The Internet has a special gift it bestows upon everyone who visits its fabled shores. I won’t call it Internet Anoniminimityty because I don’t know how to spell that word, and it makes me think of Sea Anemones. Instead I shall refer to it as “The Ability to Remain Anonymous on the Internet”. Yes, it’s more letters, but that’s what copy and paste are for. Plus, “Anonymous” makes me think of either mice or moose, and those are regular mammals; not deformed underwater porcupine things. And I can spell it!
This gift has a strange side effect, though, and one should be careful to not fall victim to its siren call. Just because you have The Ability to Remain Anonymous on the Internet, doesn’t mean you Have To Remain Anonymous on the Internet. All kinds of creepy people got worked up when Intel decided to put identification numbers in their processors a while back. Here’s the scenario: Bob at Intel realizes that a lot of people are beginning to purchase things online, and comes up with a pretty cool idea that can attach a signature of your machine’s hardware ID to a transaction as well, just as another failsafe. If a fraudulent transaction occurs, you can prove the transaction didn’t originate from your machine. Nifty, huh? Uh, no… apparently not. The Pedophiles of the World suddenly joined forces to shoot this idea down so fiercely that Intel must have been a little confused. It’d be like if a car company got boycotted for adding another airbag in the trunk. HOW DARE YOU!? Uhh… huh?
This was the first time I can really put my finger on the whole "internet privacy" thing coming up. The Pedophiles feel like they should be able to download child porn without fear of ever being personally identified, because, well… child porn is illegal, and they are somehow entitled to the right to seek it out without anyone knowing who they are, just because they're looking on the internet. I wonder what would happen if undercover police set up a big card table at a garage sale with piles on child porn on it. They could put a big day-glo green poster saying COME GET YOUR CHILD PORN HERE! 1 DOLLAR! When people came to browse, and were thereby arrested, what would they do? They would be caught red handed! Oh wait... nevermind. I know what they'd do. They'd get a lawyer, and cop an entrapment plea. God bless the Judicial System.
Anyway. The real situation is a bit more complicated than that, and it just seems a little silly to me. The fact is that the general populace is terrified of the internet, and doesn’t feel comfortable using it. Maybe it’s silly to me because I myself am so comfortable with it, but I tend to forget that some people just have no idea how computers work at all. I recently visited with my grandmother in America, and actually laughed out loud at her when the subject of the internet came up and her face turned into an honest to god scowl and she decried the internet as the “worst thing ever invented”. I gently prodded, and her justification was because of “the people stealing money, and prowlers out there capturing little girls using the internet. Those people are sick, and they can do it because of the internet”. I wondered aloud if crime or sexual predators existed before the internet, but she obviously wasn’t having this discussion. She’s like 80-something, and her mind was made up. She’s old, but not ‘doddering’. She’s still sharp as a tack, but the internet is a cesspool of thieves and rapists in her mind.
I know when I do a Google image search for “kittens” or “marshmallows” that invariably a picture of a huge penis poking into a vagina will pop up with the results. It doesn’t really faze me, but I can see how it might be traumatizing for an elderly woman, or the entire state of Utah.
|Sometimes I even got all sneaky, and would put a cup of Mountain Dew INSIDE the "money cup", with a straw going thru both lids. It added to the realism of "drinking it".|
I’m getting a little sidetracked here. The point I was trying to make earlier is that the internet offers this chance to be anything or anyone you want to be, but people seem to forget that it’s optional. You don’t HAVE to pretend to be someone else, and you CAN give out your honest to god name online. Unless you’re 15/f/florida, I wouldn’t really be too worried about it. Let me illustrate a real life example:
I used to live in a house in Oakland, CA with 7 other people. It was a big house, and we split rent 8 ways. It was a mess, but we always had warm bodies on the couch for console gaming. We scored a copy of Xbox ESPN NFL2k5 (I think it was 2k5?), and used to play it online. We weren’t very good, and would invariably start losing. HOWEVER! The instant someone got shitty about it, and called us a loser faggots or whatever, we had the ability to instantly win by default. Our record wasn’t flawless, because if they were good sports about it we’d actually play the game. But if they were arrogant shits about it, we had an ace in the hole! We would let the other team score, just so we could get our hands on the ball, and then we’d basically drag every single down out for 3 minutes. Pausing the game bought us like 2 minutes, then we’d unpause at the last second only to repause again, or let the play timer count down and snap the ball at the last instant. We wouldn’t even try to make plays, we’d just take a knee, and repeat the process. On fourth down, we’d run into our own endzone, let the other team score a safety, and get the ball again. I really don’t remember the whole dynamic, it was a long time ago… maybe after the safety, we had to kick off to them or something? I honestly have no idea how sports work. But I distinctly remember that the trump card was when we were kicking off. There was no longer any play timer counting down. We could just sit there and howl with glee as these young white suburban kids called us “fucking nigger faggots” over and over again. My friend Jacob’s XBL account name is “Whiteguy” but this never seemed to register with their Inner Thug.
Some of them would try and wait us out, but we were in that young, crazy, “hey let’s just get out the bong” phase, and we had infinitely more patience. We also had like every console on the planet, and a TV with 800 inputs on the back. We could just switch the TV over to the PS2 input and play that while we waited for our win. We’d invariably keep the xbox earphones on to hear the fun, though. This was before you could listen to the earphone sound on your TV speakers, so I went to RadioShack and "pioneered" a way to split the sound from one controller to multiple people, since we didn't all have earpieces (check the date on this link, lol...! 2002!). They’d swear to god they would hunt us down and kill us in our sleep, and so (here’s the tie in!) we gladly gave them our address and told them to come on over. 1019 62nd street, Oakland, CA. Come up San Pablo Ave, and take a right on 59th, we’re right by Martin Luther King Elementary. Be sure and keep yelling about shit eating niggers on the way over here. Our neighbors would love to meet you.
Much to our amazement, though, no one actually showed up and killed us. It was pretty disappointing.
The football game was eventually patched to remove our ‘sploits, and we moved onto bigger and better things. But the realization that no one was going to actually fly from Texas to Oakland to hunt us down over an Xbox game was empowering.
I’ve since taken the stance that none of that shit really matters, and now have my XBL gamertag as Ericksen. Here’s a hint if you can’t figure out the meaning: it’s my last name. I certainly could have gone with “BlaZzZin FurEY 420 Smokolot” or something, but felt like my last name was a better representation of who I am. There are no Xs in it, I know… it’s pretty mundane.
While my characters in WoW are all named some variation on Isobelle, I make no excuses about broken microphones or missing sound codecs online. I’ll jump in vent with a PUG (OMGURADOOD?), and actually am usually the first one to offer up my guild’s server IP just so I don’t have to type. I even go gentle on the fragile ones and tell them that I don’t care if they never say a word. It’s just easier for me personally if you can listen to what I tell you, without ME having to type. You can type all day if you want to, knock yourself out. I personally prefer saying “focus fire on the skull icon” than typing it during a botched pull.
On the flip side, while I have no issues with anyone knowing who I “really am”, I”ve grown so used to being called Iso on vent that if anyone calls me by my real name (Richard), it usually doesn’t even register. I'm more apt to respond to a hundred variations on Isobelle... Eye-So, Ee-So, Izzo, Isso, whatever. Then I joined up in a guild where everyone already knew each other, and called Skeith “Jason” and Similak “Matt”, etc. At the beginning it was a bit frustrating, because “Chrissy would have aggro” in a 40 person raid, and I didn’t know who needed the taunt.
Am I alone in this? This lack of fear? Is it because I live in Japan (1411-1 Agasaki, Tamashima-sho, Kurashiki-shi, Okayama-ken, 713-8121) instead of the Terror Capitol of the Free World? Is it because I’m older now (32 years old, since last June 7th)? Is it because I’m a white male? I really don’t know. Would my position be different as a 19 year old trans-gender Mexican bisexual living in Dayton, Ohio? Who knows. As it stands though, I find it all a bit silly.