On rudeness and interacting with other consciousnesses

One thing that puzzles me is how someone can have an online persona of being very rude, while they assure us that in real life they are mild mannered.

If you’re not comfortable being rude and obnoxious IRL, what makes you comfortable being rude and obnoxious on a message board?

In both cases (IRL and on a message board), you are interacting with other consciousnesses (sentient beings). The only difference is the interface. IRL, the interface is mostly audio/visual (you see their face and hear them talk), while on a message board, the interface is text-based (you read what they write).

But in both cases, you develop a reputation among your peers and also develop relationships with some of them. I assume that the reason people try not to be rude IRL is so as not to harm their reputation and their relationships. But why is it different online?

Why is it that someone can be embarrassed to be rude to consciousnesses that can see your face and hear your voice, but not to consciousnesses that simply read what you write?

In the end, since it is just a communication between two consciousnesses, what does it matter what the interface is?


Uh . . . different consequences.

Like what?

IRL, you lose your friends.
Online, you lose your online friends.

Or, if you have no friends:
IRL, you lose any respect from the people you meet.
Onilne, you lose any respect from the people you converse with.

(I guess you have to exclude from the comparison being rude to your boss IRL, because on a message board no one provides you a salary)

Well, a rude “consciousness” online is at least something one doesn’t have to suffer. Just killfile/ignore the sumbitch and take revenge by living well. Would that real life was so easy.

IRL, you just don’t invite the sumbitch to your gatherings any more.

Of course, in a job environment sometimes you can’t avoid some people, but that is a different environment.

You go to work to earn a living. You go to social gatherings to interact with people and have fun. In that sense, a message board is like a social gathering, because people come here because they want to interact with people and have a good time.

If you’re rude and obnoxious at social gatherings IRL, very soon, nobody will be inviting you to them any more, or if you show up, people will be ignoring/avoiding you. Similar thing applies to a message board, where people will put you on their ignore list.

And the cost to you is…?

Well, I guess if you get on everyone’s ignore list, no one will be replying to your posts, and so you won’t be interacting with anyone, which is the purpose of being on a message board in the first place.

It is true that not everyone will put you on their ignore list, but it is also true that IRL even jerks have some people that tolerate their presense and hang out with them.

More importantly, are you not rude IRL simply because of the consequences? That is, if for some reason (e.g. you were filthy rich) you could be rude without any consequences in your social circle, would you do so?

I think many people just don’t like to be rude, period.

Oh, I dunno. You’d have to be downright hostile (as opposed to simply rude) to get ignored by so many people that your chance of interaction drops noticeably. Heck, with a million or so new internet users a week, you’ll die of old age before pissing off all of them.

Of course. Even the ultra-obnoxious have friends. I’d guess that a person has to make a trade-off between A)social contact and B)self-restraint. It turns out that on the 'net, any but a massive amount of (B) will have little to no effect on (A) and maybe not even then.

Probably, but some do. So what? You pick-and-choose your internet associates like you pick-and-choose your real-life associates; as much as possible.

I don’t see people talking to each other as rudely IRL as they do on message boards, so, does the above mean that most people IRL are itching to be rude to everyone, but just don’t do it because of the possibility that they won’t have anyone to hang out with?

I think that it is a part of it, but I think there’s more. I think we are socialized during our upbringing (and there may also be a genetic component to it) to not want to be considered rude and obnoxious by the people we associate with.

I asked above

I personally try not to be rude because I don’t want people who know me to think of me as an asshole. For some reason, maybe due to upbringing or genetics, I just don’t want to be considered an asshole, even if I can find people who are willing to tolerate my presence and talk to me.

The same goes online. You are still interacting with sentient beings and, assuming someone doesn’t like being considered an asshole by other sentient beings IRL, I don’t see why that person finds it OK to be considered an asshole by sentient beings online.

Of course, I screwed that up. It should be a trade-off between A)social contact and B)self-restraint in the sense that it would take a severe lack of (B) to have any serious effect on (A).

There might be a few emotional tugs here and there to try to get internet people to like you, but there’s no immediate and tangible benefit to do so, and no immediate and tangible harm in pissing them off (and in fact it may be highly emotionally satisfying to do so). Further, there are instances where a statement is made and generates a wholly unexpected hostile response, because it is misinterpreted. If the overall guiding principle of interaction is to keep everything as polite as possible, I supose the original poster might go to great lengths to explain, clarify and retract. The “dark side of the force” temptation to just call the person an illiterate moron is powerful, though.

Well, I have to think that this is somehow related to my recent Piting. Even if it isn’t, I suggest reading that thread since it seems relevent to this discussion.

In any event, my thoughts on the matter:

  1. Some people don’t view online people as really “people”. They are responses to various thoughts or whatnot that people write down.

  2. Even if they are, they aren’t people you have to ever see or deal with.

  3. An online message board conversation lacks the non-verbal communication cues that lets you tell when a reader is being humorous or when another is getting offended.

  4. An online message board affords the opportunity to say the things you can’t say in real life.

  5. Everyone is someone elses “jerk”. What one person finds amusing and clever, another finds offensive. What to some is “nice” or “polite”, to another is passive or dull.

  6. You might be too sensitive. Sometimes a person is just saying something you don’t want to hear.

I’d’ve thought it was more related to the departure of manhattan and a recent spate of pro-politeness threads, myself.

Last time I checked; Nobody ever got an ass-beat’n through a computer screen.

It’s kind of like driving really. Somebody cuts you off, you get pissed and slam down on the horn. Where as if it were Real Life; How many times can you recall somebody cutting in front of you in the grocery store line? I mean, sure, it happens, but not nearly as offten as it does out there on the road.

This is one of the reasons I feel like we’re closer to primates than we are of anything of significance. (or pious) Lots of people are only nice because the alternative might have consequences that they might not want to deal with.

This leads greatly into religion but I’m not sure if I want to open up that whole can of worms.

Like being beaten to a pulp.

Why indeed. From what I can tell, these people are either a) socially inept and obnoxious IRL (whether they know it or not), or b) find it hard to interact with living breathing humans with actual personalities, find it easier to communicate in the written form for this reason, and mentally “disconnect” from the fact that they are still interacting with living breathing humans with actual personalities.

Also, as Imasquare points out, someone you’re interacting with who is 6000 miles away and doesn’t know your actual identity is going to find it difficult to come over and kick your scrawny whiny assholish arse. :wink:

Sorry SHAKES, you pointed this out too. :smack:

It isn’t.

In some sense, aren’t people IRL just responses to various thoughts or whatnot that people express verbally?

Of course, there can be physical contact (sex, violence, etc), but in most social gatherings with friends, you just talk. You express your thoughts verbally and you get responses verbally.

Why is it different when the method of communication is text?

If you’re visiting a new city and you talk to a stranger in a supermarket, are you rude to them because you know you won’t ever have to see them or deal with them again?

I think most people in the above situation choose to be not rude (unless the other person is being a jerk).

And the threat of physical violence doesn’t always come into this because
(1) you can always be rude in a way that avoids physical confrontation and
(2) if the threat of physical violence was the only deterrent, we would all be rude to 80-year-old ladies.

Also, I find it interesting that you used the word “see”. Does it matter if you “see” them? If you know what their face looks like, or if they know what your face looks like, does this change things? Does it change how rude you can be with them?

I think to some extent it matters, and maybe this has something to do with genetics and our upbringing. I think the Japanese have the expression “lose face”. So, how can you “lose face” online, when you don’t have a face?

I wonder if it would change how rude people are online if we all had our pictures in our personal profiles.

To some degree I agree, but online you get all these smilies, which you don’t have IRL.

But why? I think that is the crux of the question in the OP.

The above are both true, but they are true both IRL and online. I don’t see how the above helps explain people who are rude online but polite IRL.

Imasquare: “being beaten to a pulp”
SHAKES : “Nobody ever got an ass-beat’n through a computer screen”
Sarah Woodruff: “difficult to come over and kick your scrawny whiny assholish arse”

So is it the contention that only the threat of physical violence is what keeps people from being rude IRL?

I think not. In a variety of scenarios, you can get away with being rude without being beaten.

  1. You’re filthy rich and/or famous.
  2. You’re the boss.
  3. You’re talking to an 80-year-old lady with no one else around.
    etc, etc.

Yes, a lot of rich & famous people and a lot of bosses are assholes, but not all of them. So, something must be keeping all the good bosses and level-headed famous people from being assholes, and it’s not the threat of physical violence.

This may be true of some online assholes, but I think at least some online assholes have fairly normal lives and families IRL.

I think this is one of the reasons. Some people simply don’t make the logical connection to understand that they are in fact interacting with living breathing humans with actual personalities.

I think another reason may be the apparent ease with which you can disengage from a message board and abandon an online persona (since there are so many message boards), but it is quite difficult to disengage from your social group IRL and go looking for a new social group to hang out with.

But, I think it is not actually easy to abandon an online persona and start posting as someone else, or start posting somewhere else.

Some posters have worked years to get to the point they are today in terms of status and respect from their peers, and that is not so easily thrown away.

For example, it is hard to imagine that someone like SentientMeat, who most people regard as a level-headed & mature debater, would one day start telling people in various threads “Fuck off asshole! You suck!!!”

Why doesn’t he do this?

  1. There is no threat of physical violence
  2. He will most probably never meet IRL the vast majority of people here
  3. He can always leave the SDMB and post elsewhere if things get out of hand here.

But yet, he is still civil. And like him, several other posters.

Why are they not rude? And why are other posters rude?

Of course, even IRL you have some people who are rude and some people who are polite, but it seems that the percentage of rude people is much larger online.

I believe the answer lies in the virtual anonimity one has online. Regardless of how well you may think you know someone online, that person is still a total stranger (unless you’ve met them at a Dopefest). In the extreme situation, sexual predation may be the outcome. Minimally, one can say whatever one feels like saying because there is little chance of meaningful consequence. Those with pent up rage may vent on a message board because they feel it is inappropriate or unacceptable IRL. One’s upbringing does not necessarily pre-empt an online outburst, whereas ‘always be polite’ may apply in a face-to-face encounter.

Yes, it’s still another human on the other end of the conversation, but the structure of the interaction is far more controllable, as is the outcome.

As has been stated, it all boils down to consequences. Of course, people have emphasized violence as a consequence of asshatery, but that’s not one of the high-probability consequences. Real life gives you plenty more:

  1. In your face anger/hurt/irritation/etc. You see the person and their facial expressions and hear their tone of voice. It’s much more visceral than a bunch of words on a screen, and many people find it difficult or at least uncomfortable to experience real live upset people.

  2. Greater expectation of interaction. No matter how you deliver your biting insult, you still have to deal with the interaction afterwards, even if it is merely to walk away from the service counter after having told the guy off. He’ll be watching you walk away; you can’t just click the “X” at the top right of the screen to make it all go away. And there’s always the possibility that he’ll pursue it further by continuing the argument, and you may not be prepared for it. You may have just wanted to say your piece and get out of there, and were not ready for retaliation. And you may see him again, and he’ll know who you are (as opposed to online, where you don’t see faces), and you’ll be forced to interact with him again.

  3. More audience relevancy. Like 2), these are people in your real life, and even if you’re just passing through (i.e. it’s not your particular local community), there’s always a chance you’ll run into them again and they’ll affect you negatively. And one of these guys might be in a position of power over you (a police officer pulling you over for speeding and deciding whether or not to give you a ticket, etc.). Online, the most power they can have over you is kicking you off a web board.

  4. No online reset button. If you ever find yourself with too bad of a rep online, you can always just change your screen name, or move to a different web board. In real life, it’s much more difficult to just move to a different city or adopt an alternate persona with a workable disguise (plastic surgery?). Thus, your consequences tend to stick with you; heck, I still remember the faces of asshats from 10 years ago.
    That said, many people are still polite online. That’s because they may actually be nice people, or they do for some reason value their online rep. The ones telling others to “$hUT uP F4gGOT!!!11!one” are either jerks (in both worlds) or closet jerks (i.e. polite IRL, jerks online only). I think the reasons above explain the existence of said closet jerks.