Anonymity

“On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” This famous New Yorker cartoon cartoon appeared in 1993, when the publicly-accessible Internet was fairly new and exciting, and one of the things that excited people was the degree of anonymity it provided. It gave others a chance to express their thoughts and ideas without being judged by any physical qualities that might influence others against them. In such an environment, the ideas themselves would be the only things of value, and interaction would therefor be of a higher quality than those in the “real world”. Yes, people actually thought that.

The reality is closer to this cartoon. The geeks on the Internet immediately brought in their aliases and fake names and embraced the freedom available to them to be complete assholes. In fact, Internet Persona #1 is “The Rude Asshole” and at least 15% of every online forum consists of people doing this shtick.

Geeks love this world because it allows them to create their dream personality from scratch. For them, on the Internet nobody knows you’re NOT a black-belt hard-drinking sex machine with an astonishing collection of guns. They can now be an Internet Tough Guy and say things that would normally get their teeth punched out (except for the fact that they’re usually saying them to other pasty geeks who get winded at the thought of physical activity.)

It is telling that, when given the chance, geeks will eagerly replace their actual personalities with those of complete assholes. Under the cover of anonymity, geeks can happily be the racist, sexist, homophobic jerks they aspire to. Spend a few minutes in any anonymous geek environment (perhaps online gaming) and you’ll be hard-pressed to identify which of them actually are ignorant thirteen year old boys and which of them are only acting that way. Imagine if the aliens in V covered their horrifying reptilian faces with masks of Hitler.

Another important reason why geeks embrace anonymity is because of their love to be part of the crowd. If they dress in the same stormtrooper outfit, wear the same “V for Vendetta” mask, use the same anti-gay slurs, then they’re part of the team, as important as the other ants in the hill. It becomes a sort of geek solidarity, a cry of “I am Nerdicus” that bonds them to the other participating geeks.

Ur doing it wrong.

Comprehending 'V for Vendetta': Ur doing it wrong.

When not bonding with others, geeks can use anonymity to bond with themselves. They can create “sock puppet” identities that only exist to exchange high-fives with their main identities. (This is slightly more labor-intensive than the geek’s usual habit of simply insisting that hordes of people secretly agree with him in private messages.) They can even get extra mileage out of these phony identities by making them into geek dream dates, hot women who love both wearing fishnets and reading Bleach (and who hint at being sexually involved with their sock puppet master!)

Finally, anonymity is important to geeks because of course the things they do are so anti-establishment, dangerous, and offensive that they must protect their secret identities or “THEY” will strike at the geeks, possibly through their loved ones. At the very least, it adds an air of mystery around the geek that the women on the forum won’t be able to resist. Hopefully the women who aren’t also him in disguise.

They could kill you easily and get away with it, and geeks LOVE anonymity!

9 Responses

  1. Best post ever!

  2. There is a certain delicious irony in having an anonymous blog post sarcastic comments about how Internet geeks prefer to remain anonymous so that they can say nasty things about people and nobody will know who they are. Really, the only way I could have made this post more perfect was by complaining about it without leaving my name. :)

  3. I love it when geeks think semantic point-scoring represents victory, even when it doesn’t address the actual premise of the argument.

  4. Good one. Sure beats having to address the substance of the post, eh John?

  5. I’m not “declaring victory”–who’s arguing? I just thought it was funny, that’s all. And it is. An anonymous post complaining about anonymity. That’s some amusing stuff. (No, really. I know sarcasm is the default mode of comment on the Web, but this is sincerity.)

    My only complaint, really, was that the joke about people dressing up as V was a bit of a misfire, since arguably a big chunk of the idea of “V for Vendetta” is that anyone can be V if they just recognize it within themselves (admittedly more developed in the film version, but present at the end of the original as well.)

    As to the substance of the post, I think that it’s pretty much like the entire blog: It’s true, for a given value of “true”. These aren’t all things that every geek does to the degree described; the author is using a certain degree of hyperbole to make his/her point. But they are recognizable behaviors in the “geek” subculture; we all can point to someone we know who does this stuff, and sometimes that “someone” is us.

    This particular one’s not exactly a novel insight, but it’s just as true now as it has been since the beginning of the Internet; a big part of why I use my real name is because of columns like this pointing out the dangers of believing yourself to be anonymous (and hence immune to criticism.)

  6. That Anonymous guy is totally right and his comment rocks!

  7. while i do not disagree with this post, i think it’s also important to note geeks’ love of compulsively *oversharing* intimate details of their lives on the internet, and not made-up details, but real, pathetic ones, like “i only shower once every two weeks” or “i’m 35 and i’ve only ever had sex once but i’m not sure if i actually did because she was really fat and it was dark.” (both real geek stories i’ve read on the internet.) i haven’t read the newer entries so maybe you do eventually get to that.

  8. “and who hint at being sexually involved with their sock puppet master!”

    That mental image made other people queasy, too, right? I don’t just have an active imagination and a weak stomach, right?

  9. Get away with anything on the internet. Type a spammy, rude or obnoxious, and completely irrelevant troll post…and nobody can catch you. Make sure it’s not a death threat or an illegal act of hate speech (i.e. you need to die minority).

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