By Peter Mosley
In a recent post on CNN Opinion, Jeff Pearlman confronts some of his haters face-to-face. It was interesting to hear that these folks who were rather abusive to him, when contacted, were shy, apologetic and Jeff even said he liked them.
I liken this to Road Rage. If you have been personally involved in a case as I have numerous times, in a previous life – in fact, one case went right to the Supreme Court – I was always surprised that the offenders who are operating their vehicles like something out of Mad Max were quite normal when sitting at the police station being booked. Well, as normal as one can be under those conditions!
I checked and I believe the States have actually classified Road Rage a mental illness. (At the moment I have not been able to track down a reliable source to see if we have done this is Canada. But still checking.) This year Harris/Decima did a Canadian study on Road Rage. Net/Net we do not have the same in-car attitudes as say our neighbors to the south. We are, like, nice folks behind the wheel, eh? The Globe and Mail gives you the stats.
When your true identity is hidden from public view as stated in Jeff's article … "Well the Net got the better of me." you act differently.
Long ago, on the BBS (Bulletin Board Systems for those folks not around pre-1992), we HAD to give our true identities. We HAD to be approved before joining. That generally meant sending in a picture of some sort of identification. I think it worked well. We knew who we were talking to and who was talking to us. Sure there were epic flame wars, but not anonymous.
Lately I have been very saddened to see the type of vile comments – a la Cyber Road Rage – on the Canadian news sites like the CBC and CTV and others. Seemingly folks will use this for their private vendettas and spew vitriol against the government, the police, the media etc etc. Sort of a text-only Chatroulette for dangling your other insignificant tiny parts … like your brain! (Hmmm, how was that for a classic Flame?)
Would these folks be like this in real life? Are they metaphorically simply playing the seven foot monsters on Second Life and in real life are the pasty-faced basement dwellers shouting from their home at Mom's? Would these folks actually do something about any of these things they rail about to actually change things? Would they vote? Would they write their MPs? Would they volunteer? No, I think not. They are happy being trolls and we the rest of the Net are subjected to this onslaught of hate like unsuspecting drivers on the highway when cut off by a Vin Deisel XXX wanna-be flexing their insecurities behind the wheel.
The Internet is a wonderful tool, but it is way-too easy. You click a "LIKE" button and there, ta da, your conscience is assuaged because you've joined a not-for-profit group on Facebook. Done. You are a supporter. But are you? It is too easy to sit sheilded by anonymity and hiding behind a fake email address.
Malcolm Gladwell (Self-confessed Fan!) tells about this way better than I can in the New Yorker …
The platforms of social media are built around weak ties. Twitter is a way of following (or being followed by) people you may never have met. Facebook is a tool for efficiently managing your acquaintances, for keeping up with the people you would not otherwise be able to stay in touch with. That’s why you can have a thousand “friends” on Facebook, as you never could in real life.
Happily I see in stats, and while driving, there are less Road Rage fools on our highways, but I wish that was true about our information highways.
(Oh God, did I actiually use "information highway"? Yoiks. Let the hate-comments begin! Hell. I am going to send myself a nasty letter for that piece of dreck!)