Friday, October 1, 2010

The creeping creepiness of the Internet

Is it just me, or is the Internet getting creepier lately?

Maybe it’s just an unfortunate confluence of events, but just this past week we’ve had the Rutgers roommate webcam feed leading one young man to suicide, along with the Duke University graduates “Fuck List,” an in-depth analysis of the intimate details of her encounters with her college classmates.

Then, we've got the strange case of the Michigan Assistant Attorney General essentially cyberstalking the president of the University of Michigan Student Council. Yes, you read that right. A public servant cyberstalking a college kid.

And just yesterday, the St. Pete Times published a column that stemmed directly from an insensitive comment left on one of their message boards. A few weeks back, a man was hit while riding his bicycle along a major road, one of five bicyclists killed in the Tampa Bay region in just the last few weeks.

In the initial article about the incident, the reporter noted the man was 48 years old and worked as a dishwasher at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant called the Crab Shack. The comment that instigated yesterday’s article went something like, “If you’re 48 years old and working as a dishwasher at the Crab Shack, you’re better off dead.”

Now, I’ve become inured to insensitive comments left on newspaper web sites. In fact, I suspect it was simply a bad joke. However, it was enough to generate a follow-up article which nicely told the life story of the man who was “better off dead.”

At any rate, it just seems to me the Internet is getting . . . creepier lately, reaching out its ever growing tentacles and affecting the real lives of real people. And given my hobby, I can’t help but wonder if it knows exactly what it’s doing.


Fox Lee said...

It is getting creepier. So many people are used to the idea of "life as public", and new generations have never known anything else. Frightening.

Brendan said...

You read my mind. In both the Rutgers and the Duke cases, these are kids who have literally grown up with it and known nothing else. Is this what it produces? If so, I suspect things will get lots creepier over time.

Unknown said...

The internet is creepy. Hell sometimes just knowing I have put myself out on a blog makes me a little creeped out. Putting yourself and your ideas out on the web(including nasty people like the one who commented on that man's death) is so easy now... yet taking them back from the internet gods is so difficult.

Brendan said...

Agree completely, Samantha, and feel the same way. So good to have you back!

Aaron Polson said...

Your suggestion that the internet is sentient is most frightening of all.

Brendan said...

Aaron: Considered using those exact same words, however feared being so blatant, the Internet would understand my meaning and take corrective action.

Best of luck to you, though!

cebonvini said...

The anonymity of the Internet has gone way too far. Kind of like dropping rocks from an overpass onto a highway at night.

No accountability and totally thoughtless. I hesitate to lump any group, though some events would have you believe that this is a Generation Next issue, but I think not.

Brendan P. Myers said...

Hey, Carl! Hope all is well. Agree with your last comment, and further suspect younger folks are perhaps the least guilty of anonymous drive-by character assassination and rudeness. Not sure they're even reading newspaper websites (for the most part).

Like I said, I don't mind the anonymity so much, and have trained myself to ignore or discount the rudest of comments. Also think anonymity serves a higher purpose, reminding us that there are indeed folks who truly think that way, though they'd never say so if identified. Also think we all need a thicker skin.

Be good!