Back in 1996 I was introduced to the social side of the internet, via chat rooms on the formerly popular AOL internet program. Boy what a world that opened up… I read some things I’d never heard in my 16 years of life, and a few things that I hadn’t heard since elementary school. I also learned about a whole new set of “people classifications” so to speak. The one that grabs the most notice in the virtual world is the Internet Gangsta. Why, you ask? Well, it depends on which side you want to look at it from.
How do you identify an internet gangsta from the rest of the group? Simply really… they’re the ones with typically short fuses who are known to toss threats around like candy. Anything from telling someone they’re going to kick their ass, to the more extreme threats of taking the issue to real life. Things are often extreme with them more than they’re relaxed, and minor infractions are seen as major offenses when deemed to be against them. They usually have a small group of people who encourage the behavior, and also make attempts to emulate the same tactics. By now, if you’ve spent any time in social settings on the internet, you’re probably able to get a picture of what type of person I’m talking about… if no picture comes to mind, you may need to grab a mirror.
So back to answering the original question of Why? Well, if you’re one of those who support the behavior, you’re going to say, Why not? You don’t see anything wrong with it; you think that it’s fun as well as funny. You probably go to sleep at night thinking about who your next target is. It’s a side thought, even when there are other things going on. It helps your world go ‘round.
The ones who are targeted often feel compelled to respond back to the verbal or written assault, as they feel like they have to defend themselves. They don’t like the internet gangstas, wouldn’t dream of acting out as if they were one, but often end up looking just as bad in the end. Not of their own fault so much, as it’s natural to want to defend one’s self and one’s honor. Rather, because they were unable to, at some point, decide the venture was pointless and just walk away from it. It’s hard to fault the ‘victim’ in the situation, so they often get a pass… unless a pattern develops, at which time a friend or two of the ‘victim’ might step in and offer some sound advice.
Now we move onto the other primary group, who we’ll call the bystanders. The bystanders are the average social network user. They’re the ones who sit back and survey the interactions between internet gangstas and their victims. They’re the people who shake their heads at the ‘gangstas’ and try to advise the ‘victims’. Rarely do they become victims themselves, because they see the ‘gangstas’ for what they really are.
What are they? Well, I guess that’s what this blog entry is boiling down to… They’re bullies, only more pitiful. What else can you call someone who is so miserable with their real lives that they have nothing better to do than sit behind a computer and spew useless threats of physical harm which they’ll never carry out beyond their dreams. They talk about their attitudes, how dangerous they are, what method they’ll use to cause physical harm. It could be anything from a simple punch/knockout scenario, to the more extreme homicidal threat. In my opinion, the bigger the threat they suggest themselves to be, the bigger the chance they’re deflecting their level of misery with themselves and their lives. A less common, but just as legitimate explanation for the behavior would be that they were bullied when they were growing up, and they’re expressing their anger over that online, where they feel the chance of repercussions are essentially nonexistent. Other explanations do exist, but are even less common than the one I just briefly mentioned, but they all come back to the same thing in the end.
So what might be the proper way to deal with these ‘gangstas’? Not reacting to them is usually the best start. Make use of the mute button, if you feel like you’re going to have trouble not reacting. Of course, I’ll be the first to admit that it can be fun to instigate one of these types to react, as they’re typically much too easy to get response from, it’s not always worth it. The best policy is to ignore the dramatics and go on about your business, and leave them sitting there with their little clique and their misery.
Got thoughts or opinions to add? Go for it, make use of the comment box below, just don’t be abusive.
Until the next time…