Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The "It's Just the Internet" Concept

(Definitely an opinion piece here. Your opinion may differ and that's... OK.)

During the course of my online experience beginning in 1996 and spanning to the present, I had heard the phrase "it's just the internet" many, many times. I had trouble grasping that concept. It took me a while to realize that actually WAS a concept and not just a phrase. I would get offended at things I would read in chat rooms, forum posts, blog comments, etc. Especially if they were about me. I was wrapped up in this internet thingy but good!

But then an online friend recently hammered it into me and helped me discover exactly what the "It's just the internet" concept was. It is that the internet community overall is not a "professional" type of place. It isn't strict. It isn't serious. That part is saved for the news and commerce sites. Entertainment sites are free form. They are loose. They are privately-owned, for the most part. The rules vary and change at what seems like every click we make.

Now I realize that if someone says something about me online or passes an online judgement on me, it doesn't hold much water since they don't know the real "me". They just know my online "persona". That also works in a somewhat reverse way in that an online "friend" also only knows one's online persona. In both cases even if they meet someone in person for a brief period or 2, they still need to get to know that real person in order to make a sound judgement of him/her. Trust me. I've learned that one the hard way.

Many online users tend to use the word "friend" very loosely. They throw it around in a way that tends to diminish its true definition. But IMO, the true test of the word "friend" is when the chips are down and the going gets tough. A true friend will help, understand, accept, tolerate, and reach out to their friend in nearly any sticky situation . A friend will put their friendship in a position of importance. The test is whether anything else seems more important in a situation to a so-called 'friend" than that friendship.

But there are many people who seem to take the internet very, very seriously (as I used to). They put internet events ahead of real life friendships. In the online world, most words written in posts or chat cannot be taken back or apologized for right away, and there are many people who seem to accentuate that fact by escalating the seriousness of those words. Real life words are spoken with inflections & tones and can be shaped or even retracted much easier (in most cases). Many people in the online world seem to forget that. We must remember to apply the "It's just the internet" concept to them as well, no matter how hard it may be. Even though they get serious, we must remain aware of our concept.

We must also remember the point that most online communities like forums, chat rooms, blog hosting sites, and even ISP's themselves are privately owned and have rules dictated by their owners. These rules and ruling decisions can be as conventional as the banning of pornography or as shallow as the owner not liking your username because it reminds him of an ex-girlfriend. It's his business and his rules. Whether we agree with these rules & decisions or not, we must live with them if we want to stay in that particular online venue. If we don't like it, we can leave for another venue or we can start our own and make our own rules. No one can force us to stay where we don't want to stay.

Such is "internet freedom". Freedom to go on the internet where we want to go and freedom to experience the internet as intensely as we want to experience it. But in the end, it's still...

Just the internet.

2 comments:

cAPSLOCK said...

Good stuff Stick. As a denizen of the nets since the 80s... I have seen it's a lesson hard to learn.

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