Being Fake, Being Anonymous, Being on the 'Net

The 'Net. There has been a whole lot of bullshit about fake accounts and user anonymity posted lately. Some of it's a legit complaint, some of it's hokum, and a lot of it is whining. But I have my own take, and I'm tellin' it whether or not you care.

I admit I'm an old hand. My first programs were in COBOL and Fortran. Which means that I was playing in digital before there was an Internet. Back when speeds of 9600 Baud were considered blazing. I feel like a Gran'pa for saying this, but I remember a time when the only networks were the independent ones. Like NiteOwl, the WELL, and university VAX systems.

But let me get to the feckin' point: Back when 'Nets' were new there was an idealism that prevailed. You could represent yourself online as your true self. In the real world, people were superficial. They would be prejudiced because they would see you before they spoke with you and slap you with a label before you even opened your mouth.

Before anyone even got the chance to hear you they would slap you with terms like 'geek', 'nigger', 'fat', 'slut'...or a million other pigeonhole categories they would choose to stuff you into.

On the 'Net, however, things were different. You had the freedom to express yourself however you liked and people would judge you on your opinions or knowledge before they ever judged your appearance. And just like Camelot, for one brief shining moment it seemed like for once we had triumphed over prejudice, even if it was just in a place that existed only in binary.

But we failed. Somewhere it went all to shit. Maybe it was because the 'Net was now accessible to all kinds of people and not just geeks. Maybe it was because of a larger social trend. Whatever. I'm not sure the reason is important. What is important is that anonymity became less about establishing your true self, and more about fucking with others. More about being cruel or expressing things that you'd never say to your closest friends, nevermind say in public.

No, let me change that. That's not what's important. It's actually just a symptom. What is truly important is the concern I have in the back of my mind. What if this is really our true selves? What if as human beings we are so inherently fucking twisted that Internet Anonymity has finally allowed our true natures to emerge?

Damn. We are so fucked.

Uploaded 01/18/2009
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