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An essay regarding the internet

Joe Copp January 3, 2012 User blog:Joe Copp

At the request of other users, I'll post my most recent essay about the internet and its community here.

Does the online community in regards to the entire world have no respect for those that control its outputs? Has the level of immaturity in those that enjoy the online community skyrocketed, or is it simply a difference of class between them and those with greater powers? The internet is obviously a priceless tool for learning and experiences, but with it comes a danger of awkward social exposure and social profiling that we, as a society in the real-world, are so very desperate to avoid. Truly, it seems as if the fundamentals of sociology and human interaction are in fact voided by the limitless bonds of the internet and its online community, granting its users a different perspective on what it may be like to hold specific social positions.

What makes the internet so reliably aggressive? The answer is indeed hidden where the eyes meet the screen: the fact that users of the internet are hidden from sight is what drives them to be themselves. Being an experienced member of the online community myself, I know sincerely that once one begins participating in social goings-on on the internet, their true personality and opinions are hidden deep from public view, and they will put on a sort of “show” for those within their view. Unavoidably, users that become enthralled with the online community develope their online persona in their own eyes, able to manipulate and occasionally contradict their own personality into something they believe others will find pleasant. As a result of developing this “alternate persona” in an attempt to stray away from social resentment of their social features and character traits, these users develope other, permanent character traits that work their way into their real-world personality. Not only do the users become more and more connected to their own created personality on-line, but they also allow themselves to experiment socially more than they might be comfortable with in the real world. Users that use excessive harsh language or who express valiant opinions on controversial matters might not be so willing to do so in reality. This willingness to make rash decisions is a direct result of the inability of other users of the online community to directly link their online actions and persona to their real-world image. The fearlessness coming from this lack of distinction between personalities also contributes to the learning experience users of the internet receive. On the whole, the online personas that users of the online community consistently create are not consistent with their real-life image (at least at first!)

Once the user of the online community has established themselves as a regular user, they might consider letting a bit more of their actual personality into their online persona; while it is a personal decision how much of their true self to reveal, there will more or less always be some integration seen between the real personality and the alternate one. Perhaps the real life personality is always joking around but wishes to be taken seriously online; he or she can certainly do so, all the while leaking bits and pieces of their true self into their online personality, until they have fully established themselves as a user who is both competent and a jokester.

The online community sports many areas in which a moderation of the community’s actions is required, such as forums or chat relays. In some cases, the users that themselves use those functions choose who is to moderate the system, but in other cases, the moderator is simply picked from a specific list. Because there is no generalization in the method in which moderation in the form of site administration is acquired, many other users of the online community that do not retain such positions have grown to dislike those that do. The users that are granted these statuses off-the-cuff, like some on forums, are more likely to make decisions that other users will not like, as the users will argue the administrator has no authority to do so. However, those that are voted or nominated into administrative positions, like some on online wikis, are more likely to be liked by the community and trusted by those that themselves voted them into position. Regardless of the level of trust present between the two factions, there is an inevitable problem that will occur: the disassociation of the administrators and their fellow online users.

While going about the usual tasks a normal administrator would, one might find that their kin, those that they serve alongside, do not approve of their actions. It is a phenomenon commonly seen today; people of a country may not like the job their leader is doing, regardless if it is for the better. However, because of the online personas present in the online community, this distrust of those that administrate has grown almost out of control. Unfortunately, users will frequently question authority and rebel against those that stand only to serve their needs and/or make their experience a better one. Relating this to the real world is clearly simple, but the fact that so many that are now involved with the online community are younger than 30 (those older are less likely to have been exposed to such a thing) makes it easily understandable that a primary cause for the distrust and resentment so widespread across the internet is the lack of maturity. Young users may find themselves lashing out at an administrator’s decision, when they may not even realize what that decision entailed, or whether it was based on bad judgement. It would not be uncommon, however, to find this same trait in those much older.

The result of the distrust seen in the online community is the disassociation of the administrator and the community that may have voted him/her into their position in the first place. The continued resentment of the actions of the administrator, who is indeed only trying to help things, may drive that administrator to himself childishly believe that the community has “changed,” when in reality, they are now left to fend for themselves as the one who has to lend out the help to new users, rather than being the one receiving the help; this change of positions may prove too much for the administrator, and it may allow them to slip into sharing biased opinions and profiling those users they once dwelled upon. The social profiling seen from these corrupted administrators and those around them is definitively what spurs on the distrust seen so rampantly travelling through the keyboards of users of the internet. One must however be aware that the continued profiling of administrators and users is not a sign of complete corruption, nor is it an overnight change; each and every user of the internet, because they are not subject to as much criticism online about profiling as they would be in the real world, is somewhat subject to believing each user in a certain social class, the administrators being the higher-ups and those new folks being the lowest kind. The profiling of online users cannot be avoided or eliminated, so long as the anonymity of the internet remains intact.

When the effects of online social profiling are not so apparent, administrators and new users may find peace and agreement between themselves. Depending on the ultimate maturity and capacity for patience of both users, there may be a shared understanding of one another’s goals and intentions in their actions. This understanding is what all administrators are there for, and is what keeps the online community intact and running smoothly; the presence of a mutual agreement between users is not a scarcity. Unfortunately, however, a shared understanding may not always last. As administrators settle into their position, they may find themselves slipping into social bias, profiling users more and more each day. The more this occurs, the more distrust will occur and the more users will disagree on each other’s actions. The disassociation of the administrators and their once close allies is tragic, yet rather imminent. The process may be prolonged, but ultimately, online social profiling will take at least somewhat of a hold upon all users.

The level of social profiling on the internet seems much higher than that in the real world, when in fact it is likely close to the same amount. Users of the online community are much less likely to censor themselves when regarding other users, as they may not seem entirely “human” in their actions and regards. In the real world, relationships with people are what hold families, friendships, networks, countries, and the world together and what protect them from collapse, so people dare not tarnish their appearance and effect on others by making rash judgements on others. When these very same people step into the shoes of their online persona, the rules change, however, and they feel much more able to express their views. While some may find this a better way to get everybody’s two cents into the equation, it is definitely a way to propagate social profiling and even racism in the real world. The amount of integration between the online community and the real world today, and the rate at which it continues, may serve as a growing reminder that such social profiling will likely creep its way into the minds of those that frequently experience both worlds; in fact, it very much so already has. The easily malleable minds of today’s youth can be shaped into thinking that because social profiling is so apparent online, it is okay in the real world as well, regardless of how much real-world tutoring and education the child receives. Perhaps our world is destined to be entirely integrated into the online community, in an environment where the disassociation of those separate social classes may spell the end of a long-running peaceful relationship between people and their cohorts.

In conclusion, while all users of the internet are subject to social profiling at one point or another, including those in administrative positions, it ultimately comes down to those behind the computer screens to censor their own social bigotry for the better of both the online world and the real world. It is clearly unavoidable that the real world will become ever more associated with the online community, and the level of profiling present will likely skyrocket as well, but if the users of this community are made well aware of what goes on in such a community, and the effects on themselves and the rest of the real world they may have, then perhaps there is still hope for a socially secure and peacefully existing society in the future.

Let me know if you agree/disagree with this in the comments. Shotrocket6 05:30, January 3, 2012 (UTC)

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