The notion of internet privacy is an interesting concept. Many have believed up until recently that they are completely anonymous to others online unless they choose to identify themselves (thanks, Edward Snowden!). This supposed anonymity people believe they have has quite the influence on the shaping of the Internet landscape.
To me, the effects of someone believing that they’re anonymous online are closely related to one’s behavior when they’ve been loosened up by alcohol: they say things they probably shouldn’t, do things they’ll regret later and generally become grotesque caricatures of their normal, everyday selves. Much like people have “drunken personalities,” they also have equally perverse internet personalities.
The Expert: The Expert is the absolute best at whatever small niche thing it is that he does, be it building complicated stuff in Minecraft or knowing every stunt double to have worked in Star Wars. He dismisses the accomplishments of others, quick to point out minute flaws and to boast of his superiority. One can only dream of having the experience and expertise that he has. He hasn’t slaved away for months just to let some “noob” come traipsing into his world. No matter how minor the error, The Expert will be there to inform just how wrong you are and how right he is.
The Revolutionary: Fear not, dispirited victims of the world, The Revolutionary will define all that is wrong with society and show you the way to a better world. Considering herself the sage of a lost generation, the Revolutionary can be found in all realms of the Internet, imploring us to “wake up sheeple!” Oftentimes, The Revolutionary is at an extreme end of the political spectrum; be it the hippie side or the fundamentalist psychopath side. Her feeds are often filled with links to political articles and clever satire, and her ideological rants are often lacking in coherent grammar, punctuation and originality.
The Drone: Are you a marketing representative that’s been asleep for the last ten years or a time traveler from the 1980s? Do you dream of Nigerian princes and believe what chain letters tell you? If so, you may very well be a Drone. The Drone is an odd, slightly anachronistic personality of the Internet, not so much annoying others online as they are confusing them. Drones can be found on places like Facebook and Youtube, cluttering news feeds and video comments alike with poorly worded stories and miracle-type offers that are full of cheese and certain to fool nobody that’s been online in the past five years. The Drone’s messages are marked by his habit of capitalization of every word in a sentence, all-caps headers and the fact that his messages never relate to the content he connects them to.
Everyone on 4chan ever: Trolls are deliciously awful. Sure, they may post horrendous, offensive, ludicrous things simply for the sake of obscenity, but they are a driving force behind a good majority of online activity. We love to hate them, and they love to hate us. Some trolls are simply disenfranchised extremists, but most fire upon the people of the Internet for entertainment’s sake. If we never fired back, there would be no trolls. The trolls are a reflection of the Internet’s Dark Side.
Now I’m not saying any of these online behaviors are wrong. If these types of personalities didn’t appear online, the Internet would likely be a pretty boring place. However, it is ridiculous to think that we can’t be held accountable for these activities in an extreme situation, that the internet is just some blame-free playground where you can call your neighbor’s 5-year-old son a filthy Communist and stroll off carefree.
It’s fine to be a little brazen online, just like it’s okay to get a little drunk. However, the key to both is moderation. Temper your personality online and know your boundaries. For example, it would be much more appropriate to let your hidden anti-Arab sentiments fly on some thread in Digg than on the Daily Show’s interview of Malala Yousafzai.
Much like you wouldn’t want your mother to hear your drunken thoughts, you probably wouldn’t want CSU Confessions to suddenly revoke anonymity, would you? My main point is to monitor yourself online like you would your drinking. You can make an idiot of yourself up to a point, but don’t antagonize specific individuals or post anything that could get you canned. There are anal-retentive officials out there who may incriminate you for that.
You’re not alone out there.
Sean Kennedy is a freshman with no declared major. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org