How the Internet Created an Age of Rage

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The saying, “Everything that happens in the dark comes to the light”, obviously doesn’t apply to cyberspace. The dark is the anonymity that people have when commenting in public forums. Where they can say what they want, attack whomever they want, all without consequence. 

The internet allows normally quiet and reserved people to be whoever they want or to release the them they keep in the dark of their minds and behind their computer screen. This is referred to as ‘deindividuation’ which is when the social norms are withdrawn because identities  are concealed (http:// youtu.be/ZkZgYmZIHAw). Concealed not only by screen names or avatars but in large crowds, where matching voices to faces is difficult.

Because of the feeling of ‘you cant touch me‘, people feel safe and that’s what the internet is for. It gives people that don’t have a voice, or scared to speak their opinion a chance to have their voice and opinion heard or read in this case.  Some of these comments are malicious and unwarranted because the people posting them are releasing themselves. They feel that their typed words are just words and that if people don’t like the post that they don’t have to read them or they can be blocked.

The problem with this way of thinking is that the effects it has on others is not taken into consideration. Yes public forums are for everyone but morals should come into play when commenting on public things. Comedian Stewart Lee of Top Gear fame used to collect comments made about him after the show aired and noticed that one-third of the comments wished harm to him.  That people bashed what he thought was success and it seemed he couldn’t win. So he decided to stop collecting and paying attention to the comments because he said it had him a little unsettled. This shows that even people who make fun of everything get shook by people expressing themselves negatively.

Do you think that the internet created the rage or just gave underlying rage a voice/forum?

Capture the Cyber Troll

“You are so stupid.” ” Nobody cares about your problems.” These are comments that can appear at anytime online.Comments from people on public forums, hiding their identity, that have no idea about the person behind the story or picture, these people are called Trolls . They go through the web trolling for a way to toss their insecurities and issues onto someone else, someone they don’t have to deal with the backlash from. But now certain sites are trying to prevent trolls from posting these comments.

The reasons for this is the prevention of tragedy, such as suicide, deformation and degradation. There have been several instances where the comments made by these trolls have caused harm not only to those whose post they comment on, but their families. In the case of Nicole Catsouras, 18, died in a car accident and afterwards trolls emailed pictures of her to her parents. http://youtu.be/QD-PB7V5nlg.

Sites like Reuters, Gizmodo and other sites are trying to make these trolls accountable for their comments. They would require the creation of an account in order to post comments, if their comments are harmfully negative they will be removed. Websites like these have the backing of the Federal Government with laws in all states concerning online bullying. http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aapx?mxl- 380-1310b.

While this seems fair to those victimized and their families, what about the freedoms of the troll? Regardless of the nature of the comment they have Freedom of Speech. In life people say things we don’t like and your choice is to continue listening or walk away, which are the same options online. 

With that in mind:

Do you think its fair for sites to block negative comments?

Should people develop thicker skin when dealing with online comments?

Trolls Among Us

Trolls are that post inflammatory, derogatory or provocative messages in public forums anonymously…Cowards. Hiding behind a screen name or just words is still a form of cowardliness.

A troll is not a new concept, it’s the equivalent of some one talking crap through the grapevine or mailing a letter with no return address. It is the need to express yourself negatively and to get others on the band wagon. Which seems to have worked with groups of trolls guiding each other to the next bash fest.

Trolling is not just a group of meanies with the goal of hurting and disrupting  online communities, but they have rules and their own lingo. One term that stood out is the plural of lol, LULZ, which is ‘ the joy of disrupting another’s emotional equilibrium’, also its a way for trolls to keep score. One rule is ‘the game is never over until all the lulz have been had.

They have created web communities of their own. These sites allow trolls access to what they normally couldn’t and so trolls can see what others trolls are loling about. Some sites are 4chan.org and encyclopediadramatica.se, whose slogan is ‘In Lulz we trust’.

A lot of these trolls are normal people we encounter everyday. Our professors, pastors, gas station clerk, etc  are leading double lives as trolls . Earlier in the semester we read about true online identity, but trolls cause us to ask about the true identities offline. Jason Fortuny is one of those people. A freelance web designer and programmer who describes himself as a ‘normal person who does insane things online’.

Trolls hide behind the mask of anonymity ready to pounce on the next picture, video or tragedy that appears on their screen. They lay in wait for the next vulnerable situation and then attack. So with the uncertainty of who these trolls are, does it cause us to question the true identities of those around us offline?

Under The digital Bridge.

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Photo Source: http://www.etsy.com/listing/77707001/vintage-troll-doll

These days, trolls are a real problem. The shadowy figures lurking beneath bridges should be the least of your worries though. It seems that when people lose face to face interaction, they lose a sense of responsibility, respect, and seem to have no filters. Hate flows like a river in the form of racist, sexist, and downright offensive remarks. Cyber bullying is on the rise and there seems to be no end in sight. Have the morals of our society been downgraded with this influx of technology? Is the hate we are seeing the same amount as before, just more easily seen? Are people living with split personalities, or is how a person interacts online what really shows there true character? These are difficult questions that are crucial to understanding where our society is headed, and what actions must be taken if a diversion is necessary.

In reference to our society’s morals, I do believe that we have taken a step back in recent years. I’m not going to blame it all on technology, but I must say the internet has played a large part. Here’s a broader look at the morals of today’s society, which doesn’t specifically focus on online interactions. http://agnosticism-atheism.yoexpert.com/ethics-and-morality/do-ethics-matter-a-21st-century-view-on-morality-643.html I believe online actions are at the epicenter of this issue, but are not the only topic that should be discussed. I think most people can admit that the internet has brought about negativity in all of us at times. Some people however, are extremely hateful when given access to this valuable resource. Here’s great advice on how to deal with some of this negativity on a daily basis. http://www.cnn.com/2011/TECH/social.media/06/01/digital.haters.netiquette/index.html Trolls on the other hand are a different issue. I think that these kinds of people are destined to behave like animals, online or not. Some of the actions by trolls described in “Unmasking Reddits Violentacrez the Biggest Troll on the Web” made me sick. Like when asked the creepiest thing he’d done a troll replied “perhaps oral sex with my 19 year old step daughter.” I believe that as a society we must choose to ignore this kind of person because they really aren’t worth acknowledging.

Regardless of the method of communication, people should realize that they are accountable for what they say. Living with a different personality when nobody knows who you are is just ridiculous. The thoughts that flow freely when people are anonymous are just suppressed when contact is face to face. This is done to avoid conflict with ones beliefs, and is a sign of a coward.

Do you believe that trolls and other extreme online haters should be allowed to post anything they want? Where should the line be drawn?

What actions do you think contribute the greatest towards sparking an online twitter war, etc.?

Online Dating

On-Line Dating

This is one heck of an online dating profile and would spark curiosity of most men, but is it believable?  It seems that “telling lies on-line” is pretty common for online dating sites. The fictitious profile seems a little far-fetched, but is it? It’s inherent in us to present ourselves in the best light possible and there is a difference to how we view ourselves and how others view us.

As studies have shown exaggeration is common for both sexes as a way to attract the opposite sex. Men, for the most part, will exaggerate about their wealth and status attracting more women to their profile sites and women will exaggerate about their physical attractiveness (or body image) attracting more men for the same reason.  Based on the study Separating Fact From Fiction: An Examination of Deceptive Self-Presentation in Online Dating Profiles people believe the majority of online profiles are not 100% truthful, when it relates to the information supplied. The good news is, the exaggerations are minor and not usually deal breakers. http://psp.sagepub.com/content/34/8/1023.abstract

How we present ourselves in profiles for online dating sites are similar to how we present ourselves on any social media sites.  Facebook is filled with photos of people looking and sounding their best. When someone takes a “selfie” chances are they’ve taken several pictures and only post the one that creates the image they want the world to see.  The same holds true for comments posted;  generally they don’t mention bad grades, bloated bodies, or face breakouts. We tend to only post things that make us look good, funny or smart.  The same can be said for all social media sites including Twitter, MySpace or Tumblr.  We seek positive feedback; we want comments back that say cute, awesome or right on. Generally these exaggerations are harmless, but in some cases they’re destructive.

We’ve all heard the Catfish tales, where people have carried out “relationships” for years with fictitious men and women.  Entire fabricated characters are created for the sole purpose of subterfuge.  This type of deception can only be achieved online and it would be impossible to accomplish in person.  The biggest headline-grabbing example of this is the Manti Te’o story. He believed himself in a long-term relationship with a woman he met on-line; until it was discovered that she never existed.  Ultimately he confessed to having never met the woman. The reality for Manti was his girlfriend was nothing but a hoax.

What’s thought provoking is why people would post fake personas to online dating or social media sites.  In an article posted by Time Entertainment they delve into the psychology on why some people feel compelled to go to extremes to create these non-existent personas. Based on their data the most common reasons are revenge, homophobia, addicted to attention, sexual identity anxiety, and low self-esteem.

http://entertainment.time.com/2013/01/24/the-manti-teo-hoax-5-reasons-people-create-fake-girlfriends-according-to-catfish/

Have you ever posted anything on-line to a dating site or any other social media site that was exaggerated? If so, how big was the exaggeration?

Or

Have you experienced deception from others, via a dating site or any other social media site? If so, how big of a deception was it?

#IfiWasBlackonTwitter

Read that hash tag again and you will soon realize exactly what this post is about. While that may seem like something bad, it’s something that trends on twitter almost once every week. I am not black, but rather Caucasian. The thing that makes it amusing to me and sometimes maybe it’s bad is that a lot of African Americans that use that hash tag will get angry or mad at a person if they use that tag. 

There has become a divide in my opinion in terms of how black people use twitter and how white people use twitter. While the common ground is often for sports, news and word events that are happening or trending, we use twitter in different methods. Take for example the fact that there is something like #IfiWasBlack trending on twitter. If this comes back to a Caucasian male that began that topic, half the people on twitter would cry foul! This is racism, why are they allowed to start this on twitter, somebody stop them! This in my opinion has turned into the same type of thing as white people using the “N” word with friends being basically unheard of and “disgusting and degrading” but when a black male uses it, it’s ok. I don’t think that trends such as this should even be going on twitter in the first place because it leads to a lot of hostility when you come across the wrong person.

The reason why this is something that I can relate to is due to my current place of work. I work with ex-cons and people that have just been released out of prison within a few years. For most of them, our job is the first job that they have since being released. Most of them are of African American descent. My curiosity was peaked one day when one of the men there (22 years old) came over by my computer and showed me some of the people he followed and the stuff he tweets. It was NOTHING compared to what I was doing on twitter. His hash tags consisted of #ShitBlackPeopleSay #YouKnowYoureBlackWhen, you get the point. Things like this would come off as racist if I was starting it as a trending topic but the way black people use twitter, this is an everyday type of thing.

I don’t mean any disrespect to anybody but the facts are there and the article by Farhad Manjoo (How black people use Twitter) proves pretty much the same exact thing .This isn’t necessarily a negative but it does bring up the point of what is appropriate? If we can get fired for complaining about our boss online and on Twitter, should this be something that companies look at also?

The Internet: A Magnifying Glass to Societal Problems

For quite some time there has been an ideal of the internet acting as an equalizer.  Imagine a medium in which everyone had equal opportunity, everyone’s opinions were valued equally, and “we’d be able to communicate soul-to-soul” (Quoting Alice Marick in Jessica Valenti’s article “How the Web Became a sexist’s Paradise). Unfortunately, this ideal remains far from reality.  Instead, issues of social stratification, racial prejudice, and sexism occurring online are widespread phenomena.  What was expectantly thought of as a door to new opportunities of breaking down these issues has become a mirror to the already existent prejudice and bigotry.

It was thought that the digital divide (The disparity of internet access across different economic classes) was the main source of inequalities online.  However, as boyd points out in her talk, that is not necessarily the case.  The way in which different groups interact with the internet also comes into play.  As boyd puts it “people with the same level of access engage [in technology] in fundamentally different ways.”  If it is not issues of access that has left social inequalities able to run rampant online, what is it?  I believe the answer is simply this: Humans comprise the internet.  It is not a surprising fact that many people are racist, sexist, and classist.  Why should they be any different online? We have falsely disconnected who we are “in real life” from our presence online (http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2010/07/10_reasons_to_stop_apologizing.html). What we see online is merely a reflection of the people that engage in the internet.

In fact, bigotry, racism, and misogyny seem to be intensified through the internet.  Marwick fears that “people are creating online environments purely to express the type of racist, homophobic, or sexist speech that is no longer acceptable in public society”. It is no surprise that the internet is a breeding ground for inappropriate material. However, what I did find surprising is the amount and severity of these off-color comments in certain concentrated areas.  What stood out to me especially was Helen Lewis’ article highlighting the misogynist attacks faced by female writers and bloggers online. The threats of death, rape, and abuse are disturbing to say the least.  Are these comments a reflection of our population as well?  While I have heard my fair share of off-color comments in face-to-face conversations, I have never heard anything this inappropriate and vile.

Is this a result of the disinhibition allowed by the internet? (http://users.rider.edu/~suler/psycyber/disinhibit.html) Are people so readily able to disassociate societal norms from their online experiences due to anonymity and invisibility? Is the internet acting as a magnifying glass, bringing into plain view the darkest places of these individual’s prejudices?  From the evidence I’ve seen, the unfortunate answer is yes.

What does this say about us? You might not be the one making these extremely inappropriate comments, but have you ever said something online (Facebook, Myspace, blog comments etc.) that you wouldn’t have said in person?  What caused you to do this?

What do you think are preventative actions that websites and blogs can do to reduce or remove the racist or sexist comments, threats, and other forms of hate speech from people’s comments?  Is removing the ability to remain anonymous the way to go?