Online Weirdness

The internet, especially social media, makes people weird. This includes: suspiciousness, rudeness, aggressiveness, unresponsiveness, misplaced common courtesy, absent social norms, lack of typical friendliness, bluntness, etc. I notice the differences in others, as well as in myself.

For instance, there is a fellow blogger I know. We mutually follow each other’s blogs. He recently shared his personal experience in his blog. He doesn’t usually write about personal experiences and so I thought this would be a good opportunity to get to know him better. I responded with some personal experience that was similar to his. I had interacted with this guy before and was trying to make a personal connection, to treat him like a normal person I might meet in normal life, but he gave me no response whatsoever. Just silence.

As another example, I was interacting with a guy I know on Facebook who lives in my community. He mentioned working at a library. As there are several libraries in town, I asked him about which library he works at (with an added “if you don’t mind my asking”). I got no response, not even saying that he’d rather not tell me, despite my having interacted with him online at least hundreds of times over many years, live in the same area as him, know some of the same people, and likely have met him in person at some point.

Ignoring people like that seems rude, or at least it would be in normal life. How can people apparently be so oblivious and unaware about their behavior? why don’t they think the same rules of conduct apply in all aspects of life? Why the division in relating, the dissociation of experience, or whatever it is?

It isn’t just strangers and casual acquaintances. I’ve had similar experiences with people I known personally for years and decades. Sometimes close friends won’t even acknowledge comments I make to their Facebook posts or posts I make to their page. Such silence wouldn’t be considered acceptable in a face-to-face encounter. Why is it acceptable online?

I always respond to people, even strangers, as long as I deem them worthy of a response. On my blog, if I deem someone unworthy of a response, I also deem them unworthy to have their comment to be approved for showing up in my blog. I treat my small corner of the internet as a semi-personal space and so I treat people I meet on the internet personally, which includes both positive and negative responses.

People I meet online are real to me in my experience, even if I’ve never met them in person. I’ve had internet friends who I’ve known and regularly conversed with for years. I know about their lives and their dreams, although I’ve never even heard the sound of their voices. I also treat people I know from my everyday life the same way online as I do offline. I don’t treat the two worlds as separate. It is all the same world, same common courtesy, same way of relating.

I do act differently online, in some ways. I’ll admit to that. I’m an introvert and, like many introverts, I find it more comfortable to be friendly online. I like meeting people online, but less so offline. I’m not a social person in the traditional sense, but I’m not exactly a private person either. I’ve always been a person to which applies, what you see is what you get. The internet hasn’t changed that, although the internet has given a vehicle for that philosophy to play out differently.

I also can be more aggressive online, at times. So, maybe I’m not in a position to judge others for acting out of character. That said, I tend to only act aggressively online to strangers, the type of people I’d never normally interact with at all. So, the internet merely opens me up to interactions that wouldn’t otherwise happen, but it doesn’t change the way I interact with people I already know; at least, I don’t think it does.

I’m not sure what is my point. Maybe people are always weird, but are better at hiding it in everyday life.

4 thoughts on “Online Weirdness

  1. A lot of the right wing aggressive types are actually being paid to do what they are doing.

    Sometimes companies will too. Samsung got caught paying online trolls to promote its Galaxy phones. Considering the vitriol from Apple fans, I would not be surprised if a fair number were paid trolls.

    • I’m sure that is the case. You see that when online polls get manipulated or when a book gets down-rated by those who clearly haven’t read the book. Most people have bcome so cynical as to think of this as normal.

      This feeds into the online weirdness. There are so many deceptive and manipulative practices online that there is a wariness and mistrust that forms the background of nearly every interaction, even with people one knows because you never know who is watching, as few online formats are completely private. There are so many people pretending to be who they aren’t that a lot of the time you don’t know who you’re dealing with

      On top of that, there is the limitation of most of the internet being mostly words. All the normal cues of social interaction are absent. You can’t see someone’s facial expressions, body language, ad general appearance. You can’t hear their voice and accent. Assessing honesty and trustworthiness is difficult online.

      Furthermore, the inernet attracts many people who prefer the anonymity, simplicity, and indirectness of online interactions. This is true for people who are introverts, have anxiety disorder, are emotionally sensitive, lack social skills, etc. There is a sense of comfort and safety in dealing with people at a distance.

      All of these combined together create unusual conditions. Even so, there are a significant number of people who act to varying degrees of ‘normal’ under these conditions. But what is normal under abormal conditions?

  2. Here is an example of what I mean:

    It’s worth taking some time to read the article in full. It refers to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill a few years ago.

    It is interesting to note that this sort of news is not covered in the mainstream media in the US and that we have to rely on sources like Al Jazeera (which actually does surprisingly good journalism at times).

    Anyways, here’s another example:

    Fox News – I am not surprised.

    Unfortunately, there’s no reliable method to determine who is legit, who is being paid, and who has very vociferous opinions but is not being paid. The best way is usually to evaluate the quality of the post itself and take a “best guess”.

    • I have no doubt there are more examples like that than could ever be reported on. Many governments, corporations, private interest groups, large religious organizations, etc have done this type of thing. As long as they have the money to do it, the temptation to do so would be strong. That is the age old story of how money corrupts for money is just symbolic of power.

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