in response to this horrible incident mike arrington of techcrunch recently experienced, ryan carson of carsonified had a few comments on how better accountability is needed on the internet. as simon mackie posted in the comments, penny arcade does a great job of illustrating this for us. the web can indeed be a nasty place. many people seem to lose all sense of decency when they know they can be entirely anonymous. it seems pretty easy to be a dick to someone when you don’t have to deal with any of the consequences of doing so.
youtube is a prime example. although i love youtube and all the great videos you can find, i don’t ever even bother reading the comments. they are typically immature, rude (and that’s putting it nicely) or just entirely pointless and unrelated. these people post the most hateful and vile things they can because they feel secure in their anonymity. conversations on the web are worthwhile. we want to have open discussions about things, but if you aren’t willing to stand accountable for what you have to say, perhaps there is a reason and you shouldn’t say anything at all.
i receive hate mail occasionally because i am openly atheist (to be 100% clear, i’m actually agnostic as i have to be open to the possibility of something out there, but i lean closer to atheism than anything else). i was very chuffed to see the atheist bus in oxford so i snapped some shots and posted them. i later received an email informing me that i would “burn in hell for spurning jesus” amongst other things. granted, this person used a real email and even signed off with “god bless” (how nice) and their name. i laugh at the threat, since i don’t believe in hell, but i can at least respect them for not hiding behind some anonymous name and email. the email was not nice, at all, but they were accountable for everything they said. bravo!
yes, you also need to have a bit of a hard skin on the web at times. the larger the audience, the more people you are going to find who don’t agree with you, don’t like your work, or even don’t like you at all. there’s nothing wrong with that. you can’t please everyone and the world isn’t a fluffy white cloud with rainbows where everyone loves everyone else. if only (i like fluffy clouds and rainbows). on the web though, the hatred seems to take on a new level. people seem to simply enjoy posting hateful comments because they can. if there is a way we can curb this, even a little bit, it’s worth looking into. perhaps then we can have real conversations and discussions without it turning into a pointless flame-war, and inevitably resulting in good ole godwin’s law.
this is by no means a new topic, and no doubt many discussions will unfold this year. it’ll be interesting to see how people alter their blogs or change their posting or commenting habits in the future. will more blogs require registration to comment? will more tight-knit (and therefore trusted) communities form because of this? thoughts?
(and yes, the mike arrington incident happened in person, so that really is a whole other debate on what type of person would spit in someone’s face like that, but because of mike’s online fame, he became the target.)