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Submitted on
October 5, 2010


459 (who?)
Why are any of us here, really? Why do we try? Why are you trying?

It's meaningless. We're just a bunch of pixels.

Feelings here aren't real. All the cute girls are 50-year-old fat, balding guys. All the guys are 50 years old, fat, and balding as well. Everyone is a pedophile. Did I mention we were all fat? Neckbeards.

That guy who you like talking to is either laughing at you with his friends, or masturbating to your Facebook profile - which, by the way, is made up entirely of photomanipulations to disguise the reality of your 50yearoldfatbaldneckbeardery.

It's just the Internet, of course you won't change anything. It isn't a real form of communication, like a phone or a hand-written letter.

The Internet is entirely a farce, a lie, a cheat, and utterly inane.

I've been on the Internet for - I don't know, about a decade now. For me, it's always been sort of like what I imagine the unexplored Western frontier was like for Americans long, long ago, minus the chance of being bitten by snakes or eaten by my starving peers while we sit, stranded, on a freezing mountain top.

It's the perfect Wild West for the 21st century – a wide, open space where one can act without much fear of government, all consequences safely away from the physical realm.

Well, mostly. It isn't completely disconnected from the physical realm. The Internet is still the "real world". What you do on the Internet is still part of your "real life". Were the Internet not real - were you unaffected by it - you would simply not be here. Were it "just the Internet", none of us would be here.

But who cares, this is just the Internet, right? What I'm writing - what you're reading, processing, hiding away bits and pieces of away in your mind for further consumption at a later time - is only important to me on the Internet. Once I leave the Internet, I completely forget about what I've written, who has read it, what people thought, and who I have spoken to. I forget whose words I've laughed at and I forget about the pictures I've seen. It's just the Internet. None of it is real or worthy of remembrance, right? Right? Come on, now. Don't take this seriously. It's just the Internet.

Every time one of us says that, we are discrediting those we are speaking to, the versatile form of communication many of us have come to rely on, and ourselves. When you’re speaking to a someone you’ve come to enjoy and they lash out at you, do you not feel pain? Maybe you can’t see their face – but you’re still left to wonder what you’ve done. Maybe you can’t hear their voice, but can’t you tell they are upset? While the Internet’s notorious lack of inflection can sometimes leave emotions and motives in question, we are all aware that raw, unprotected, evident emotion - unhindered by the social mores of the offline world - is more often than not the reality.

When you say “it’s just the Internet”, all you’re doing is rubbing denial into your wounds. It’s the virtual equivalent of crossing your arms, tossing your head, and saying “well, I don’t care!”, only to have the sinking feeling left in your stomach as a reminder that you are, in fact, human, and you do, in fact, care. That’s why so many people who say “it’s just the Internet” still keep Livejournals. They’re still people, you know – just people in denial.

It’s also surprising how little credit we, as a culture, will openly give the Internet. Phrases like “thank you, Internet” are always used in sarcasm or to ironically accent something terrible the speaker has found; information from the Internet – even from credible sources – is often viewed as lesser than that found in books; people who enjoy recreational activities on the Internet are “clearly deficient” – even to the other people who do it; and words said over the Internet between people who know each other well are regarded as being less trustworthy than what they may say face-to-face, as if to imply that lies only occur on the Internet.

We seem to loathe crediting the Internet with anything more emotionally significant than providing us a place to get free music, even though software to facilitate online communication is extremely popular and viewed as “necessary” to many Internet users. Don’t have AIM, MSN, Yahoo!, or an equivalent? You’re in the extreme minority. Furthermore, even less credit is lent to this attitude because of the fact that many people who flaunt it are “dedicated” forum posters who spend much of their free time – if not all of it – posting on that particular forum.

What does this mean? It’s difficult to discern what it means for everyone, but I feel the likely source of the problem is the fact that we are the first generation to experience such widespread use, influence, and importance of the Internet, and are not culturally endowed with the traits to handle the often strange and intense emotional and social situations being a regular Internet user can put a person in."IT'S JUST THE INTERNET" can be likened to being a frightened child in school and reacting to the new influences, unfamiliar environment, and aggressive or simply uncaring peers by shouting “I DON’T CARE!” as loud and as often as possible in order to assure peers that he is quite fine in the situation and is in fact above it, thank you, peons. The smarter peers don’t believe it, and I believe this remains true in the virtual realm.

However, just like those frightened children, with time a behavior that was originally a defense mechanism can become ingrained and even expressed casually. While it is still a negative and telling behavior, it may no longer indicate an overwhelming fear of the surroundings – which is why many seemingly confident, old-guard Internet users are very fond of bandying the phrase “It’s just the Internet” around, even though in this stage of their lives its use is no longer to protect the self, but to undermine the position of a user who is more secure in the Internet’s social environment (or just more honest) and to protect themselves from the ego threat that user creates. Translation: People who are honest about their feelings regarding things that occur on the Internet are frequently the target of insecure ridicule.

Regardless of how much I wish people would stop throwing the phrase around like it’s about to go out of style (it’s so see-through!), it would be unfair not to talk about the unintentional positive aspect of the “it’s just the Internet” phenomenon. Our flippant attitude towards Internet communication allows us to maintain the combination of frank honesty and openness that is seen on the Internet and often considered impossible, infeasible (or at least socially questionable) offline. If we took the Internet as seriously as we do face-to-face interaction,  the culture of the Internet would change drastically - possibly for, if not the worse, the less revolutionary.

If you truly take the feelings of everybody on the Internet as seriously as you might offline, you can't always tell them when you think they're being a douche, which might be your automatic reaction online. You can't openly discuss your homosexuality with many people offline, while online you can find communities where it's par for the course to discuss your sexual orientation. To do that offline, you've gotta find a support group. To do it online is so normal as to almost be considered asinine.

Furthermore, if we admitted to taking the Internet as seriously as we often do, where would our excuses go? What would way say when confronted with our own mistakes? When you say something online that someone takes to heart and gets upset or comes down hard on you, "It's just the Internet" is a convenient way to turn the attention away from yourself and onto the accuser - and to create the illusion of you as a person who is simply playing the Internet game - what would it matter, in such a case, whether you said something stupid or socially taboo? It's just the Internet, after all, and you're just having fun like everyone else. While the use of the phrase as an excuse is obnoxious, it is an integral part of the permissive way we communicate online.

The culture we've created for ourselves on the Internet - and yes, it is a culture - is a unique one, partially shaped by the negative attention focused on the Internet by its own denizens. A conscious attempt by Internet users to "take the Internet more seriously" would be likely to backfire and create an atmosphere more stilted than what we deal with concerning face-to-face communication.

I hope to live live long enough to see us adapt culturally to deal better with the social arena we've created online, losing the petulant insecurities without throwing away the freedom that defines this communication medium. Here's to hoping we all live that long.
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Clairvoire Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2011
(don't mind me, just going through old articles)

The internet /used/ to be the wild west. Filled with adventurers and the courageous, intelligent. Netiquette existed and few ever violated it. Then more and more the general public gained access, however flimsy their grasp of the internet or computers in general was. And they did what they did to the New World, and the West, and everything else they settled. They turned it into a giant disgusting shopping mall.

If you ever wondered the motivation of the programmers who spend so much time writing viruses and exploits, look no further.
pamellka Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2010  Student Filmographer
Ingenious! Very good point, laddie.
ASkyOfAutumnTears Featured By Owner Oct 23, 2010
In other words, we are kids in a classroom with the teacher only allowing verbal abuse between students, but it still affects the kid outside the classroom. Or instead, that kid could just not give a damn what those mean bullies say about him/her and just go on with life like that class never existed.
masonthekiller Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2010
Life on the internet can be very harsh. Though it's through a medium that's considered 'virtual', it still is a medium of culture, society, information, and relationships which are reflections, if not refractions, of what we consider the 'real world'. People interact and experience love and hate, joy and sorrow, despondency and hope, clarity and turmoil, but in a greater state than they might, and that then reflects back into the 'real world'.

It's imbecilic to dismiss the internet, and any actions or circumstance taken therein, as something inferior to our world when it takes such precedence in our ever changing society.


oh god i'm so glad i'm me and not someone making a total ass of themselves on
heysawbones Featured By Owner Oct 15, 2010  Professional General Artist
I feel that way a lot, but I suspect I do it too I DON'T HAVE ENOUGH INSIGHT
SephirothsFlamedWing Featured By Owner Oct 14, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
The main cause of internet insensitivity is simply the anonymity that the internet provides. I think most people are aware, of course, that there is another human being on the 'other side' of a comment. The problem is that there is no face-to-face communication going on. This involves the lack of gestures, intonation, ect. that people use to judge meaning by, but more importantly helps foster the illusion that there is no punishment or retaliation for one's action.

I think this holds true 'in the real world,' so to speak, when anonymity comes into play. One example that immediately comes into my mind is the Milgram experiment. Ignoring the fact of the 'authority' commanding them to go on, it proves to be similar. When the subjects couldn't see the person, it was easier to deliver painful shocks to them, even to the point of fatality. The Stanford Prison experiment also shows the same kind of thing, though it has less to do with anonymity. When you categorize people as being an X, (as in the internet, people are not just people but are deviants, or what have you) it's easier to feel alright to treat others as a sub-human X. What holds true on the internet, to some degree, also holds true elsewhere.

You're right about there being an internet culture, though I'm not convinced it all has to do with internet users denigrating the very tool they use or just not taking it seriously. Once again, I go back to the concept of internet anonymity. One of the sort-of perks of being an anonymous user is that you can be open and frank about yourself and what you really feel and believe. You become just one of billions of people expressing an opinion that many others share, and you simply fade into being a statistic. No sensible person rages at a statisic. Of course, this openness can have a downside too, as evidenced by this recent graduate's mock thesis about the sexual performance of the men she's been with. Anything put on the internet is out there for all to see. While most stuff gets lost in the morass of information available, if there has been any identifying information attached to it and someone cares to look, it's going to be unwanted baggage following you around for a while.

The main point I'm making here is that when people have lower inhibition (resulting from anonymity and no fear of retaliation/punishment) certain people will behave callously and immaturely. Obviously, it isn't so simple as saying that anonymity creates an insensitive environment. There are tons of other factors, like the widespread use of mobile devices among all ages, and the sociatal acceptance and allowance of rudeness (look at people on their cell phones. If chatting loudly away in a library isn't proof of a kind of imbedded insensitivity, I don't know what is.) just to name two. If they ARE confronted for their behavior, you can expect they will respond like the immature child they act like elsewhere. Mature, grown adults don't act that way (unless they're really mad. :lol: But even then, most sensible adults will take a deep breath and read over their comments before they send it off. And mature adults take responsibility for their behavior when they do screw up, without resorting to petty excuses.)
thalia-is-crazy Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2010  Professional Filmographer
Oh no, I'd hate to discredit the people on the internet...
Silverstar24 Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2010  Hobbyist Photographer
I think it's a lot easier for some people to say exactly what they like over the net, be it truth or lies. A lot of people do lie over the internet because their true identity is so difficult to find.

Yes some people have respect for others but it is important to remember that some people don't.

Personally I couldn't give a damn because whatever I say over the net, I'd say in real life as well. My opinions don't change just because I'm behind a screen.
Sachi-pon Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2010  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
great article!! my parents or art least my mom i guess, think that everyone on the internet is fake o__O all my teenage girl internet friends are actually 40-year-old men who want to do inappropriate things with me!! XD
anyway i take ppl on the internet very seriously, because i think of them as real people!! these are real people expressing their real opinions. also the friendships made here are real friends. so i am like you, i don't just go 'it's just the internet."
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