I was at lunch on Saturday and someone asked me if in my undergrad days I was an angry poster to an internet bulletin board system on campus. I heartily denied these scurrilous accusations because of course they were preposterous and ungrounded and a scourge on the good name Hargaden. I am the happiest man on the internet. Read me here at my blog and you shall see how fantastically kind I am to everyone except QMonkey and even he will get a sumptuous pint (of intellectual whoop ass!) from me next time I’m in Bristol.
I am the guy who writes alliterative rhyming comments when giving EBay feedback. I avoid Facebook after hanging around in the evening with Nelly because he gives me too much whiskey and my attempts to be funny can sometimes become cruel. If I could, I would hug you through the internet every time you visited Creideamh.ie and ask you if you want a cup of tea while putting some biscuits out on the table.
But reflecting on my friend’s question, I realised that things have not always been so. I used to moderate the Christianity forum on the very popular website www.boards.ie. That was a nightmare. I would spend forty five minutes most mornings before work trying to cope with the massive ignorance, sectarian spite and thorough-going logical desert that is the average Irish internet Christian in full flight. I resigned ultimately because I could no longer withhold my bile. I handed it over to people much more qualified than me since they had an abundance of patience instead of judgment.
Going further back I realised that the way I behaved on the internet struck a jarring note with my own self perception of how one ought to conduct oneself. On the college bulletin board systems I would have fights for the sake of it. I would make posts of such arch-sarcasm that early dome builders like Filippo Brunelleschi would have been in awe of me. Of course, a browser does not easily carry the subtle and stupid tones of someone mocking you through parody. My sarcasm undoubtedly failed, coming off as insanity. Grammatically impressive insanity perhaps. I suspect those were hours wasted with even more profligacy than the Boards.ie era.
The baseline problem with the internet in terms of rudeness is the apparent anonymity that it provides. Of course, nothing is forgotten and over the long course of time therefore, nothing will be anonymous. Identities can be accurately predicted from the way in which we continuously mis-spell certain words (for me: sovereignity and neccessarilly!) never mind hard factors like ip-addresses.
I have no doubt that there has been natural character development in line with general maturity over the years from when I habitually argued on bulletin boards about the best formation for a Man City team struggling against relegation to today, when I would not even bother making that argument if I was the Head Coach of Man City. There is also, one hopes, the benefit of character formation through the application of discipline to the virtues, thus that this good little Aristotelian can appreciate the winsome much more fully and sees through 2D sarcasm a little more often. Finally there is the work of the Holy Spirit, unquantifiable as it is, bearing fruit in me.
But underlying all that, who can miss the fact that once I started using my name (KEVIN HARGADEN!!), or in cases where that was not permitted, the username Zoomtard (that is now attached to my name), I became much nicer on the internet, stopped wasting as much time on the internet and starting finding the internet more valuable.
On the internet, no one knows you’re a dog, but if you don’t tell them you are, you may well end up acting like an animal.
Your Correspondent, When people see his shoes, they ask him when his cult was committing suicide.