I’ve been online since around 1992. That year I got my first e-mail account, learned how to make use of telnet and determined that UNIX and I were definitely never going to be friends. I’ve talked to a lot of people in that time and in the beginning I bothered to meet them in real life (IRL). At first, I had this romanticized naïve idea that online people could see you for the person you were inside and not judge you for your flaws – whether those flaws were physical or social. I had my own personal reasons for finding this appealing, but we’re not going to delve into those. They typically leave my friends drained and upset – the tired self-esteem vs. self-awareness debate. However, I do still believe that in some cases, for some people, being online can be liberating in a positive way, which is another long discussion.
After being online for so many years, here are some things I’ve come to believe as true (with the qualifier that they’re true for me):
1) You’re the only sane person online. Use that as your mantra and you can face any and all bizarre behavior that you will encounter. You will encounter bizarre behavior.
2) Everything you think is private is being logged, captured and will show up some place that will maximize the embarrassment to you.
A decent example of #2 (appropriately numbered) happened when two folks on a game I participate in decided to get their groove on. The way this particular game is coded, it broadcasts certain actions over a fairly wide area. Now while they were having a Barry White moment, there were at least 20 people in the vicinity who had some very interesting things pop on their screen. A plucky little feller popped by to say hello and thank them for sharing, which is where the logs and screenshots began. What we all got to see posted the next day was a completely naked elf holding an item called a 16 lb. Bass. That kept everyone busy for days. Not only were the logs funny in a 12 year old’s “I just hit puberty” kind of way, but what the heck was the bass about? There was a lot of speculation. Those players quietly left our particular server.
3) That reminds me of #3 – people gossip. Now we all know that gossip isn’t necessarily gospel, but people enjoy it just the same and once it starts to spread, it might as well be gospel. Reputations are ruined this way. I have a GREAT example, but it makes me shudder thinking about it. Let’s just say sharing special web cam time with people other than your significant other don’t mix. Although, hearing the story kept me occupied for a long time last night.
4) People lie a lot, which is up there with….
5) A lot of people need a lot of attention and negative attention still counts. Again, I have a really good example that I even typed out, but re-read it and it just creeped me out again so it had to go away. For my former EQ group, I’m just saying “Zentina”
6) Those hot chick avatars you’re chasing are overweight 40 year old men who like the look of a female avatar. Don’t hit on them. If they’re not 40 year old overweight men, they could be my 30 year old boyfriend. Don’t hit on him either, especially around me. It’s freaky. (As I was told one time, when I was picking on Jay’s character in-game by some randy kid “you don’t know her, she’s a lovely, sweet, beautiful girl”. I about choked.)
7) The undead chick is me. I chose her because she is unappealing, has missing flesh, skulks about and looks creepy. Don’t hit on me. I applaud your undead fetish, but come on, it’s indicative of so many other issues. Seek help. (Note: I’ve long passed my cuddly online Carebear years. I don’t pay $14.95 per month to babysit you and I’m not looking for a date; I’ve moved past that. However, I do pay $14.95 to hunt you down. We can hug between well-aimed shots.)
8) Knowing someone online will never take the place of knowing someone in real life in any satisfactory way.
Finally, I’ll leave you with a website from Nick Yee. Nick is a graduate student at Stanford who has put a lot of effort into studying various aspects of online gaming. He actually has some real insight