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The (Not So) Common Sense of Online Socializing

08/28/2010

 

     Mainly this is a sub-section (or additional entry as the case may be) of my wanting to vent issues that I’ve seen an awful lot of online in the last decade.  Keep in mind, before 1996 I do remember things to being much differently.  Either because of a bad case of wearing a pair of rose-colored glasses, though more often times than naught was because I ventured into areas where manners and good natured dispositions were required.  So with that in mind…  Here I go, up on my soapbox.

 

1.  The casual use of words like Rape and Stalking and AIDS equals extreme ignorance.

 

     Nothing can send me through the roof (in anger) faster when I hear some 20-something in a chat shrieking something like, "you’re [cyber-]stalking me!" or "Don’t follow me, you stalker!"  or worse, "I’ve never been raped before… and I want to be!"  Really kids, Rape is a very violent crime often involving healing from gross physical trauma, years of therapy fighting various anger issues and the psychological damage that will remain for the rest of someone’s life.  And while stalking can be a crime when things get out of hand, is just as psychologically impacting as being raped.  These are not words or actions bandied about casually nor are they interchangeable with either someone following you about online (stalking) or rough role-play of consensual sex.  These are crimes, people!  Crimes you don’t want happening to you, ever!

 

     As a survivor of being raped in my 20s, and stalked to the point of needing a TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) and getting police involved to getting an ex-boyfriend arrested in my 30s, seeing these words bandied about so casually and even blithely from teenagers still living at home, or 20-somethings barely having experienced life on their own — as  callous, insensitive and at worst just plain ignorant.  Thinking a little before blurting such words out does wonders.  Even makes you look intelligent and thoughtful, instead of just being another ignoramus in the crowd. 

 

     AIDS (like cancer and a half-dozen other terminal illnesses) isn’t something to casually wish on anyone either.  All of the friends that I made in Atlanta the first five years I had moved there had died from the ravages of AIDS, some of them screaming in complete dementia and agony.  This is not the sort of thing that I would wish on anyone, and neither should anyone else.  Only the truly ignorant wish such things on any human being — even the ones that they hate/despise. 

 

     Pity a campaign hasn’t started with the use of these words in much the same way as the campaign "Think Before you speak" (http://www.thinkb4youspeak.com/) as they have with the phrase "That’s so gay…!"  Though I’m sure it’s only a matter of time they do so there. 

 

2.  I’m so bored […Entertain me]!

 

     I was once told in my mid-20s by an older gentleman that overheard me say the very same thing in a bar, "Darling, only boring people are ever bored.  And listening to you, you are in fact quite boring!" 

     I was embarrassed by what he said. 

     I was pissed off by the condescending way that he said it. 

     And I made it a point to never be bored again (if only to spite the man for saying it). 

 

     It’s true — I’m rarely if ever bored.  Be it if I’m sitting here watching the kids chatting in a room and ¾ of them have been shrieking on "I’m so bored!"  Or playing one of the games that I’ve played a half-million times since it’s been released to CD/DVD, or the rare times when I sit there watching a television program.  And this is the reasons why:

 

  1. I can only be entertained if I know what I want. 

    This isn’t hard people — one has to know what they want before they start looking for that entertainment to pass the time with.  If you don’t know what it is you want, then nothing — nothing — is going to entertain you, no matter what it is you’re doing.  Take the time to clear your head and think about what it is you want before you launch that web-browser and join a chat.  Sometimes entering into a chat environment isn’t what you need to be doing to be entertained. 

    Further, if you yourself don’t know what it is you want (to be entertained by), might I strongly suggest sitting there doing nothing, clearing the constant static in your head and listening to the background noises of your house, your backyard, even your neighborhood.  You will find that it can cure a case of boredom just as easily as having constant input.  Try it sometime, you’ll be surprised with the result. And try it earnestly and honestly. 
     

  2. In order to be entertained, I must be entertaining.

    There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it.  When it comes to an online social environment (as is in a real-time/real-life social environment), it takes work (sometimes quite a lot of it, though trust me, you get used to it and can do this as second nature in a matter of time), dedication, sharing and most importantly opening your mouth to speak, or engaging your fingers across a keyboard and communicating.  If you don’t do that, then:
     

  3. No one on this earth at the moment can read minds, tell people what you’re looking for!

    It’s true.  We might see telepaths in our near or distant future (Babylon 5, Star Trek and The Tomorrow People just to name a few sci-fi shows off the top of my head), but at the present time no human being can probe your brains and see what it is you really need in order to get out of the state of boredom you’re going through.

    If you don’t/can’t communicate your needs to others — then don’t be surprised or throw hissy fits shrieking all the more "I’m bored!  I’m so bored!"  Because in society, adults don’t put up with petulant children (even when they’re in the bodies of an adult) and will scold when they have the opportunity. 

 

3.  In a public setting, your actions do have consequence (AKA There’s a world beyond the end of your nose)

 

     This has to be the most frustrating of my issues as I often find the selfishness. oblivious and self-absorbed delusions of teenagers and tweens (twenty-somethings, not pre-teens as the word has mutated to being) to completely off the mark when it comes to a public setting.   And this doesn’t just happen online anymore either, I’ve seen this sort of thing happening in public settings outside of the Internet. 

 

     A public setting can be simply and basically described as anywhere people can come and go in an unregulated or semi-managed manner.  It is a place where people can congregate and be entertained in some manner or another, chatting, and/or watching/listening to something/someone.

 

     Some good examples of this in the world outside your house would be a coffee-house, movie theater, concert hall or coliseum, a state or federally mandated recreational park, and even the sidewalks and streets of the city, village or town you live in.  (Again just to name a few off the top of my head).  Online, the following places have been and always will be designated as public are Chat Rooms (without invite or strict moderation be it a web-chat environment, IRC, Yahoo/PalTalk, etc) , Usenet, and Web-designed Forums – Social or specialized (like gaming, tech support, or television shows, or news). 

     Hell, as a system administrator of various chat environments and even being NOC in various ISPs, I can tell you nothing done online is truly ever private.  There is an illusion of privacy given to the end users but is not actually true privacy.  True privacy only comes by not doing anything in public — online or offline.  Everything else falls under the scrutiny of the public. 

 

     As we’re taught early in life (or supposed to be, though giving what I’m seeing here it’s dubious as to whether kids are actually listening): Always be mindful of your environment, no matter where you are.  Just because you’re in your bedroom or living room, chatting in an online public chat area in your pajamas and that you’re chatting with a couple of close friends at the same time doesn’t once mean that the online environment you’re in is your bedroom or living room.  There are other people beside just you and your close circle of friends chatting as well.   That means they can see what you’re saying (or even doing in word and/or deeds implied from those words), and can comment, snark, remark, or even correcting anything said within that environment. 

    That also means you can’t be shrieking, "I’m not talking to you, butt out!" or "That’s none of your business" and so on.  You’ve made it public business when you decided on sharing it in a public setting!!!  If you didn’t want the public to know, there are plenty of alternatives to making it more private:  any messengers (Yahoo, MSN, AIM, Jabber, Gmail, the list goes on) where you can create a private chats of friends only, or one-on-one.  Even e-mails (although see above on the part about illusion of privacy). 

 

     I would be remiss not to mention that places Facebook, DeviantArt, Spaces, Blogger even Twitter and so on are public settings as well, given that by default, everything that’s posted there is set to public.  And further, given that old brick and mortar companies are becoming more online aware of such social settings and taking the appropriate actions — these actions of their employees can reflect badly on them and they will take action in some manner or another against those employees, either by writing them up to simply terminating their employment.  Even so far as to deny employment for some of the actions and activities posted online.  Or my personal favorite — getting arrested by police and other forms of law enforcement for illegal activities.

 

4.  People’s memories can be as permanent as things typed/left/shared on the Internet.

 

     An offshoot of point #3 (above) and would become more convoluted the more I ranted about it.  Contrary to the popular belief — people do have long memories.  Particularly when one has been caught intentionally deceiving, being disingenuous, being duplicitous, being harsh, intentionally hurtful (or hateful) and even being hypocritical.  Evolution has taught we homo sapiens that pain (be it physical or abstract as in mental or emotional) is the best teacher.  Once bitten: twice shy, as the saying goes.  If at any time in a public setting your actions fit any of these negative qualities; be prepared for people to bring it up against you each and every time possible. 

     This also carries over when someone is caught disposing of one online persona and creating a new one in the hopes of getting away from the shit storms and bad publicity caused.  Truth be told — one’s personality is pretty much set by adolescence, the best one can do is enhance the good traits while atrophying the bad habits picked up through life.  And no matter how hard you try to "re-invent" yourself into a new person, you on the whole are still going to shine through — be it whether you’re an unfeeling asshole, self-absorbed narcissist, or all around hero and champion of causes.

 

     Be honest, be fair, be concise, be humble (if possible) and be upright are the only ways to weather whatever storm one causes through the consequences of one’s actions.  Failing any of those, and it’ll keep haunting you, no matter where you are.   Because the instant you make noise about the negative things you did — you’ve basically sent up a flag that people are right about you and will ensure you don’t do to others what they experienced themselves. 

 

5.  You don’t know me, so don’t judge me!

 

     Another off-shoot of #3 (above), however I didn’t want to convolute issue 3 any more than I already have.  This is another thing that gets my goat hearing children shrieking whenever someone makes a judgment they don’t like.  Face it, we humans judge, label and categorize everything and everyone we encounter.  It’s a trait of sentience and sort of evolved out of the whole need to identifying friend, family or threat. 

     Don’t like the way someone passed judgment on you?  You have two choices:  prove them wrong by showing facets you’re proud of, or ignoring it as simply bad judgment on the individual’s part.  Screaming about it and demanding people not to judge you is wrong, and extremely duplicitous.  I guarantee, everyone makes judgments — some simply aren’t as verbal about it as others.  Nothing that you do is going to change the judgment or label they have given you, and will probably continue to have a negative impression of you, the more a tantrum about it is pulled. 

 

6.  No, it’s not just words on the screen, there are human beings on the other side of your screen.

 

     And one of the final off-shoots of point #3 (above).  It doesn’t matter whether they’re in the same room or if you’re chatting with them and they’re half-way around the world.  Common sense would dictate if you’re in the same room with them that you would act more mature and more compassionate/empathetic.  For centuries we’ve had a wonderful social construct that we have relied upon when meeting people face to face that involved courtesy, manners/politeness and even etiquette and protocol for handling a variety of situations and scenarios. 

     In the latter portion of the 20th century, I remember when chatting with complete strangers there was a sort of modicum of manners and civility, and even a sense of order with the fights and the flame wars in many of the places I used to inhabit.  Since the end of the 20th century and advent of the 21st any sense of manners, any sense of understanding that there are other people that use the internet has nearly vanished.  Kids of the new generation that grew up with ready access to the net think act as though the whole of the internet is there for their amusement — and can say anything that comes to mind without any editing whatsoever — as well as without any consequence. 

     If there is any twinge of guilt, instead of facing the consequences of it, will instead say as a mantra "it’s all just words on a screen" as though it makes right and an excuse for any wrong-doings (or in some cases emotional drama) they have committed.  And what really gets me is watching them whinge and whine about the very same treatment they give everyone else about it. 

 

7.  The Internet is not a Free Therapy Session.

 

     While it’s a good thing that there’s a place to find other people that have experienced similar situation (and come out basically in one piece) and have the wisdom to share it with others — the internet should never be treated as a free therapy session for whatever woes one is going through. 

     Nor does it mean that each and every you log on the first thing they should do when they enter a chat room or forum is unload with a million and one of your problems and then sign off once they’re through.  Many people come online for entertainment, for thought, for research or occasionally for consoling — but that doesn’t mean that you should do it constantly.  We call those people that do that in our lives "foul-weathered friends", and that sort of emotional black hole experience is enough to drive people away and not deal with you anymore. 

     Further — if you’re having serious and severe problems in your life.  Sign off, seek help and the advice of a professional.  That’s what they are there for and will even do so pro bono if it’s that seriously bad. 

 

     Well, I think I’ve pretty much gotten most of the piss and vinegar I’ve had going on the last couple of weeks.  Perhaps I’ve gotten old.  Perhaps I’ve finally gotten to be a stick mud about things and seeing the changing world as changing too much from the things that seemed to work better when I was younger.  Or maybe the world has changed enough and needs to swing back a little bit from where it currently is.  Either or…  well, there it is.

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