The Internet is Like the World’s Playground…

…and not in a good way.  No, not at all, in my opinion.

I have written about – or made reference to – the lack of politeness norms on the internet.  My interest in this subject goes way back to when I was in graduate school at the University of Memphis (from 1997-2000), when I studied under Dr. Art Graesser in the Cognitive Science Lab. Some of the research I was involved in was language-based, particularly something called “conversational smoothness” in terms of how an intelligent tutoring system (AI) would reproduce that.

Aside #1: Wow do I ever miss that!  For one of the first times in my life, I actually felt smart!

At any rate, when I wasn’t studying and so on, I was into chat.  Primarily Yahoo chat.  And I became really interested in politeness norms regarding chat – mostly because, aside from turn-taking, there really weren’t any.  People would argue, and sometimes “text bomb” people (causing the chat program to crash), and generally were verbally combative at times.

I thought this was as bad as it gets.  Oh I was so wrong.  It’s a lot worse now.

Besides the usual rude things I read in comments sections these days, and there are certainly many of those, there is something emerging that puzzles me to no end, and indicates to me that there is a certain pathology manifesting itself.

It is the idea of an “anonymous contributor”.

Twice this week, I have run into this myself, regarding my own comments.  And it really, really surprised me.

The first one was when I read an article by a psychiatrist who was reviewing a film about schizophrenia.  He made the remark that, in his opinion, only a psychiatrist could have made the film, particularly someone who had personal experience with schizophrenia.  I posted a comment asking why he said this, as there are many professionals besides psychiatrists who are quite familiar with schizophrenia – like nurses and therapists.

Aside #2: I wasn’t trying to be an asshole.  I just wanted to know why he thought that.  In retrospect, recalling psychiatrists I have worked with – SOME psychiatrists – I ought to have known better.  His response was somewhat…erm…defensive – and clearly I had inadvertently offended him.  But that’s not my main point.

Main point: About 2 minutes after I submitted this comment – which was under my actual first name – I got an email from the editors stating (as the next comment under mine) that they require commenters to state their full names and titles.  Since I was registered at the site under my full name and so on, I thought it odd but replied in the next comment what my name and title were – Ms. Victoria Pomeroy, MS (psychology). I threw the “Ms.” in there just to sound like I was taking umbrage at the whole thing, which I was, actually.

Aside #3: The umbrage thing was lost on someone who replied to the content of my initial comment, as evidenced by him addressing me as “Victoria” and not “Ms. Pomeroy”.  Or maybe the way he addressed me was a deliberate familiarity – and, considering the profession, I think that’s more likely than an inability to recognize the “hmph!” tone I used when referring to myself as “Ms.”  

Pfft!  I do not consider any site that someone registers for – which usually includes full name, email address, sometimes age, sometimes gender, to be “anonymous.”  Even how the editors addressed me when they stated that thing about “full name and title” was odd, as it was in quotes – “Victoria”, as if this were some sort of nom de plume.

Gee, that wouldn’t be very creative now, would it?  Kinda like the name of this blog – it’s not creative, and it clearly states what my name is.

Well, so, no big deal.  I was somewhat put off by it, but considering the source – the type of internet publication it is – that’s just how those types of folks roll.

The next experience I had regarding this was when I asked a simple question in a comments section of a…well…how do I describe this?  It’s a blog written by someone whose books I have read and like, who is involved in the UFO community.

Aside #4: You need to stop that eye-rolling, or your eyes will freeze that way, I promise you! Yes, I mean you!!  I see you!! Stop it!

*Clears throat*

The blog post in question was just the author laying down some boundaries, which I think were long overdue.  He stated there would be no more insulting remarks, name-calling, and so on. Pretty straightforward, wouldn’t you think?

This caused a discussion to develop amongst the “regulars” (no, I am not one, I am a “newbie”) concerning certain people and their stances on things like the “Roswell Slides” (a non-event, don’t even bother Googling it), and then morphing into a sort of tirade by some people regarding “ACs”.  Oh and some mention, in the same train of thought, to “AJB”.

Air conditioners?  Alternating current?  And I had no guess as to what “AJB” was.

So I asked.  And, at the site, I am registered by my Google ID, which is “muse”.  Which, to my understanding, also has my correct email address and probably other Googly things, like my picture of Finnian-Da-Kitteh as my ID pic and all.

Aside #5: Yes, yes, I am getting a real pic taken uh…when I feel un-shy some day.  Don’t hold your breath.  I have always been camera shy, and it’s a miracle there is even that one pic of me at 16, taken by Stange.  His charm, no doubt!

Ok, so I asked what “AC” and “AJB” meant.  A nice person, who only has initials in his ID, explained that “AC” – which meant “alternating current” to him (he’s old like me I guess heh) – in internet lingo means “anonymous contributor”.

The “AJB” refers to someone that a lot of people who comment on that blog do not like, whose involvement in the aforementioned “Roswell Slides” is the subject of apparently much derision and internet posturing.  I guess he posts on the comments section a lot, but wasn’t commenting on that particular article (perhaps wisely).

Aside #6: I also asked what was considered an “expert” in the UFO field (no, I wasn’t baiting, I wanted to know what their operational definition was, since a few posters had mentioned that), and what constitutes anonymity if we are all required to register using Google IDs and so on.  No one answered that.

Ok, so far so good…until I read the response to my thanking this poster for his explanations.

The response was written by someone who posts under his (apparent) full name, first and last. He derided the fact that “two ACs” were discussing what the abbreviation meant, and went on to declare that anyone who is an AC isn’t worth his time to respond to (irony is lost on him, I guess).

This is definitely someone who is not only stuck on himself, but who also has to have the last word.  His previous comments on the thread dealt with how skeptics misuse Occam’s Razor (of course he had to spell it as Okham’s, because he’s so much smarter don’t ya know) to bash such clearly superior ideas as aliens being the cause of unexplained phenomena.

As opposed to, you know, clearly unscientific ideas such as sleep paralysis and hypnagogic hallucinations.



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