Polarised poison

poisonWhat is it about the internet and SL in particular that manages to distil the less attractive traits of humanity into their purest form so effectively? We’ve all seen at some time or other just how fetid and bitter the otherwise placid surface of the interweb can be once you stir up some of the silt that lies just below.

Perhaps this is most clearly seen on Youtube – ostensibly a site for the sharing of videos, but in reality – as anybody even remotely au fait with the sort of comments that accompany such videos will attest – is a swirling cesspit of malcontent, bigotry and hatred. There is no logical reason why the comments following a cute kittens video should rapidly progress from “Aww.. I died from cuteness” to abusive diatribes, racial slurs and attacks against faiths, but they always do. There is no better place to see Godwin’s Law in action or for topping up one’s vocabulary of profanity, and the same effect can be seen anywhere on the .net where sharing of views is encouraged.

So you’d expect to see the same sort of thing occurring in SL too? Not necessarily -certainly, there are occasions when people’s emotions get the better of them, resulting in some pretty odious behaviour, and I won’t deny that there are those in SL who take great pleasure in creating, encouraging and participating in drama, but on the whole people inworld tend to be fairly engaging, rational and placid types who’d much rather be having fun, than having an argument. Let’s face it, SL is a massively collaborative environment and if we were utterly determined not to get along then the whole place would rapidly and catastrophically fall to pieces. So, in many ways, it’s in everybody’s interests not to rock the boat too much and, most of the time that we’re inworld, we don’t.

volatile1_001Take us outside the protective atmosphere of SL though and a strange and terrifying transformation occurs.

Outside the confines of the virtual world, normally rational and friendly types can turn into demons, baying for blood, and utterly incapable of getting along with each other. Take, for example, the SL frequenters medium of choice – Plurk – if ever there was a breeding ground of virtual discontent, Plurk is it. It’s a great frothing cesspit of anger, ire and little virtual Hitlers, all determined to slag each other off longer, harder and more thoroughly that anyone else around them. And, when Plurk spills over, the virus spreads unabated to other sites… SL forums populated by armies of ex-residents with an axe to grind, just waiting to wade into the fray; and ‘blogs’ whose sole aim seems to be to encourage the spread of vitriol and abuse – often on a very personal level, (even down to naming, shaming and blaming) – and all without any qualms whatsoever.

In fact, when compared to the rest of the internet community, it wouldn’t surprise me if SL folks are amongst the snarkiest, nastiest and vile drama-mongerers in the cyberverse – albeit, only when they’re not inworld. It seems we’re a bunch of Jekyll and Hydes – nice as pie when we’re in pixel mode, but evil as sin once we re-assume human form. Not everyone falls into this pattern, of course, indeed we may only be talking about a tiny minority, but the vocal nature of this peculiar bunch makes up for any deficit in numbers, and I can’t help but be concerned that the world in general might tar us all with the same brush.

Then again, maybe I’ve nothing to worry about because the vast majority of all this nonsense tends to be contained within a fairly narrow demographic, almost all of it forums, blogs and websites dedicated to plumbing the less savoury depths of the SL psyche. The wider world is probably – hopefully – blissfully unaware of any of it.

Personally, if that’s how people choose to behave, I’m happy to let them get on with it, just don’t expect me to join the party!

s. x

We need the words
We speak the words
Of consequent deception
C-Drone Defect – Hypocrite

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