One of the worst things you can do for your self-esteem is to be a creator, creating content for the internet that people from allover the world can judge and critique via whatever medium available to them.
No, that’s not the worst part! If these people could be anonymous to you and each other and you went ahead to find out their impressions of your work, that could be the worst emotional blow you could ever take.
I like YouTube very much and I probably watch too many YouTube videos. One thing I don’t do so often however is read the comments on the YouTube videos I watch. I often find them shallow, prejudiced and downright mean. There are some good ones but aren’t they a waste of good sense? Because you could easily miss them in the junk that is the bigotry, racism, sexism and ignorance in the bad ones. So I don’t comment and I don’t read the comments.
I may have commented on a YouTube video once but damn did it rape my nerves. My populist mentality had me twisted about how my comments would be received, whether others would think them funny or smart or mean or dumb. I was however also concerned that my name would show up in bold in the comments section so everyone could see just how ignorant and unfunny I was. And that one day, should I become famous, somebody would dig up these comments and use them to prove me ignorant and unfunny to a great multitude of people that I hoped to endear to myself.
Something interesting though is how common fake names are on the internet. Suddenly everyone is important and hiding their identity is top priority. And these fake personas wreck the emotional stability of thousands upon thousands of people on the stake that is the world wide web. And I considered a fake name myself; not that I didn’t want to receive the glory for all the wonderful things I said or did online, but so that I could, like these nameless faceless jerks, be free to squirt out whatever shit I felt like without the fear of being found out and punished for it. So I gave up that project; well, not entirely but that’s some thing else altogether.
Derren Brown once made a show that experimented with d-individuation which is what happens when people lose their individuality and become just another faceless member of a crowd. On the show, the crowd wore masks and voted anonymously on whether to be malicious or gracious to a man they did not know. On every occasion they were required to vote, the vote was between malice and grace and on every occasion, the crowd voted for malice over grace. And as the show went on, the crowd became more and more malicious until their actions nearly got the man killed in a car accident. The crowd had effectively become a mob and whether or not they were good people outside of the show, they had done some terrible things to an innocent man.
Every time I have wanted to type in some thing bigoted, racist or sexist on an online forum, I have been stopped by the sight of my name in bold over the text that reminds me yet again that I am not invincible. And now I challenge myself to only write that which I would be comfortable with being attributed to me.
We sometimes forget that beyond the screens of our internet devices are real people, with hopes and dreams, people that love them and those they care about; people with feelings that can get hurt. These people are not just part of a mob in the way they engage with content online but rather their online presence is an extension of who they are off of the internet and so hurting them online is in fact hurting them offline. I am not calling for overly sensitive online fora that are incapable of constructive criticism but I believe that being bold enough to allow others quote us online will take us a great deal towards having online fora filled with nothing but positive energy.