Friday, 16 May 2014

Being An Ass Online

Being an ass on the Internet is incredibly easy. Even if you never wanted to be one.

When people say "watch out for the bad people on the Internet", one day you may eventually have a realisation akin to this:

Forums can be a toxic place to spend your spare time. Especially if it's your spare time, that time you usually spend to relax. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of good, constructive forums out there. You meet great people - I've met great people.

But then there are the trolls. The people who literally have nothing better to do with their time than waste everyone elses. Often distinguished from people who are genuinely upset or confused because those people you can either convince, or understand their grievances. Trolls are the people that'll say one thing in one thread, because OUTRAGE, and say another thing in another thread because they don't want to agree with that specific brand of OUTRAGE. They're even easier to spot if they pull this kind of stunt in the same thread they started off in.

And this is why we have moderation. However, after so long, after several sites, after moderating web forums for over five years . . . you kinda end up like this:


Myself included.

The problem sets in when you believe that you are right, because you have this wealth of experience. That you couldn't possibly be wrong, because goddamnit you're so used to these trolls that you know that they're trolling.

But you've lost sight of something important. You've lost sight of that chance that you're meant to give all angry, confused people you meet, whether online or in Real Life (heaven forbid). There are often reasons for this; disillusionment with moderation, an increasingly-hostile community, a changing perspective that comes with age, less free time to deal with the online drama people love to create . . . but those reasons don't excuse the end result. You're potentially making the situation worse.

You're turning into a troll. Or an instigator at best. You've gotten so used to arguing against the same people all the time that you don't give them a chance anymore. Even worse, people have formed a similar image of you, because that's how you've rolled for a few years. Impressions stick around for far longer than the consequences of your actions do. Or perhaps those impressions are the most important consequence of your actions. Think about it.

Take a step back. Look back at who you once were, why you first contributed, got involved, helped people out. Is there anything you can do? Of course. Just sit back, and relax. Think twice before you hit that Post Reply button.

Take the time to think . . . how am I coming across?

It's never too late to address how people perceive you. And hopefully, like me, you'll realise it's all too easy to be an ass, and hopefully get your head around the necessary steps to change that.

It's a part of growing up. The Internet is with us, for better or worse. The best we can do is slow down how much it changes us.


This blog post was totally not an excuse to roll out some of my favourite image macros.

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