Internet Anonymity

When I started blogging more often about gaming and MMOs, I decided I would try to bolster my readership by posting snippets and excerpts from my blog on Gameriot.com on an old blog I had there. The original blog was a World of Warcraft PvP Priest blog, so I repurposed it a bit. The administration was okay with my doing so, but the community there chewed me up and ate me alive. I was called every name in the book by the site’s frequenters (pretentious and boring was the cleanest and nicest they could come up with), and one really creative fellow even took the photo I have posted on my blog’s main page and Photoshopped it on top of Jabba the Hutt’s body and implied that my being overweight was more than enough reason to consider my ideas worthless.

The last straw was when I found out that even though the administration seemed cool with me cross posting, they took the idea of moderation and abuse of bloggers in stride, and unless something touched on racism, they did nothing about it. The negative comments far outweighed the positive or the benefits of having the added readership from the site.

So I took my ball and went home.

I deleted all my posts, changed my blog’s name so it wouldn’t show up in Google searches for “Professor Beej,” and effectively wiped myself from ever having existed on Gameriot.com.

As a side note, I can’t actually say that nothing good came out of my time at Gameriot.com. Since I was experimenting with Warhammer Online while I was posting there, I came across Bio Break’s precursor, WAAAGH! which is how I was introduced to Syp’s blogarific stylings. I can’t imagine my RSS reader without his daily doses of whatever it is that he does.

But even today, it nags at me that I couldn’t use that as a platform for my gaming related blogs that seemed to work so well for the Sypster. I would get dozens of comments there—even a few that were actually constructive and positive—compared to the handful I get here. Admittedly, I liked that. (And I’m not saying that I don’t appreciate you guys and gals who do comment here. I do! More is just always better with that kind of thing. So get to commenting!) Unfortunately, however, the atmosphere the Gameriot.com staff fostered was one where anyone could hide behind the cloak of internet anonymity and suffer absolutely no repercussions for it.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I know what those guys were doing, and I really didn’t take it personally even when my face was plastered on a Hutt’s slugalicious body, but the idea that someone can take the time to try and share something with an audience who held the potential to be responsive (or at least mildly interested) and be shunned so explicitly is aberrant to me. I can’t understand it. And this coming from an admitted MMO griefer. At least in games where I’m a jerk, I have a character’s reputation at stake. People eventually learn and react to my—forgive the term—douchebaggery. Within the confines of the game, I can be punished if things do not go my way.

Gordon, founder and blogger extraordinaire of We Fly Spitfires, posted an article over the summer about Social Morals that I found incredibly interesting and apt. He said that “everything we do in a MMO revolves around the game world society and interacting with others” and that we are all “at the mercy of the social morals of others and every player helps enforce the expected code of conduct through peer pressure.” If we take his argument out of the game world he mentions and into, say, forum communities or the blogosphere, his words still apply. As both bloggers and readers of blogs, we are all at the mercy of those few people who decide to demolish the air of camaraderie we want to build. Lots of well-known and established bloggers enable comment moderation and/or no anonymous posts for just that reason. Some, such as Dragonchasers or Tobold, have taken extended breaks from their beloved online round-tables or changed commenting policies in order to effectively moderate the negativity internet anonymity can bring.

It hurts me that it takes such severe methods to rein in the idiocy that comes from the ease of being a jerk on teh intarwebz. I do my best to be a nice guy on other people’s blogs and actually contribute to the conversation. Even if I were writing under a much more anonymous pseudonym than what I do, I’d want to act that way because of the whole “treat others as you’d want to be treated” thing my parents beat into me as a kid (note that my verb use here is hyperbolic).

So what is it about being an unbridled jerkface that makes people act that way? Is it that there are no repercussions, really, that impact a person’s offline life? Is it the wonder of being able to unshackle oneself from the courteous social morays of the everyday? Or is it just that some people are doo-doo heads and have nothing better to do that crap on other people’s proverbial birthday cakes?

Comments

  1. Syp

    I wasn't too pleased with GameRiot's community, but most of the people who posted comments on my blog there came along with me from when I had WAAAGH! hosted on WordPress, so I don't think I had the experience you did.

    And I still never know what it is I do anyway. I think I'm just here for the coffee and donuts. But you're right, it's our blogs, and if we want it to stay civil, then we're within our rights to make it so. I personally don't have a problem with comment moderation, because I think most people trust me to wield it properly. I've only deleted maybe 1 out of every 500 comments because someone was being excessively mean or jerkish, especially toward other posters.

  2. Tesh

    I think you could answer your own question, Beej. Why do you play as a griefer? Is it something you'd do in a real life game of Croquet or something like that? I suspect that the anonymity brings out the worst behaviors because there typically isn't much in the way of consequences for bad behavior. Some people are just plain jerks anywhere, but anonymity can tip the scales of people who might not otherwise be a problem.