Monday, April 10, 2006

Online community blues

I’m beginning to notice how modern existence – and, indeed social confidence – is affected by the actions of members of online communities. They’re beginning to have as much impact on one’s life as the other passengers on the tube or someone met in the pub. It’s something we have to get used to – all these people, in self-regulating techno-social bubbles, having an impact from a distance.

The tenacious defence of the Ray Mears page on Wikipedia was one example last week. I still find it bizarre that someone would give enough of a shit to protect Ray’s entry from cyber-vandals such as myself. Is EVERY page on Wikipedia guarded by an acolyte of some description? I see this as the online (and somewhat less lethal) equivalent of a paranoid householder sitting with his shotgun at the top of boobytrapped stairs, waiting for burglars to ‘make his day’. Yeh, I know that’s hyperbole…

Oedipal Schedipal
The next example of the impact of people online were American potty-mouths on Xbox Live. I went on there to play a spot of Burnout: Revenge and found that my opponents were US teenagers suggesting that they were going to anally penetrate each other’s mothers. Now, of course, the abuse wasn’t genuinely vicious, but as a 37 year old Englishman it’s a bit off-putting to have to listen to Midwest youth with MILF fantasies. The analogy is listening to teenagers swearing at each other whilst illicitly smoking weed on the top deck of the bus.

The third and final example is reading Emily’s pregnancy message boards on iVillage. The women on the boards organise themselves into cliques like little girls in the playground. Some have ‘private’ invitation-only MSN sites where they can share pictures of their bump or Bugaboo ‘travel system’ with other members of their clique. Some boards are populated by bullies who bitch about new ‘posters’. The other interesting element is the oppressive morality – one woman who spoke about an abortion was shouted down immediately.

You’ll notice that, in order to understand online behaviour, I keep resorting to ‘real world’ analogies. With this in mind, my question is this: is the Internet leading to new social behaviour OR does it just replicate offline modes?

1 comment:

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