Cautious ‘IRL’ Vs. Caustic Internet

The Internet is a beautiful place. Games, movies and music, all with easy accessibility that people wouldn’t dream of if it didn’t already exist. The fact that the Internet is so revolutionary has eased my expectations away from the movies about “the future” that made false promises of things like jetpacks. Who needs a jetpack? You can do anything you want on the Internet.

Then there comes a point when you realize that there are other people on the Internet, and they can also do whatever they want. And sometimes, whatever they want isn’t exactly what you want. But, like all human beings, you still want them to like you.

This leads us to a level of interaction that’s both inticing and intimidating, because anonymity mixes with real personalities. There are countless blogs, messageboards, imageboards and loads of other website goodies where you can leave your comments about something.

There is a messageboard for practically every interest you could think of, from discussing your favorite band to choosing a law school. Many of these online communities stray away from the original purpose of the board and form a sort of awkward, dysfunctional family. In the present generation, these families are loaded with sarcasm, self-loathing, rivalries, insecurity, and so many inside jokes that you’ll feel have to memorize them quickly so that you can fit in.

Messageboard dynamics are extremely fascinating. You’ve got so many different personalities coming together to form a board’s identity (including that one dude who tries to overanalyze everyone because he thinks messageboard dynamics are fascinating). You’ve got jokes that only the board has that, if you regular the board enough, can only become awkward moments in real life.

You’ve got shady relationships between board members – the sort of thing that used to make people wonder how people could get themselves into these desperate predicaments (although now, that sort of thing is almost commonplace what with all these Internet dating websites).

You’ve got the pretentious self-aware leaders who insist on the existence of an elitist little clique amongst the people they deem worthy of conversation. But really, any messageboard is just an interesting mesh of personalities where some people force their will more ruthlessly than others.

More remarkable than the community as a whole are
the individuals within, who seem to make significant personality changes to satisfy the Internet. For some reason, people are jerks on the Internet. Not only that, but it’s trendy to be a jerk. Everywhere on the ’net you see people desperately trying to act hip by being a jackass. It’s incredible.

This sort of behavior is amplified on messageboards, though it’s also got a presence on blogs. The more messageboards I’ve seen — and I’ve been a regular on a couple, being your typical Internet-influenced 20-something — the more bizarre contempt I see. Think about it: the nicest people you know probably hardly use the Internet except for practical reasons, while their self-affirming pseudo-intellectual peers do what they can to flash their anxious intelligence to people who couldn’t care less.

Another possible reason why people are acerbic online: because not only do nice guys finish last, but no one pays attention to nice guys. They’re boring.

Perhaps the most notorious of all Internet hooligans are the kids that frequent 4chan. 4chan is one of those boards that has influenced you even if you don’t know it. Popular memes like lolcats and Rickrolling were coined by 4chan users, and other memes started there have spread in popularity. The anonymous imageboard is a free-for-all, but the caustic way in which people deal with each other on this board is a decent reflection of what being in a cultish Internet community can do to a person.

So, really, what’s the entire idea with “boarding?” Is it sacrificing your personality to satisfy your boarding peers around you? Is it letting out the inner jerk for either some sort of self-release or twisted happiness? Is it simply seeing how a community can work and gradually, but surely, being stuck in its pretty rigid structure? Probably all of the above.

What’s wrong with kids these days? I don’t know, maybe you should ask someone on the Internet.