness. I had a review, on another site, by someone who completely disparaged me and what I chose to blog about on a day last week. It was in reference to my "bizarre homicide" entries I had posted over the past couple of weeks. I thought the content was disgusting also. I even made a warning at the top about the content to readers. But, this tragedy was also reported by news media (Fox News, CNN, Nancy Grace, NY Times, etc.). This event occurred in my hometown of Mobile, AL. I thought it was newsworthy to report just on that fact alone. This person made off the cuff remarks without doing any research at all on this homicide that I reported. This person also worked for the same federal agency I worked for during my career. So, that explained a lot to me. A lot of people who work for this federal agency wrap their entire lives around their job. It's caused many problems for this agency as a result. But, I digress…

I think my point is before we post something or email something to someone with whom we disagree, consider this...would you say it to this person's face? If people are honest, the majority will say no. I’m not without guilt myself. I’ve said some things (such as to the above person in that example) that I regretted. I’m sure it’s entirely possible the internet is just a reflection of society as a whole. And, I need to take my own advice. Really I do. I try to remember the person I’m replying to is a real, live human being with feelings. But, I’m not always successful. Some (if not the majority) people act in forums, blogs and in email as they would in the real world, good or bad. But, for a lot of people, this is the real world. And, to me, that is a bit scary.

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