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Categorized | Society

The Internet is Turning You into an Asshole

I become an asshole when I play online games with strangers. I happily curse at all my teammates, call them idiots, throw games on purpose to spite them, and tell both my teammates and the opposing team how I wish that they, along with all their relatives, die in a fire or of a plague.

It’s not just games though. Sometimes I would encounter an idiotic post by a stranger on reddit and it compels me to hurl insults at him. Sometimes I would see a YouTube video that features some form of idiocy or another, and I would use everything I’ve learned from years of creative writing classes to compose the most soul-destroying, suicide-inspiring, comment I can. That previous sentence is an exaggeration. I’ve never done that. However, I know people who have.

In any case, I’ve dealt my fair share of Internet venom. In fact, now that I’m writing this down, I kind-of feel bad about myself. I know that online flaming is unhealthy, and it’s unproductive, but I tend to do it anyway. There is just something about the Internet that turns people into assholes.

Just this month, I’ve encountered two interesting cases of unnecessary Internet vitriol.

There was an article from “the dailypedia” about a girl who sent her ex-boyfriend pictures of herself with a different guy. The girl wasn’t famous. Neither was the guy. However, it still went viral, because of how eager people are to swear and curse at strangers they’ve never met, and whose personal feud they have little knowledge of. There are over 200 comments posted on the article mostly consisting of remarks such as:

“Hahaha!!!Boom panext!!! Nagpapaka silverswan si ate… sawsawan bayan! Mga ganyang babae dapat pinag dadasal n lang…”

“ang babaeng mahilig sa seamen ay mahilig sa semen.”

“She deserve [sic] to be stoned to death!!”

Another article, from “techpinas,” mentions a deaf Filipino who was cyber-bullied because of his faulty grammar. Upon arriving home from school, 24-year-old Mininio Buhat, posted a simple status message about his day:

Deaf Pinoy Cyberbullied

A screen-grab was taken of his post, posted on Facebook, and people started making comments that range from insensitive remarks like, “Ito ang tunay na nakakanosebleed…” (“This is making my nose bleed), to more intense bashing like, “Sakit sa ulo basahin. Bigti na!” (“It’s giving me a headache to read this. Go hang yourself!”).

Thankfully, a certain Mike Sandejas, came to his rescue to inform people that the boy who wrote that “grammatically flawed” post was deaf.

There are a number of reasons why people are more prone to unnecessary aggression in online environments. In the article, “Why Is Everyone on the Internet So Angry?,” Natalie Wolchover and company discuss the social factors that provide the recipe for unwarranted hostility. In the article, Art Markman, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, explains 3 factors that allow for online rudeness and aggression.

According to Markman:

“First, commenters are often virtually anonymous, and thus, unaccountable for their rudeness. Second, they are at a distance from the target of their anger — be it the article they’re commenting on or another comment on that article — and people tend to antagonize distant abstractions more easily than living, breathing interlocutors. Third, it’s easier to be nasty in writing than in speech, hence the now somewhat outmoded practice of leaving angry notes (back when people used paper).”

In the same article, the writers point to another asshole enabler: the media.

Rude television and radio hosts sometimes exhibit rude and aggressive behavior. I’ve heard radio hosts interrupt, insult, and even accuse their guests (many of them, public officials) on air. I’ve also heard radio Dj’s pretend to be experts on love, and call their guests “idiots” or “sluts.” Unfortunately, these attitudes are not corrected and are further legitimized by them having a private platform for their vitriol.

The article quotes Edward Wasserman, Knight Professor in Journalism Ethics at Washington and Lee University, on the effect of media on how people communicate:

“Unfortunately, mainstream media have made a fortune teaching people the wrong ways to talk to each other, offering up Jerry Springer, Crossfire, Bill O’Reilly. People understandably conclude rage is the political vernacular, that this is how public ideas are talked about.”

I’m not a mean person. I’d like to think of myself as rational. If I were asked to describe myself, nice would probably be one of the adjectives I use. However, like most people on the internet, I often become an asshole online.

There are scientific reasons why people become assholes online. However, discovering factors that enable negative behavior does not rationalize negative behavior. At the end of the day, if a person behaves like an asshole, despite any scientific reason, he should know that he’s being an asshole.

Acceptance is the first step to recovery. So, I invite all recovering Internet assholes to say this with me:

“I am [YOUR NAME] and I am an Internet asshole.”

DISCLAIMER: The opinions in this post do not necessarily represent the position of the Filipino Freethinkers.