Oh Miss P, I'm shocked!
No, seriously, I agree with some things .Chuck said, and disagree with others.
I had made the comment that my view of social communication on the internet has slightly been changed. I really think that my discussions with you (Miss P) in threads and in PM's helped make that change.
Let me give you one example where I think anonymity helped me write something online that I wouldnt normally say in person. To me, this doesnt make me an a-hole, or someone who's "taking advantage" of anonymity.
I made this RETARDED observation, and I was just free-flowing: from my mind, straight to the keyboard when I wrote this (from page 1 of this thread): "I remember thinking about love and marriage and such when I was younger...maybe like 10 or 11. You know, thinking normal stuff..like one day I will probably be married, etc. Now that I'm older..I now know how much the tongue is involved. Back then..I had no idea."
Now, this is obviously a silly comment. But, you know what? I think it's true. I also think it's funny. And, if I was out socially, or I was on a date with multiple couples..or if I knew other people on this board knew my true identity..I probably wouldnt have typed it. I would have censored myself because of what others may have thought. I don't think this is an uncommon thing. We are walking contradictions. Many people say one thing, and actually think something else.
Have you ever said something nice to a friend just to make them feel better? Many people do this all the time, and it's considered "nice." I think there are flaws in this behavior. For some reason I'm thinking of Michael Jackson. How many people do you think said to Michael, "dude, Michael..you look seriously screwed UP, your face is completely screwed up..you look like an alien. And with these allegations..you should run for the hills for a while, you're practically a laughing stock. In your current state you are nothing less than creepy, etc."
Nobody said that. If anybody tried to make a comment to him, it was probably completely watered down. If there was an anonymous board where people could make comments to Michael Jackson, things probably would get pretty blunt and to the point. Things would get said that people THINK but don't have the guts to SAY. I don't think is an uncommon phenomena.
So, ultimately, this makes me disagree with this comment from .Chuck's post: "Don't say/post things or behave with/treat others online in ways that you would not with people in person, whether they are strangers or not."
I think that leads to a boring messageboard. I made comments in Exile that were considered quite rude by some users. I was being honest when I said that I thought certain posts were boring. I would be a liar if I said otherwise. Now, one thing I've learned, thanks to you Miss P, as well as .Chuck and Matthies, is that sometimes when you see something that bothers you on the board..and you're blowing it up in your head into some big deal..just relax, and take it for what it really is.
I am a true believe that people commonly think things in their minds that they don't want to share with others, even their closest loved ones.
I agree with certain parts of what .Chuck & Miss P think. I do think you should not be an a-hole. I do think you should not stalk people online through a messageboard and harass them.
Let's say you have a friend who is overweight. Seriously overweight. You socialize with them a lot..and you notice that they always eat Mcdonalds, or Pizza Hut, ice cream, whatever. They're always complaining how they can't meet a guy or a girl, blah blah, woe is me, I'm so overweight.
It's likely a friend might be supportive, might suggest a different diet plan, exercise plan, etc. Or just even say 'hey, I'm here for you, friend.'
Now, if they were allowed to post their advice on an anonymous messageboard..it might be more like "Why don't you start by not eating fast food like 3 times a day? Why don't you stop eating pizza? Have you ever considered actually exercising?"
Miss P, this reminds me of that post where I strongly disagree over something you told another poster. I think you know what I'm talking about. It involved censorship. To me, the other person was expressing this bluntness that I'm trying to describe.
Sometime blunt talk like this, that is perceived as having no consequences because of its anonymity, can actually be helpful. Sometimes people need blunt honesty, and it doesnt always happen in "real life."
I'm not sure if anything I've written has made sense. I respect the fact that some of you feel otherwise. I wrote it all the way straight through, and it was a total stream of consciousness.
Miss P, you havent been around these parts in a while. I hope you come by Exilcest more often.
Perhaps you'll be surprised, but I basically agree with this as well. I hadn't considered that "how you treat other people in an online forum" is much bigger than whether you are kind or unkind. You're definitely right that the pseudonymity of the internet makes some things easier to say and we should take advantage of that for good, e.g., for breaking bad news or for offering honest advice that would be difficult to give in person or to a close friend. One particularly cool feature of online communication that helps in this regard is not pseudonymity but the fact that people generally read the message board in private spaces where they can get angry/cry/process bad information without having to respond immediately or account to others for their reaction.
I still think that the best rule of thumb here is a golden rule: is this the kind of thing that I would like to know in the long-term, even if it would make me uncomfortable at first? If someone had constructive criticism about my job search, for instance, I might feel an initial "@#!* you," but in the end I would appreciate it, especially if it were good advice. I would not, however, appreciate someone I really didn't know telling me that I was boring unless I asked and wanted an honest opinion about it. (For the record, I'm not asking.)
I also think it's a good idea, when you are discussing a tough issue, to take some care in doing so. This is one of the reasons that I thought a couple of flippant remarks in a conversation about one poster's mental health were inappropriate: they weren't serious and they weren't made in an effort to help or educate someone. In fact, the people involved were doing the opposite of trying to help the other poster; they were, in fact, making fun of him behind his back -- at least inasmuch as any conversation in a public forum can be behind someone's back. Moreover, the conversation could have made a casual reader who suffered from the same condition feel ashamed or frustrated by the unfair stereotyping (people who suffer from, say, Tourette's are not all violent jerks who lash out at people and scream and curse for no reason). It just didn't seem right to me.
I also disagree with your characterization of this incident as "involving censorship." I made my comment, to a poster I consider a friend, in the same spirit of direct honesty that you seem to champion elsewhere. She then chose to delete her post. That was her decision, and she made it, apparently, because she agreed with what I said. I didn't have the power to delete her comments, and I didn't suggest that the mods do so. I just told her what I thought and it changed her mind or made her look at things in a different way.
I still don't understand how you distinguish this situation from the situations you described in your post, where people feel empowered to offer tough criticism because they are operating under pseudonyms. Why is it better for someone on a message board to comment on your weight or your eating habits than it is for her to comment on something she knows about more directly, the content or tone of your posts? It seems to me that both are fair game, depending on how you do it, but, if anything, commenting about someone's posts seems more appropriate.
In any case, if you really believe that the poster you were shittalking may have the illness mentioned and that it would be a good idea for him to check it out, you could approach him about it by personal message -- directing important information to him in a private setting so that he could think about it without unnecessary embarrassment. This is not something you'd generally do with a friend because of the potential awkwardness, but it might be a helpful thing to do for a not-quite-stranger from a message board. As you suggested in your post, it's neat that we have opportunities like these because of our pseudonymity and other features of the message board. Nonetheless, they carry with them some responsibility, too. You should tell people things you think they need to hear only out of a spirit of kindness and with the appropriate gravity, not because doing so is good for a couple of yuks or because it makes you feel better about yourself.