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10 October 2005

How similar are you to your internet you? Specifically, how similar are aspects of your real personality to your online personality, and how "complete" is your online personality? [MI, of course]
An example:

My online personality is a very anal, precise person. That is also definitely an aspect of my real personality. However, it's a pretty limited part of my real personality. Online, I'm all anal, all the time. In real life, I'm anal in discussions of politics, planning for trips, fixing computer problems, and other really fact-based stuff. However, in regular conversation with friends about hobbies, life in general, amusing anecdotes, etc., I'm not anal at all. I see this with other people on the net: their personality (for example, in Mefi) doesn't gel at all with what I see on their own homepages, or it does but there are big aspects I'd never guess from their Mefi personality.

So, how about y'all? Different than real life? Same as real life, but in a very limited way? Pretty much generally the same all around?

(I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess that jonmc comes across in person exactly the way he does on the net)
posted by bugbread 10 October | 17:47
i'm, ya know, quonsar.
posted by quonsar 10 October | 17:53
I think I come across pretty much the same online as I do in person, but it's hard to be objective...

Hmm. Acquisition of knowledge about someone happens so very differently online than it does in person. It's different info that's swapped.

Maybe those of you that have met in the real world can give bugbread an idea of your perceptions.
posted by Specklet 10 October | 17:55
unless i'm, ya know, not.
posted by quonsar 10 October | 17:56
Quonsar, actually, you're one of the folks I was thinking of as having personalities that are different than online, as I remember someone saying something to that effect about you (can't remember who or when, though).
posted by bugbread 10 October | 17:56
I'm just me. A bit sillier online, perhaps.
posted by bunnyfire 10 October | 17:59
Same same, I like to think. It would be a pain in the ass to try and remember a persona every time I made a comment. I'm not sure if my RL sense of humour makes it across though.
posted by carter 10 October | 18:00
I'm actually quite funny in real life.

;)
posted by carter 10 October | 18:00
It would be a pain in the ass to try and remember a persona every time I made a comment. I'm not sure if my RL sense of humour makes it across though.

I'm thinking more the second half than the first half: I'd be surprised if people made and remembered a persona. I think it's more a matter of certain aspects of RL just not coming across on the net. That's certainly the case with me.

I'm actually quite funny in real life.

I'm much more handsome than my typeface would indicate ^_^
posted by bugbread 10 October | 18:02
In real life I tend to sit around and type on a keyboard. My online persona is more about communicating in a text medium.
posted by agropyron 10 October | 18:05
i think i'm me everywhere
posted by amberglow 10 October | 18:05
There's anal and then there is willfully obtuse. It is hard to tell the difference online. One is about being precise and the other is more about being passive-agressive in the process and, hence, consciously or unconsciously, provoking other people.
posted by y2karl 10 October | 18:07
I think I'm pretty much the same everywhere, although way more fun to drink with in person even than on IRC, I swear, but lately I've gotten into a couple of ridiculous e-mail fights with relatives, which is making me think that perhaps my sense of humor doesn't shine through cyberspace the way I thought it did. Or I'm just really not funny, you pick.
posted by mygothlaundry 10 October | 18:10
Online, I have more time to think about what I am about to post and I often choose to delete it instead.

In real life, my mouth constantly gets me in trouble.

PS: Hi, Y2K, how's life?
posted by mischief 10 October | 18:11
Dunno. I'm not sure how I come across online. In person, I'm devastatingly handsome and everyone wants me, male and female. Online, I tend to embellish things.
posted by goatdog 10 October | 18:13
I'm the same personality-wise, but less voluble online.
posted by sciurus 10 October | 18:15
y2k, if that was directed at me, I assure you that 99% of the time, it's just plain ole anal. Today, for example, saw no instances of willful obtuseness from me. But that's more a matter for this thread than the current one (if that's what you were addressing, that is).

Mygoth..., carter, bunnyfire: I gather "my humor doesn't come out much in cyberspace" is a relatively common issue?
posted by bugbread 10 October | 18:15
I had to relearn how not to be pissed off online, but other than that...
posted by selfnoise 10 October | 18:16
I think if there was an internet when I was younger I would have tried to cultivate a much cooler online persona. But now I'm confident that in real life I'm pretty similar to any online personality I might have developed. Do I even have an online personality? I don't think I post enough for anyone to get a feel for what I'm like. But if you met me I don't think you'd be surprised. Although I make typos in the internet world than I do in the real world.

I think most of the regular MeCha crew are pretty even tempered here, and I'd assume they are that way in the real world. The ones I'm curious about are the perpetual thorns-in-the-side that tend be involved in most of the train wreck threads on MeFi. The rabid name callers and aggressors. If they act that way in real life they would have to be either be an excellent street fighter or accustomed to regular ass kickings.

My least favorite part of internet communities and user comments are that small minority of dick heads that get dutch courage from hiding behind an anonymous username and lack of repercussions. Matt ousts the obvious offenders that don't even pretend to contribute, but there are others that I'd love to know what they're like on the outside.

OK, looking at that, maybe my internet persona is more verbose. No, I talk too much too.
posted by Slack-a-gogo 10 October | 18:16

Well, mischief, I'm a little pissed at bugbread. rothko is wilfully obtuse but in that thread he met his match in bugbread.

Or to put it another way, bugbread--is there global warming or do you need more data before you make up your mind ? For chrissake, you had two people in the same place saying the same thing. How much evidence do you need before you come to a conclusion to which you so obviously do not wish to reach ?

In real life, my ability to suffer fools in silence is much greater and I am the life of the party in general. Small talk is my specialty.
posted by y2karl 10 October | 18:18
my humor doesn't come out much in cyberspace" is a relatively common issue?

Actually, as a Brit in the US it also often fails to come out face-to-face as well.

*holds right hand horizontally in front of and above head and moves it in a backward direction over head while uttering a whooshing noise*
posted by carter 10 October | 18:22
hunh???

*scratches head, points at brit making weird motions*

; >
posted by amberglow 10 October | 18:27
There you go.

;)
posted by carter 10 October | 18:28
Carter, where do you live in the States?

y2k, response to your post over in this thread.
posted by bugbread 10 October | 18:29
Boulder, Colorado.
posted by carter 10 October | 18:31
I'm an asshole in real life.
posted by eyeballkid 10 October | 18:31
So then, eyeballkid, the answer to the question "How similar are you to your internet you?", in your case, would be "very similar", right?

I kid because I love. (channeling miguel)

In real life, I'm quiet, sort of shy, and actually kind of anti-social. Not rude about it or anything - I just tend to keep to myself. Do I come across that way online? I don't think that I do. I'm sarcastic and say lots of ironic things, but most people don't get me. I have a decent sense of humor and like to be silly. A lot. But only with people I know and trust. With strangers, and people I'm not sure about, I clam up. You have to win me over, and then I'm a loyal bud for life.
posted by iconomy 10 October | 18:35
Bugbread, resonse to you in this thread. I describe you from my viewpoint and you automatically deny my viewpoint. What people find frustrating is a nit picking, hair splitting refusal to see things from their side at all. If you can't make explicit sense of people's postion, why expect they make sense of yours? Nothing is self-evident. You don't have to agree with people or reach the conclusions they reach to be able to reframe what they said so that they understand that you understand their position.
posted by y2karl 10 October | 18:36
I don't make typos when I talk, however.
posted by y2karl 10 October | 18:38
I'm more opaque, positive and nice in a straightforward way online. In real life I use a lot of facial expressions and body language to communicate, which obviously doesn't translate here. I also like innuendo, raise one eyebrow a lot, make snarky or negative-funny comments, and narrate with (hopefully) droll commentary. None of that really works online, so instead I try to say exactly what I mean without humor or allegory. It makes the me online a lot less fun than the me in real life, but at least I don't get into flame wars or create enemies.
posted by cali 10 October | 18:46
the metafilter quonsar is, as has been noted by mathowie and others, inconsistent. much of the bitter rancor and nastiness of the 2000-2004 quonsar was very real, a result of my having been in the process of disassembling my life and careening toward destruction, fueled by the impotent rage of someone unable to manage life and accelerated by out of control substance abuse. i tore through my own life like a tornado, ultimately destroying a 20 year marriage, a career, and ending up dependent on my parents. the humorous quonsar is real, the kind and generous quonsar is who i am capable of being. next week i'll be clean and sober only nine months, so the heaped timbers are still shifting and the dust still settling. it feels like the storm is over though, and something is very different. i look forward to discovering myself.
posted by quonsar 10 October | 19:09
Whoa, I had no idea, quonsar. I am sorry to hear about the hard parts and wish you the best. I am not having the best time in my life either and have things that make me heart sick. However, my health, at least, is well. I hope the same is true for you.
posted by y2karl 10 October | 19:35
Well, I have no idea how I come across online. I know I'm a lot more open online. Like many people I tend to say things to strangers in the computer that I wouldn't tell people that I know. It's weird.

However, I'm a lot wittier in real life. I can't riff so well when I'm not face to face with people.

Hrrmmm. I guess a good question would be how would we describe other people here in 5 words or less.
posted by gaspode 10 October | 19:41
I don't have a real-life persona, I only exist in the ether of the internets, which is not the same as the ethernets.
posted by mr_crash_davis 10 October | 19:47
q, I hope I've made it clear in the past, but I'll say it again: You have so much of my admiration, support and respect. You've chosen to take on a difficult task, but a worthwhile one. Even when things are shitty, know that. Watching your progress eases a deep personal grief in me and I thank you for your willingness to be open and sincere with us as you have chosen to do; it means a great deal.
posted by Frisbee Girl 10 October | 19:50
This is a good thread.

I loves ya, quonsar.
posted by iconomy 10 October | 20:13
I'm not sure how I come across online. I think though, that if you met me at a meetup that you'd get the same person that you see online. It takes me a while to get comfortable with new people. I'm much, much shyer offline than online. I'm much funnier: people tend to take humour the wrong way online so I avoid it most of the time.

And what Frisbee Girl said: you rock, q.
posted by deborah 10 October | 20:21
I yams what I yams.

A queer manslut.
posted by WolfDaddy 10 October | 20:22
in real life, I'm taller. and I speak English more tentatively than you probably think
posted by matteo 10 October | 20:23
I talk much less online than I do in real life. Other than that I really don't know how I come across online.

quonsar, it's odd but I was wondering just yesterday how your sobriety was holding. I wanted to ask but I wasn't sure if that would be polite. I am glad to hear you are well. Here's Wishing you strengh.
posted by arse_hat 10 October | 20:32
i do not know what am like online and at the moment do not care about anything offline so i'll answer with "eh"
posted by weretable and the undead chairs 10 October | 20:36
I really don't know how I come across on the internet. In real life I'm painfully shy, and I open up only to those people I know pretty well. I can fake it for a while (like at one of the painful dinner parties I have to attend with R), but it really takes a toll. I think I'm more outgoing on the internet. Well, the presence of this comment means that yes, I am more outgoing on the internet.
posted by goatdog 10 October | 20:45
I am a stark raving mad Judeo-Christian ultra-wealthy neocon werewolf oil baron who runs through the streets beating poor 3rd world children to death with big bags with dollar signs on them. I support torture, sweat shops, white power, and a philosophy I call "pro-life plus" which involves forcibly cramming as many feti into a pregnant woman's uterus as it will hold. My favourite things in life are drinking the blood of freshly slain babies, long strolls down the beach while holding hands, and repressing gay rights. My ideal match is Satan. To find out more about me, visit my Livejournal. Cheerio!
posted by Peak Oil 10 October | 20:47
I always liked you, q. Really.

Glad things are better.
posted by bunnyfire 10 October | 20:55
just about anyone will tell you that internet me is more or less the same as the real me, only the real me is way handsomer.
posted by jonmc 10 October | 21:05
I'm told that I'm not the condescending asshole in person that I am in print. Which I kinda hope is true, even though I have a hard time recognizing when I'm being a condescending asshole in print...
posted by klangklangston 10 October | 21:21
the same
as in you'll be hard pressed to find any two persons with original opinions who agree or think you are talking about the same person.
posted by ethylene 10 October | 21:44
I wonder about this regarding myself a lot. Mostly because in real-life most people seem to like me quite a bit (not in the especially socially popular sense, but in the one-to-one sense). Online, though, I generate a lot of hostility.

"In real life I use a lot of facial expressions and body language to communicate, which obviously doesn't translate here."

...which I think is part of my problem. Online you only get my words which have 100% of my intellectual arrogance with 0% of the other things I do to mediate that. And my writing style seems very affected to other people, in an obnoxious way.

I very much don't have "personas" anywhere at all, I act insofar as I have conscious control of my actions the same everywhere. Yet it seems clear from long experience that there's something different about who I am online than who I am in real-life. Honestly, I think I'm less of a person here (more than most)--for some people the medium allows a greater range of expression but for me I have the suspicion that it's much less. Maybe in real-life I'm in danger of being a cliche but I avoid it because, frankly, I'm a pretty complicated person with a lot of unusually divergent characteristics. Online, though, I'm left only as a cliche. It's a shame and I'm not happy about it.

"I'm told that I'm not the condescending asshole in person that I am in print. Which I kinda hope is true, even though I have a hard time recognizing when I'm being a condescending asshole in print..."

I can be, and occasionally am, just as much or, sadly, more of the condescending asshole you see me be online. But it's far more rare in real-life and, actually, I've pretty much been reducing it my entire life. Online, though, it seems I regularly achieve a certain level of condescending assholeness that I don't in real life. Is it the lack of nuance? Am I trapped in a persona that I didn't consciously create? I have no idea.

And people read other people differently. Y2karl is annoyed by bugbread; but I read bugbread very generously--I see an earnest puzzlement and desire for fairness and rationality, not passive-aggressive obtuseness. I can see how y2karl could have a different impression. It just shows how strongly one is influenced by how one reads another's words. I think we'd all get along a lot better if we learned to force ourselves to read other people generously instead of with suspicion.
posted by kmellis 10 October | 22:12
That's rich kmellis. You read people you like "generously," just like everyone else.

I'm generally like this in real life, yes. Though some people claim I am nicer.
posted by dame 10 October | 22:21
egads

Who has time to edit their personality online? I can barely find time to keep up with the convos as it is. I'm just me. I walk away from long-winded self-aggrandizers, pompous drones, nitpickers, combative dick-swingers, and people who argue for the sake of arguement IRL, too.

or... :) What amberglow said.



posted by reflecked 10 October | 22:25
"That's rich kmellis. You read people you like 'generously,' just like everyone else."

I claimed otherwise?? Nowhere in my comment do I see anything that indicates that I think I'm some paragon of reading generosity. You're kinda proving my point.
posted by kmellis 10 October | 22:29
Hey q, I wondered what was happening to you. I hope all goes well for you as you work your way through ch-ch-ch-ch- changes.
posted by Lynsey 10 October | 22:36
I think we'd all get along a lot better if we learned to force ourselves to read other people generously instead of with suspicion.


Oh, I see. You were just pomopously pontificating about something you don't even do. Mixing condescension and hypocrisy is magical. Gee, I wonder why I assume you're an asshole. Oh, that's right. Because you always act like an asshole.

(And if you can't see how you gave the impression you did not only in the quoted portion but in the entire post, then you certainly are nowhere near as smart as you pretend to be.)
posted by dame 10 October | 22:37
I'm approxmiately 10,147% more extroverted online.
posted by danostuporstar 10 October | 22:39
Well, I thought my use of "we" in that quote was pretty clear. Why are you picking a fight with me?
posted by kmellis 10 October | 22:41
Because your asinine attempts to be everyone's nanny have finally driven me to say something. That you can go around suggesting someone who spent this afternoon fucking with Rothko should be a moderator and then make hypocritical suggestions in that fucking sanctimonious tone of doom without noticing something slightly amiss is like the acme of cluelessness. And I am just tired enough of it and just cranky enough to say something.

And considering that you never left me alone when I did choose to never start something with you, I have about eight thousand free fights to start.
posted by dame 10 October | 22:48
Yeah, whatever. Physician, heal thyself.
posted by kmellis 10 October | 22:50
I'm nicer and less condescending in person than online, and louder, too (I often cringe at things I've said online which I didn't edit as much as I might have liked, and I often don't say things online when I would have said them under comparable circumstances in meatspace). I've also been told I'm a lot softer in person, less prickly. I am bossy-insistent about the things I'm bossy-insistent about (like dog training and gay marriage, but not necessarily at the same time) no matter where I am (but that's because I'm right). But mostly I think I'm pretty much me everywhere, I'm definitely funnier in person though.

(also this is my first post here, and I'd hug quonsar if I could)
posted by biscotti 10 October | 22:51
Dame, seriously, this attack was unwarranted. Okay, so you're cranky. We all get that way. I'm sorry I've attacked you in the past. I've long read you very ungenerously. I'll stop. Okay?
posted by kmellis 10 October | 22:52
you caved in.
lamer.
posted by matteo 10 October | 23:01
PS. I also party harder in person.

Think of it as:

Party Hard 2: Party Harder.
posted by selfnoise 10 October | 23:01
LAY-MUR!
posted by matteo 10 October | 23:03
I'm way sexier in person...it's a charisma thing, doncha know. ;)

Kidding aside, I'm pretty much the same, live or digital, I think.
posted by PsychoKitty 10 October | 23:05
My everpresent odor of really good cheese doesn't come across on the internet. Otherwise the same.
posted by PinkStainlessTail 10 October | 23:08
I'm different in person, but this is where my inner bunny lets loose.

Welcome, biscotti!
posted by puddinghead 10 October | 23:10
PsychoKitty is not kidding -- she is teh awesome
posted by matteo 10 October | 23:22
I dunno, the way kmellis's post came off to me was "People do this bad shit too much, myself included." I don't think you have to be a good person to point out that you and others do bad things. I don't consider that hypocrisy. Now, saying everyone else should stop doing bad shit that you yourself do, that's hypocrisy.

That's just how it came off to me.

It is interesting to note how many people (myself included) think they come off as more humorous in real life than on the net. Maybe this is why forums tend to gravitate so much to angst. Dunno. Something for me to think about.

Also, it's interesting that so many folks go for option A (same as real life) or option B (same as one part of real life), but not option C (different than real life). I didn't expect a whole lot of option C, but considering how much people talk about how the anonymity of the net allows people to take on different personas or open up an aspect of their personality that they can't in RL, I was expecting at least a little bit of option C.

Though, to be fair, there seem to be quite a few folks saying they're very shy/introverted in RL, but not on the net, which is kinda like option C, and also supports the (obvious) conventional wisdom about what forumers are like.
posted by bugbread 10 October | 23:24
What is the conventional wisdom, bugbread?
posted by puddinghead 10 October | 23:29
Conventional Wisdom is an oxymoron.

Wendell, on the other hand, is just a moron.
posted by wendell 10 October | 23:34
Ah, sorry: the conventional wisdom that computer people (people who work with computers, and people who just use computers a whole lot for non-work purposes) tend to be somewhat introverted but tend to be far more social on the net.

Or, at least, that's what I thought was the conventional wisdom. The word "stereotype" works just as well, I guess.
posted by bugbread 10 October | 23:38
I'm not any funnier in real life, but I make a lot more jokes.
posted by box 10 October | 23:39
I think I'm pretty much the same, although I'm slightly more likely to embarrass myself online (or, at least, by making stupid MetaTalk posts) -- I'm less likely to keep my mouth shut online. I waffle between extrovert and introvert in real life, but online I'm mostly extroverted.
posted by me3dia 10 October | 23:43
Online I am often a jerk. I just realized this today.

In real life, I am a hero to America's youth.
posted by LarryC 10 October | 23:43
I'm much funnier in real life, but less sexy.
posted by dobbs 10 October | 23:48
dame, stop being a dick. i understood kmellis perfectly, and i think he's hit the nail on the head. he's a man of many words and much thinking, and the body language and expression of face to face conversation is lacking online and he's taken a lot of shit as a result. i've had "fun" baiting him myself, but i think i understand him pretty well. i also recently spent some time browsing his flickr account and can no longer view him as a blowhard. and even blowhards are human beings. why are you attacking him?
posted by quonsar 10 October | 23:56
I'm a lot more robust in real life; I have very good physical communication, which means I can read others much more easily than I can online (true of all of us, probably, but hey - this comment is all about me, me, me!), and that I can convey much more complex, layered messages.

So, for example, I mostly just stay away from conflict or difficult exchanges online, whereas in real life I would be much more outspoken because I can temper hard language with attendant softening physical information. Also, I can sort of ... "create an atmosphere" (for lack of a better term) in real life that I can't online. I'm a good teacher, for instance, and can make things lively and interesting for a room full of people, even with fairly dull material. I can make shy people feel comfortable, and make bossy, bullying people back off. I'm truly nice and warm and fun, but what you definitely can't tell from my online self is that you really would not want to fuck with me; I've made grownups cry without even taking my gloves off.

So, all in all, I find my internet persona a sort of vanilla half-ghost of my real personality.

****** Whoah! Lynsey and biscotti here? I so happy! ******
posted by taz 10 October | 23:57
Whoa...I...whoa...
Did I just see quonsar being decent to kmellis? That's probably the biggest surprise I've had this month. In a good way. Man, there's love in this thread!

(Of course, saying that probably jinxes it...damn!)
posted by bugbread 11 October | 00:10
There's love in every MetaChat thread. And penii.
posted by danostuporstar 11 October | 00:17
I am much, much more outgoing in real life. I'm always the first to jump into the fray or offer my opinion. I don't embarass easily and my husband has called me the most foul-mouthed person he has ever met.

But I'm a noob here, so I try to stay in my place.
posted by jrossi4r 11 October | 00:22
Aw, taz, you da one who make me happy....:) Thanx for da luv. Just for the record, taz and q shared the love and helped a sister out when she needed it.... I be grateful always.
/silly accent which came from Idunnowhere....
posted by Lynsey 11 October | 00:34
I'm pretty sure quonsar was being kind to kmellis because I told him to stop being a dick before for taunting Rothko.

As I am still cranky, I shall not write any more.
posted by dame 11 October | 00:37
I AM MUCH QUIETER IN PERSON.
posted by mudpuppie 11 October | 00:45
I can vouch for the fact that kmellis is a pompous, snobbish, deluded blowhard in real life, too.
posted by go dog go 11 October | 00:50
To go back to several comments ago: The thing is, bugbread, you can't bring option C out in a thread like this, because option C people will avoid it like the plague. I tried having a sockpuppet - not on mefi, on a board I used to live on - and it didn't work, because I just don't have a sockpuppet personality. After a couple of mean funny comments that I felt guilty about, my sockpuppet started helping people and being kind of, yuck, nice. I can't help it. I can't keep the alternate personality thing going very long, and I suspect that most people can't do it either. I think that the people who build up a truly alternate internet personality are never, ever going to answer this thread - it's too threatening.

When you build a serious alternate personality, it has to become akin to reality. Like writing a fiction narrative: you have to get into those peoples' heads, and think that way, and become them - and you sure aren't going to blow your cover on a feel good thread. There's too much invested in the secrecy.
posted by mygothlaundry 11 October | 01:08
dame, you are nicer in real life (for landed gentry, that is---sss). this picking on kmel wouldn't happen at a meetup, i don't think, would it?

I'm with Slack--not having the option of an online persona til we were older made a big difference, i think.
posted by amberglow 11 October | 01:15
At this point I certainly wouldn't speak to him.
posted by dame 11 October | 01:22
If there weren't so many natural and unnatural disasters laying claim to our philanthropy at the moment, it would be a blast to get up a fly fund to get kmellis and dame together. Just pick a place with a nice big private room for the sitewide make-up sex orgy thingy to ensue after the severe beatings are administered.
posted by taz 11 October | 02:10
*lovin taz*
posted by arse_hat 11 October | 02:16
I think sales of the pay-per-view rights would cover all expenses. When you factor in DVD sales... well, I think buying Bunny Island becomes a lot more feasible.
posted by bmarkey 11 October | 02:16
And I don't jump into other people's conversations nearly as often in real life. Otherwise, WYSIWYG.
posted by bmarkey 11 October | 02:18
Ah, what a great thread. You are all ubiquitously lovable & nice, here and IRL. Don't argue with me, I am never wrong about these things.

I'm one and the same person, but I'm an open book to friends IRL; online, I'm more private, reluctant to share many personal details with the world and with eternity. I'm not keen on the idea of clients, past and future beaux, nieces, nephews, aunt Charlotte, and my landlord Googling up the details of my life. Heh, as if it would be that thrilling or lurid a read, there's a bit of self-delusion in my reticence.

IRL, work is a huge part of who I am, but a very small part of mjjj. Online is much more about leisure, a place to de-stress, enjoy, and connect with people and things outside the confines of my daily sphere. I don't much care to get in heated discourse online, tho IRL I argue vociferously over politics. But the physical cues that taz and kmellis describe lessen potential for rancor; online, it's a bit too much of the weasel's twist, the weasel's tooth.

IRL, cronedom rapidly encroaches, and although I don't feel all that different than at 25, betrayals are piling up. Online is a Dorain Gray existence, a magic elixir for the crow's feet. Online, I am 10 pounds thinner and twice as attractive. I throw back my head and laugh at the witty repartee of men named crash, eyeball, quonsar, and wonderchicken, and I clink wine glasses with women named dejah, anastasiav, iconomy, and taz. I do so love my real world friends with pedestrian names like Bill, Lisa, Sue, and Tom - but sadly, they know little of bunnies with pancakes on their heads, fish in the pants, plo chops, or ponies; they don't even have cameras, poor dears.
posted by madamjujujive 11 October | 02:29
Ridiculous as it sounds I am actually a bit, I don't know, shy or something about commenting online, so tend to delete a lot.

My real life friends would find this hard to believe as I'm not backward in coming forward with my thoughts and opinions.
posted by Tarrama 11 October | 02:41
*lovin mjjj*
*wipes brow*
*wonders how much more he can do*
posted by arse_hat 11 October | 02:43
*clinks glasses with mjj, passes arse_hat lovely linen handkerchief and cedarwood fan*

Betrayals here, too, darling mjj. I've always said I would never, ever do plastic surgery. Now I'm saying "just this tiny bit here under the jaw would make all the difference". oh well. The "young as you feel" thing does pretty much work online. I choose 36, which for me was probably "peak" for the whole body-mind nicey-nice thing. If I die at 90, I'll still be 36 in my head. (Things were nice before and after that, too, but mid-30s felt like the luxe deluxe.)

Tarrama, I probably delete about three times as much as I post - and that's not even in the contentious threads. There, it runs about 95%.
posted by taz 11 October | 02:59
"At this point I certainly wouldn't speak to him."

I'd be happy (but cautious) to speak with you. I'm certain that neither of us is actually the person we see each other as online--and, frankly, I'm fascinated by the fact that we have sensibilities that are so opposed that it's almost impossible for either of us to not take offense at the other when onlookers see no reason for offense to be taken. It's very odd.

Thanks, quonsar, that was very kind of you. As I've said before, and others have said here, my best thoughts and encouragements are with you during what is both, I suspect, an optimistic but very difficult time.
posted by kmellis 11 October | 03:01
Taz you are one of the reasons I delete things! On preview I often find that you have written something similar and oh so much better than I can :-)
posted by Tarrama 11 October | 03:12
*blushes, swipes fan back from arse_hat*
posted by taz 11 October | 03:45
I am way more reticent online than in real life ... for some reason the written word is more loaded for me, a written argument more intense, a written opinion more binding somehow. At least on the more-or-less permanent medium of meta-this/that. On IRC or ICQ I am much more freewheeling if the right peoples are around. So I feel stunted, like I am speaking a foreign language, hesitant. I also like to guard my real life info reasonably closely (but not obsessively) and I think that reflects a tendency in life to compartmentalize a little. On the other hand, I am incredibly disorganized in real life as well as online: my bookmarks are a mess, I can't figure out delicio.us or can't be bothered to figure it out. An e-slob, maybe. But always open to a beer on the south island!

keep yer chin up, quonsar, sounds like you have travelled a long road
posted by rumple 11 October | 04:04
I am way more careful online that in real life. Online I actually care that I might offend people so I will bite my tongue (fingers, whatever). Sad as it sounds MeFi is the only place I actually get moderately intellectual discourse since nobody where I work has an IQ over room temperature and ignorance is the flavour of the day. I do have a couple of friends who have the same humour and taste in music but other than my wife and son, all my "friends" are online. I am also way more aggressive in person than I would ever be online, which I suppose is the bully in me. I'm way bigger and smarter than most people I meet IRL and will happily use that in discussions to convince people that I am right. This makes me somewhat of an asshole. I have had a mostly interesting life and at have done pretty much all I could ever want to have done in less than 30 years. I can be lazy (I really need to do another FPP but I can't find the time) which gets me into trouble and I seem to attract disaster like some super-awesome disaster-tron.

I am also extremely funny in real life but never get the opportunity to go to meetups because free time is something other people have. I am usually too busy attempting to reprogram the disaster-tron but unfortunately it refuses to get under my control.
posted by longbaugh 11 October | 04:11
It's odd hw many people here (including myself) say that they hold back online, and yet we have problems with such unrestrained aggression and hostility on MeFi.

I'm almost wondering if the big internet social paradigm (besides the loss of "shades of meaning" and difficulty conveying and translating certain flavors of humor - which we pretty much all acknowledge) is really some fairly black-or-white line between "internet-outspoken" and "internet-underspoken", where, once you choose your side, you have to become either attackpuppy or cuddlepuppy, and there's almost no dog in between.

Not. Probably. But it is very mysterious, isn't it?
posted by taz 11 October | 04:59
Well, I've said this before and God knows I'm not particularly fond of arguments that smack of biological determinism, but I think the dividing line is between female and male, and emoting (and chatting) and argument, where "argument" stands for a whole bunch of alpha male crap. I think that's also why there's so little amiable serious discussion...it falls into the chasm in the middle.

I notice that Susie Bright's blog has a lot of good, serious discussion (though few commenters) and most are women. But the general topic is an intensely personal topic approached in a somewhat intellectualised manner. (See the excellent Dworkin eulogy thread where you'll find, incidentally, the fantastic comment from Nina Hartley.)

Another site I once frequented a great deal, less so these days, is the Crooked Timber group blog, which is extremely academic and intellectual. There is a substantial representation of women there, although the female bloggers post things that are notably more personal (and are, in my opinion, always a breath of fresh air). But in general there's a great deal of representation by women there (relative to the rest of the web's intellectual/political blogs) among the commenters; but the tone is a very rarified and abstracted academic intellectual tone which, although generally less contentious, is tiring. On the other hand, as CT has risen in visibility in the blogosphere and these academics more often broach political topics (and it's become known as a lefty political site), the comments have become overrun with the kind of vicious and extremely partisan nonsense we see on mefi. Which is part of why I go there less often than I once did.

All this I mention because I think that this is part of the problem with online personas and conflict. In real life, I don't think most men are as asbtracted and confrontational as they are on the web, nor are women as chatty and personal. It's almost as if we're forced into one camp or the other whereas, in real life, there's generally room for both kinds of interaction in all groups, regardless of their sex composition. And both types of interaction are healthiest, in my opinion. They complement each other. Certainly, the personal and the chatty go a long way to mitigate the dehumanisation that occurs in argument. But also, in my opinion, chattiness when very trivial and gossipy can be unsatisfying and a little seriousness here and there contibutes a great deal to an overall sense of "heartiness". This particular thread is a very good example of this and that mix.

I urge this mixed style of discourse and, in real life, I think I do a very good job of actually achieving and facilitating it. Online, though, I sense that I appear more as a cacaphonous clash of the two extremes: inappropriately personal alternated with tedious abstraction. So I'm not facilitating the balance I want to see very much, and perhaps I'm making things worse. And, here again, part of the reason is that body language and just the greater richness of person-to-person interaction work to more properly modulate these sorts of shifts in tone.

Finally, in spite of my long (though infrequent) tenure at a.f.u. where emoticons are absolutely verboten and the reasoning against them is persuasive; I've long been ambivalent because, frankly, a smile goes a long, long way to making things more friendly and it is very difficult to achieve that easy, friendly smile in words alone compared to how natural it comes (for most) in person. My face when speaking is very expressive and I smile at people a great deal. How many of my comments would have a different tone to them if you could see a genuine friendly smile on my face punctuating various sentences? The question is: how do we make up for this lost channel of communication?
posted by kmellis 11 October | 05:33
mygothlaundry:

That makes sense (re: class C people not answering). I feel a little ashamed it hadn't occurred to me.
posted by bugbread 11 October | 05:59
kmellis, I don't really see it in such clear gender terms. Yes, I agree that women are generally less likely to go berzerker in a thread, but I know lots of guys who are smart, assertive, confident men with clear opinions who also don't freak out on the internet, so I guess I can't really agree with your breakdown, but it is a fascinating question.
posted by taz 11 October | 06:41
stilicho is like me now. dhartung was a lot like dhartung usually is in RL. And don't I catch flak for it.
posted by stilicho 11 October | 06:43
I had a major crush on dhartung. Still trying to get used to stilicho, because it's just a little bit weird... Something like... as if my husband came home with a face-transplant; I want to feel like I did before, but it takes some getting-used-to.

is this the time for an emoticon? ;)
posted by taz 11 October | 06:57
kmellis , like taz I really don't see that gender thing happening.Maybe because I have gone bezerk in threads. ;) Perhaps it's a viking thing? :))
posted by dabitch 11 October | 07:22
I am different in name only.

That whole "gender difference" line is bullshit. Unless it makes you feel better/superior, in which case it's bullshit that makes you feel better/superior. Which, I guess, has its function.

But I'm a guy, and I'm sure my dissent is alpha-male crap. You have reduced me. Bravo.

So's the body language thing; if you have a problem being understood, write more clearly. If you know the difficulties of communicating online, you ignore them at your peril.

Sounds like you're justifying bad behavior by stereotyping others. Boo.
posted by Hugh Janus 11 October | 09:04
"But I'm a guy, and I'm sure my dissent is alpha-male crap. You have reduced me. Bravo."

Christ. Where's this hostility coming from?

I could certainly be wrong about the gender difference stuff. I'd rather it not be true, and there's no vested interest in it being true for me (how you get the idea that there is, and that somehow it could be interpreted in a way to make me feel "superior" baffles me), but I honestly think I see it very obviously all over the internet. Any web forum with a female population approaching or exceeding parity with men is a much friendlier forum. MeCha is a prime example, I think.

Anyway, even if true, this is only one axis among many along which there are divisions. Taz's "internet-outspoken" and "internet-underspoken" division is certainly true to some extent.

"...if you have a problem being understood, write more clearly."

Yes, but there are also a number of people who consistently misunderstand and never look to themselves for the fault. Just as there are people who are misunderstood and always point their fingers at the hearer/reader. Each accusation can be extremely self-serving.

"...if you have a problem being understood, write more clearly. If you know the difficulties of communicating online, you ignore them at your peril."

Quite true, but just because something is a certain way doesn't mean that it ought to be a certain way. Communicating very successfully and with ease in written language is a rarified skill, not innate, and there are vastly larger numbers of people who excel in verbal interaction but fail to master the nuances of written communication. It's ungenerous and implicitly self-congratulatory to say to them "you don't measure up, you loser".
posted by kmellis 11 October | 09:31
I'm pretty much the same online as I am in person. I am a little more outgoing online though. I'll jump into a discussion, no problem, on a blog or a board. In person I'm a lot quieter at first, especially in a group situation, until I warm up to everyone. Once I get to know people, though, then I can't shut up. ; )
posted by sisterhavana 11 October | 09:33
Huh. Thinking about it, I am far less likely to get into debates online. It's just not worth my time, and my writing skills when I am rushed and should be working (which is most of the time) are not as good as they are normally. Also, I have no interest in one-upmanship with people I don't know. I'd rather do that in real life :)
posted by gaspode 11 October | 09:34
You know when someone does something sexist, or racist, or closed-minded, or rude, and you get angry? That's where it's coming from, kmellis. I'm not hostile towards you. I'm hostile towards your idea, which is the old sexist saw turned on its ear. It's reductive. You tar with a broad brush; the generalizations you make leave no room for wiggle.

I'm an individual. Accept me as such, or leave me (and my sex) out of your generalizations. It's anachronistic, and if the shoe was on the other foot, it would be obviously poor form.

If you have ever used "you couldn't tell I was smiling when I wrote that" as an excuse after you anger someone, you should take the time to understand how you were unclear, and figure out how to never do it again. Don't blame them.

Being surprised when someone gets mad at inflammatory generalizations is either disingenuous or na´ve.
posted by Hugh Janus 11 October | 10:09
"Being surprised when someone gets mad at inflammatory generalizations is either disingenuous or na´ve."

I understand where you're coming from and for many years as a feminist and anti-sexist, I very strongly opposed any such generalizations. As a man, I specifically reacted strongly against negative generalizations about men.

But I've been struggling, thinking, and reading about these issues for over two decades, I even consider myself an activist; and I'm certainly more versed in the traditionalist versus "sex is a social construct" versus "difference feminism" versus sociobiology rectangular opposition than, frankly, I'd like to be. I've pretty much reached the point where I outright reject an ideological, politically-centric position on these matters as it's invariably more about the world we'd like to live in than the world we actually live in. The world we actually live in is complex. Certainly it's the case that if there were one single generalization about classes of people one could make on a biological basis, it would be a sexual generalization. From sex differentiation throughout (but by no means universal) the animal kingdom, especially mammals, to simply what we know about human biology and recently know about human brain anatomy and brain chemistry, it's almost impossible to categorically deny some generalized differences on the basis of sex. And certainly when you add socialization into the mix, it's hard not to see that it's necessarily the case that in many ways, in most societies, men and women behave differently on both a biological and a cultural basis.

Your objection, though heart-felt and one I once shared, is nevertheless knee-jerk and sees hostility and derision where none exists. I don't see why I should aquiesce to your point of view either because you simply claim to be more wise or in spite of the fact that your point of view is personally familiar to me. At this point in the struggle for sexual fairness, I'm far more interested in working with the world the way it is and making it better than demanding, insistently, that it's other than it is.

I'm sorry that you took offense and I apologize for giving offense, regardless of whether I intended it or not. But I can't really capitulate to your position nor accept your implicit and personal put-downs. I'd instead like to ask you to consider the possibility that people can make such claims as I made in completely good faith, from a knowledgable position; and that even if it feels as if it is a personal criticism, it simply wasn't.
posted by kmellis 11 October | 10:44
EB (sorry, I feel more familiar with you as EB than as kmellis):

I think you're putting your foot in a hornet's nest unnecessarily here. That is, biological differences may be a factor, and they may not. You believe that they are, others believe that they are not.

On the other hand, societal/cultural differences may also be a factor. I suspect more people agree with this than with the biological case.

In this case, you're not doing yourself any favors by putting equal emphasis on the contentious factor as you do on the less contentious factor. I'm certainly not implying that you should deny the contentious factor, if anyone brings it up. And I understand your desire to put all your cards honestly on the table. But I think this may be one of those cases where it's not really needed.

After all, your main point here is "boards with large numbers of females are more civil than boards without them". If you make this argument, you should put forth your best arguments, and you should, for fairness, put forth the weaknesses of your argument and possible factors that indicate against it. The biological factor is neither: it isn't your best argument, nor is it a counterargument. Stating it neither strengthens your case, nor does not stating it serve as an underhanded way of strengthening your case (the classic "leave out opposing data" gambit). It's basically a contentious issue that is unnecessary and can only serve to derail.

So, with that aside, I will say that I do agree that boards with high numbers of females are generally (not always) more civil than boards with low numbers of females. I don't know if it can be ascribed to nature or nurture, and unless someone makes me a god, I'm never going to be able to do the sociological experiments that would prove it to me one way or the other. However, I will say that, for whatever reason, be it biological or cultural, that females on the whole act differently than men on the whole, and that since forums have large numbers of participants, that this trend evinces itself.

And I say this only in reference to the whole. I'm not saying that Jessamyn is mellow because she's female, or that klangklang is aggressive because he's a male. There are aggressive females, and there are passive males, and I think using group dynamics to decide about individuals is totally ignoring the concepts of averages and trends. What's true of large groups isn't necessarily true of every individual in the group.

So when I say that boards with females are generally less aggressive than boards with few males, I'm not saying that you, Hugh Janus, are an alpha male because you've got more Y chromosomes than my wife. Nor that I am. Nor that the presence of Y chromosomes somehow vindicates aggressive behavior. I'm not using a generalization to address someone specific (People living in America can generally speak English; you live in America, therefore you can speak English), and, by the same token, I'm not using a specific to address something general (You are an American, and you like licorice more than chocolate; therefore all Americans like licorice more than chocolate). Instead, I'm using a generalization to address a generalization (Boards with large numbers of women are generally less aggressive than boards with low numbers of women; therefore the difference in aggressiveness is highly likely to be due to that gender distribution, and not so likely to be coincidental)
posted by bugbread 11 October | 11:17
Taz, there would be no dirtiness. I've seen his picture. I have higher standards than that and plenty of men to fill them. Then again, let us not forget kmellis' oft-cited preference for the undernourished among us, so I'm pretty sure he'd feel the same. Now let me read the rest of this thread. But ew.
posted by dame 11 October | 11:27
You're right, kmellis; I don't know what I'm talking about. When I evolve some more, I'm sure I'll see things your way.

Talk about an implicit put-down.

Don't pay attention to anything I said. I'm sure it was personal. Not a word of truth in it.

[I would love to address this topic, but I'm not interested in being the only one talking shit. I see your point, but you've underhanded me into the corner and I don't like it.

I may not be the most reasonable interlocutor, but I'm not the only one in this room being rude. Sorry to write when my back is up. I'm sure I could have been less contentious and disagreed with you just as clearly.]

I'm sorry that you took offense

Now that's bullshit -- how dare you apologize for something I did?
posted by Hugh Janus 11 October | 11:36
Some of these comments remind me of the impermanence of the internet persona -- I seem to miss all the memos where it's announced that user dipstick is now user shitdip, or whatever. For a more casual participant like me, the shapeshifting is quite offputting and cheapens the overall experience. (it might be fun once in a while but overall it induces a lack of commitment). The backchannel thing is fine, all communities or groups have that, but this is like being in a world where half your acquaintances get plastic surgery every few weeks.
To be fair, this is less a problem here than in some fora, but I still find it a real barrier.

spellcheck recognizes "dipstick" but not "internet" ... hmmm
posted by rumple 11 October | 12:27
Wait? I'm aggressive? I thought it came across as jocular.
Sorry.
posted by klangklangston 11 October | 12:38
No dude, jock-ular
posted by dodgygeezer 11 October | 12:51
No, it's jocklear.
posted by carter 11 October | 13:17
No, it's "jocalear", pronounced like "nukalear".
posted by bugbread 11 October | 14:04
"...so I'm pretty sure he'd feel the same."

If I did, I wouldn't feel the need to say so publicly. But that's just another difference between us, I guess.
posted by kmellis 11 October | 14:12
Yeah. And another is that despite what the other thinks, one of us is actually attractive. Of course, it's the same person who is a bigger asshole on purpose. So, I guess it's a wash in the end.
posted by dame 11 October | 14:53
memo: i am now user shitdip.
posted by quonsar 11 October | 16:07
I am far more forward on-line. In the real world, I am much like iconomy - I keep to myself and don't say much to anyone, although once I get started, cannot be shut up. I almost never make the first approach to speak to someone I don't know but, once you are my friend, I will do anything for you.

Also, while I do like to get the last word both IRL and on-line, I am far more likely to just walk away from an argument and say "whatever", because I have decided that I have had enough conflict to last me for the rest of my life and I just want to be happy. On-line, I don't feel the angst that I do in arguments in person somehow - I am not really as invested in the outcome, I guess. This lets me participate more in heated discussions (although I have trouble mustering up the energy to care any more), where in real life I would be more inclined to worry about what happens after the argument and just let it go. At this time in my life, I would rather be happy than right.

I am, though, just as much of a boorish arsehole in real life, so I guess my personality shines through anyway. Actually, my behaviour on-line is probably close to the way I wish I could behave IRL in some ways - I feel braver somehow. Being able to think about what you say and read it back before anyone else sees it helps, of course.

quonsar, I was thinking about you the other day and wondering how things were going. I am very very glad to hear that things are looking up for you and wish you all the best.
posted by dg 11 October | 18:27
I'm pretty similar online to how I am IRL. IRL I run a lot more.

madamjjj-You're comment was the best I read in this thread. Very nicely put.
posted by omiewise 12 October | 12:05
I am actually a horse.
posted by whatnot 12 October | 12:44
Um. I'm not sure I'd agree that boards with large numbers of women are necessarily less aggressive. My introduction to Usenet was soc.women.lesbian-and-bi in the mid-nineties - a *moderated* newsgroup that was quite contentious. A women's tech-networking list I'm on had to ban political posts altogether (and is much better for it). And a supposed announcements-only list for dykes would periodically erupt in flamewars in which one of the combatants would invariably accuse another of really being a man, or transsexual (which, according to the logic of people making those statements, is either exactly the same or much, much worse).

Me, I'm mostly the same IRL as online, only more so - I'm definitely more dramatic in person.
posted by expialidocious 12 October | 12:50
In real life right now, I am having to look at things at which I would not rather look, first and foremost being death. I have to go out soon and spend some time with someone with terminal cancer, someone who has been difficult to talk with under the best of circumstances and, therefore, someone with whom I have not spoken very much at all. So, I find myself thinking all too often about how short life is, how estranged I have become from my own family, how little I have done for myself or any one else, how so far mine is a name writ in water. That is who I am in real life right now.
posted by y2karl 12 October | 14:37
I'm not sure I'd agree that boards with large numbers of women are necessarily less aggressive.

Me either. I just think that they generally are (That is, it's more likely that a forum with a lot of females will be less aggressive than one with few females, but it's not guaranteed, it's just more likely).
posted by bugbread 12 October | 23:53
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