Archive for ‘High Road’

February 17, 2011

Anonymonsters

By now, you should know I have mixed feelings about anonymity. While beneficial in certain situations (therapy, support groups, etc.), it also creates an environment that encourages people to become their worst passive aggressive selves.

After reading “Deindividuation“, a post on the “You Are Not So Smart” blog, I’m convinced it’s the root of all evil (mild hyperbole). The post contains anecdotes about people who were contemplating suicide (from the top of a building) and who made that fatal jump after being encouraged to do so by a crowd. Very disturbing. Who in their right mind would do something like that? Answer: You and me.

According to the author:

The risk of a spontaneous cheering section goading a person into killing themselves is high when people in a group feel anonymous and are annoyed or angry. It only takes one person to get the crowd going. Those are the three ingredients – anonymity, group size and arousal. If you lose your sense of self, feel the power of a crowd and then get slammed by a powerful cue from the environment – your individuality may evaporate.

This phenomenon isn’t limited to the streets and takes place online as well. You’re probably familiar with the story of the girl who offed herself after being taunted by online bullies.

The more anonymity a user is allowed, the more powerful the effect of being protected by the group. (…) your identity can spring a leak in the presence of others, and the more others there are, the more you dissolve into the collective will of the group. Looting, rioting, lynchings, beating, war, chasing a monster with torches – the switch is always there, and it doesn’t take much to flip it.

Very depressing.

The post does give a small glimmer of hope though: all this energy could potentially be harnessed for the greater good by making people feel “safe from judgment” and by providing “prosocial cues”. I’d really like to know what a prosocial cue looks like to begin with, especially in the online world. According to Wikipedia,

Prosocial behavior is caring about the welfare and rights of others, feeling concern and empathy for them, and acting in ways that benefit others.

That’s all fine and dandy but how does that stand a chance when online society is governed by incredibly strong forces such as Godwin’s Law?

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches. In other words, Godwin put forth the hyperbolic observation that, given enough time, in any online discussion—regardless of topic or scope— someone inevitably criticizes some point made in the discussion by comparing it to beliefs held by Hitler and the Nazis.

(If you don’t believe this statement, I suggest you go spend some time in the comments section of the Austin American Statesman.)

I really don’t mean to be a cynic. I just think that, unless you live in a country where freedom of speech is repressed (sorry ACLU activists, the United States is NOT China or Syria), you should own up to your thoughts and opinions.

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January 10, 2011

Finders, keepers

My friend Lama’s latest blog post, titled “The Death of the Retweet Button”, revealed a disturbing and frustrating phenomenon occurring in the Twittersphere: people taking credit for other people’s discoveries.

They would rather go through the tedious process of copying the entire tweet and placing it in their tweet box, then deleting all unnecessary crap that comes on there. Then, they write the magical “RT” right before it. That way, if anyone else liked the tweet, their name remains as tribute to their efforts of finding that valuable piece of info and sharing it with the rest of the world.

While I share Lama’s sentiment and strongly believe that credit should be given where it’s due, I find it amusing that our society has evolved to a point where finding the cool stuff is almost as important as creating it in the first place. Not sure why we’re wired to do this. I remember feeling very frustrated as a teenager because everyone believed my then-boyfriend discovered this really cool Pearl Jam song (clip posted below) that wasn’t on their main albums when, in fact, I (me, moi) was the one who found it (through another friend who found it through another friend) and introduced it to our group’s musical landscape.

Yes, the fact that I’m still stewing over this is beyond pathetic.
But it goes to show that people feel a sense of ownership over the things they find first.

I also remember my younger brother battling me ferociously – when we were kids and sometimes today – to be the first to tell our parents that a famous singer or actor passed away. Not sure why he takes so much pleasure out of delivering this type of news – let’s just call that his thing. (My husband might get mad at me if I don’t mention that HE discovered Tom Segura – dude in the link – first and introduced me to him.)

Could this visceral desire to be the first to find something be the source of hipster culture? Think about it.

Hipsters spend their time trying to out-obscure one another. Why? Because they’re so unique? Or because they’ve mastered the art of finders, keepers by running breathlessly down the least beaten path?

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May 31, 2010

Highway musings

As we were driving home on I-35 this afternoon, I spotted a few gas stations/convenience stores along the way. One of them was called “Sac-N-Pac” and the other, a few miles further, was “Pac-N-Sac”. For some unknown reason, these names irritate THE HELL OUT OF ME.

What do they mean?
Do you buy stuff that the cashier packs in a sack for you?
Or do you bring your own recycled sack into the store so that the cashier can pack your stuff in it?
Do you Pac or do you Sac first?

There is no end to the questions.

Other moronic brand names, since we’re at it:

  • Saks (the high end version of the Sac-N-Pac)
  • Pocari Sweat (WTH Japan?)
  • Teenflo (menstrual relief? no. Canadian fashion)
  • The North Face (an open invitation for “The South Butt“)
  • Gerber (in French, “gerber” is slang for regurgitation)

Feel free to add to my list.