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Sounds like the beginning of a joke doesn’t it? I wish it was. I wish it went something like this…. Which one gets the most online friends/followers the fastest? The (I wish) answer: None, because none of them exist.

Unfortunately they all do exist and if we want to be online we have to deal with them every day. Here I break down some of the realities we must face every time we log on.

Racists

Following the 2012 presidential election, many people took to Twitter to use horrible, nasty and hateful language to attack re-elected President Obama. Jezebel did a slideshow of the disgusting comments here. WARNING: These tweets are really obscene.

Published by The Atlantic, Jay Rosen

The graphic here shows where the majority of racist tweets came from. Have to say I am really proud of the light yellow states for having some class. Also quite proud of jezebel for later tracking down the high schoolers using Twitter to post racist comments and contacting their schools. You can read how they did it here. Unfortunately we can’t do anything about the ignorant adults who posted racist comments or those who don’t have the courage to use their real names/photos on Twitter.

Internet Trolls

Internet trolls are individuals who have nothing better to do with their time than post inflammatory statements on blogs, chat rooms, social media sites, etc. to get a rise out of people. Basically, whatever you think, feel or do they will post the opposite to see if they can get you to respond to them. Trolls are usually anonymous hecklers — and though some sites require posters to provide email addresses and names, trolls subvert this by providing fake information.

Check out this YouTube video about online trolls: Internet Bridge Troll

Cyberbullies

Cyberbullying is using technology (computers, cell phones, etc.) to make fun of, pick on or harass someone. For example, there is this nifty little game going around Facebook called To Be Honest (TBH) where minors post things to one another like: TBH, I liked your hair today. Innocent enough, right? Well it has recently evolved into To Be Brutally Honest (TBBH) where minors post rude/insulting/bullying comments to one another.

Check out how tweens and teens are cyberbullying one another in this graphic. Note that this is cyberbullying that occurred in the last 30 days.

And here’s how those same tweens and teens responded when asked if they had been a cyberbully in the last 30 days.

Virtual Presence and Online Anonymity

What is allowing people to behave this way? Virtual presence. As you can see from this site, virtual presence is supposed to allow you to act online the way you would in real life. In reality, virtual presence is making many people feel like they can be whoever they want, say whatever they want and do whatever they want online because unlike real life they don’t have to “face” people and there are no consequences. So people are creating their own virtual identities and behaving however they want. They can use avatars, fake photos or clip art  for their image and create a screen name to disguise themselves.

Another trick to disguising yourself online is munging. Originally, munging was a way to hide your email address from spambots. Now, however, it is being used by people who don’t want you to know who they are so that they can say whatever they want. I have recently been the victim of a “munger” who likes to send me harassing emails.

The Internet and social media offer users a lot of opportunities for free speech, socializing and producing. They should not offer people the chance to be horrible to others without consequences. In a perfect world if you produce something you should be responsible for it. That includes putting your real name/face to it.

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