On the Internet, everyone is a fluffy bunny

Or, more accurately, on the Internet, everyone is a raving wildebeest.

I have been reading Penny-Arcade regularly for many years now. It’s usually very funny, but every so often it’s also insightful. Those are the comics I like the most. There is this one comic from March 2004 (see below the fold) that I keep finding myself referencing in an ongoing basis in Internet conversations. The basic thesis of the comic is: “Normal person + Anonymity + [Internet] Audience = Total Fuckwad”. Unfortunately the comic dates itself somewhat by referencing Unreal Tournament 2004, but the overall idea transcends that game and applies to the Internet at large.

The simple fact is, most of the idiot trolls you meet online really are just normal people. They’re simply taking advantage of the anonymity of the Internet to be more rude than they would in real life. In real life there can be some pretty unpleasant, instant consequences to being a jerk; on the Internet, there are none. I’ve noticed this in my dealings at Wikipedia as well. Some people are consistently very unpleasant online, but (hopefully) don’t act like that in real life. Unless there’s some selection bias and the unpleasant people really all do tend to gravitate to the Internet, I see a large incompatibility between the number of jerks online and the number of jerks in real life. The most probable solution is that a lot of the jerks online don’t act like jerks in real life.

I can offer up my experiences at Wikimania as evidence of this assertion. The last Wikimania was held in early August 2006 in Boston. I went there, and so did lots of other Wikipedians who I had only ever previously interacted with online. It was overall very pleasant, and a lot of people I had had significant disputes with online were perfectly nice in person. It’s definitely harder to call someone an idiot to their face than to their username, at least.

The best way to work harmoniously with other people online is to keep in mind that are (most likely) just normal people, and to not treat them any worse than you would in real life. Things can get unpleasant on the Internet very quickly, but it usually takes two people acting like jerks to each other to bring the conversation to really low standards of decency.


Green Blackboards (And Other Anomalies)
(c) 2004 Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins.

6 Responses to “On the Internet, everyone is a fluffy bunny”

  1. The Internet sucks because idiots are legion and vocal | Cyde Weys Musings Says:

    […] spend too long though; that level of stupidity is contagious). Some of that has to do with the anonymity that is frequently afforded on the Internet; after all, if you fear no repercussions, no damage to your reputation, then you won’t hold […]

  2. knacker Says:

    Hahaha and my comments used to always be held for moderation.

  3. fagtits Says:

    butts

  4. fagtits Says:

    HAY GAIZ YOURE ALL BUTTFUCKERS HAHAHAHA L0LZ

  5. Le très petit souris Says:

    You idiots serve only to reinforce Mr. Weys’ point about you dunces, louts, and animals. Go back to nursery school if they do actually teach you NO PROFANITY. Invoking Freud will only cause me to sear away your non-existent sapience.

  6. Newbetter Says:

    ” it usually takes two people acting like jerks to each other to bring the conversation to really low standards of decency.” -which, again, seems to be the goal of current internet trolls. Coax people into getting ugly because of something ugly they’ve seen, so they can laugh. Grats, you have one again proven that it is easier to destroy than to build. Just as impressive as slapping an infant about the face and saying “…and they didn’t even do anything to stop me.”