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Split Personalities in the Digital Age

The internet has lead to many positive developments with the universal access to and availability of information. Yes, there are dangers, which psychologists, parents, and people have noted from the “internet addictions” to “emotional infidelity”, scary online dating and relationships, stalking, then take it further to how all of our information—down to our personal home address can be viewed by anyone, including third party scammers and spammers.

But that’s not what I want to focus on.  I want to focus on internet assholes. Ever look up a movie review on IMDB.com before buying tickets to a local show and find a rating with countless reviews? Have you ever quickly glanced at some of the reviews? I can’t believe the time people put into complaining and often attacking other people’s posts. Sometimes these online battles go on for hours! From youtube, to movie reviews, to pretty much any subject that allows a public forum (which is most) for people to post there are comments.

What interested me in this is that about a year ago a close friend of mine and I got into an argument on facebook. The subject wasn’t that important, and it was on a mutual friend’s page. The strangest thing is that this friend turned into a complete internet asshole saying things to personally attack me and my looks (which was totally unrelated to the subject of argument) online that he would NEVER say in person. I was shocked. A four year friendship down the tubes in less than 20 minutes with no apology. Did he actually feel these things the entire four years I had known him and it took a little online disagreement to spill out?

Then I thought about what I did on weekends vs. what he did on weekends. Me: work, Brazilian jiu jitsu, salsa dancing, dating. Him: Work, video games, computer games, surfing the web, watching youtube videos . Then I came to a conclusion.  He spends hours posting online as an armchair critic. He probably subscribes to a lot of feeds that match his interest and LOVES a juicy online argument with a stranger.

Split Personalities. Essentially I think that my friend’s personality (which I knew to be genuine, caring and accommodating) melted with his other personality (bored, asshole internet dude) and since we were on facebook the internet buffer between us offered up his “message board” type personality.

Many people go on the internet and pretend to be people they are not, and some use it as an outlet for who they truly are.

There’s a reason employers are now quickly scanning our social network profiles.  They want to know if the person they interviewed is the person they present to be online (where they can often hide behind anonymity) as the discomfort of physical confrontation isn’t right in their faces. No one can punch you, and if people annoy you, you can ignore it with a button. And arguing and saying mean things is so much easier with keyboards and distance than standing in front of someone face to face. Often we don’t realize the real repercussions of what we do online in our real world—you know the one with air and people, located outside the basement. The world where you’re not an airbrushed “model” in a bikini you could never pull off at the pool. The world where you get beat up for talking smack.

 

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