May 23, 2005, 10:07 AM
Post #8 of 54
I inherited an e-list on Yahoogroups about 6 years ago when the list owner, who was an acquaintance of mine, died unexpectedly. As I've posted previously, I bred and showed pedigree cats for nearly 18 years, and the list was originally started as a place where breeders and serious fanciers of my breed could get together and exchange ideas in a safe, friendly and warm environment. When the list was started in 1998 (originally on OneGroup) the internet was a new toy for many, so the learning curve was swift and steep. The original list owner was a naval officer's wife and she asked me to take over while they moved from Corpus Christi back to San Diego. Unfortunately, her MS started acting up, some other things kicked in and her kidneys failed.
So there I was with an e-group of about 150 people. Piece of cake.............or so I thought. Within months the membership had doubled as more and more people got computers and got on line, and also as the reputation grew that the list was the best place to be for Maine Coon information. Within 2 years the list membership had doubled again. If you think herding cats is hard, try herding cat breeders, fanciers and pet owners. Cats are smart, people on the internet aren't. I've moderated flame wars, deliberate and unintentional, and some of the vilest name calling and mud-slinging. If you think politicians are bad, cat breeders are worse. I've dealt with litigious Americans who are sue happy and think that every little thing posted is either libelous or slanderous. Not to mention the esteemed member of the RCMP who threatened me persohally. I've had to explain nuances of American English to Europeans who were offended by some posts. Since many ISPs allow multiple screen identities, I've had people masking their true identity so that they could stir up trouble, bring up controversial subjects with impunity and then play both sides of the thread, or resubscribe to the list after having been bounced for bad behavior. I had a woman masquarding as a man for 18 months until I finally got tired of the charade. My e-list that started as a fairly tight-knit group of 150 has mushroomed into a group that hovers right around 1,600 members. It isn't so tight-knit anymore, and it isn't nearly as friendly or productive as it used to be. Everyone has to use their real name, and if a poster doesn't sign a post you can be sure that my list members will let the person know that's not okay.
In the 6 years I've been a list wrangler, I've learned a lot of things. Mostly that people will say and do the darnest things behind the safety of a computer monitor. They will write and post things that they would never, ever say to someone face-to-face. Perhaps it's the extremely impersonal and flat nature of e-mail, but the anonymity of it all seems to embolden people to act in ways they normally wouldn't. The other thing that's become very apparent is that many people on line lack adequate communication skills in that they can't write a coherent sentence, convey a thought or otherwise communicate their ideas/intents/etc in writing; which has, of course, led to a great deal of misunderstanding. As the use of the internet has grown, so has the predatory nature of it. It is now exceptionally easy to find pertinent information about anything or anyone. Don't believe me? Do a Google search on your own name. I did mine, and the first hit was a family tree listing both parents, their dates of birth and my mothers maiden name. Think about how many official documents use the mothers maiden name as a security check. Because of the work I've done and because of how active I've been in several on-line communities there's a lot of information about me avialable, so I don't very try and conceal my identity on-line anymore. Do I think someone is going to be a victim of identity theft here on MexConnect? No, not really, but the risk exists everywhere these days.
I'm guessing this forum is way bigger than my little e-list, but the point is, on-line is anonymous for a number of reasons:
* It's impersonal
* It's flat emotionally, i.e. no facial expressions or body language to give you clues to how the person really feels
* It can make you braver than you really are so that you say and post things that are harmful/hurtful/etc
* It allows you to be controversial without being accountable
* It supports your fantasy life, i.e. you can be whoever and whatever you want to be
* It's easy because you can do anythinng on it from the comfort of your own home
* Being anonymous can deter identity theft
While I tend to agree it would really be nice to know who you're talking with and put some faces to names, there is no harm in erring on the side of caution.