We Live in Public (and the end of empathy)

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Location: Mahalo HQ, Santa Monica
Date/Time: January, 28th 2009 2:15pm
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I’ve been thinking about empathy and the Internet non-stop for the past week. If you, the jury, will give me some room to operate, I think I’ve got a couple of important, if imperfect, points to share. It might take me some time to get there; two or three thousand words to be exact.

This past week, I camped out at the Sundance Film Festival for the premiere of a documentary film about my friend Josh Harris titled “We Live in Public.” It’s a cautionary tale about the dehumanizing effects of technology, a somber topic that we all need to consider in the age ofFacebook, blogging, linkbaiting, and, sadly, the MySpace and JustinTV suicides.

On Saturday night, I sat between director Ondi Timoner and Josh Harris while the film was given the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary. Winning at Sundance is the highest honor in documentary filmmaking according to most–even more so than the Oscar. It was one of the most epic and cathartic moments to which I’ve ever been witness. After ten years of work,Ondi had been given the ultimate recognition and after a lifetime of, well, living, Josh had his story told.

It was heavy.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself… Perhaps we should start at the beginning: Early 2001, New York City.

The Breakdown
Back in the late ’90s, one of my best friends was a guy named Josh Harris. He formed a company called Jupiter Communications which wrote all those crazy research reports in the Web 1.0 days that said Internet advertising, broadband and e-commerce would shoot to the moon like a rocket over the first decade of the Internet. And they were right.

Josh had a front row seat to the Internet Revolution writing those reports, and he made around $80 million when Jupiter went public. He lost it just as quickly when he started experimenting with technology.

One day, he came to my office and couldn’t look me in the eye.

It was one of those horrible, ugly New York City winter days. The ones where it’s not cold enough for the dirty snow to completely melt from the pounding sleet, making the walk to get a cup of coffee feel like theIditarod . Josh rocked back and forth in a chair and repeated a couple of random phrases to me: “The jig’s up, can’t do it, jig’s up, can’t do it–gotta get off the grid.”

I tried to comfort him. I explained that he used to be one of my favorite people to break bread with, that he had inspired me to try and do great things, and that I’d learned more from his outlandish failures than I ever did from my modest successes. However, he had become boring and obsessed with his press clippings. “Did you see Vanity Fair? We’re in the Post tomorrow!,” he would tell me toward the end. I’d ask what the press was for, and the answer placed him directly between Andy and Paris on the unknown-but-famous-anyway spectrum: “For being me!”

Later that slushy day, Josh took a couple of bags and the last of his dwindling fortune to his newly acquired apple farm in upstate New York. He had literally–two beats, please–bought the farm.

The Background
Josh had spent the last couple of months working on two art projects examining what happens when you put yourself under non-stop Internet surveillance.

One was called Quiet and one was called “We Live in Public.” The first, Quiet, was an art project that was famous in New York City’s downtown circles around the turning of the millennium. Josh had a couple dozen folks in a bunker for 30 days living in “pods” (bunks) that included cameras watching their every move. He tried to get me to move into the “hotel,” but I knew it wasn’t a good idea when I saw the people running around naked on psychoactive drugs, firingsubmachine guns. That’s not an exaggeration–that was happening in the basement of this Tribeca building.

You’ll see all this footage if you see the movie. It was madness.

Quiet was shut down by Giuliani’s nightclub task force as a millennial cult 18 months before 9/11–the milestone by which most New Yorkers, including myself, mark our lives. For me, everything in my memory is eitherpre- or post-9/11. Quiet, Silicon Alley Reporter and my adolescence are all pre-9/11. Adulthood, gravitas and the fallout from the undiagnosed PTSD are all post-9/11. (But that’s for another medium, perhaps one with covers as opposed to headers).

In the second experiment, “We Live in Public,” Josh put a couple dozen cameras all over his loft and recorded the inevitable breakdown of his life with the love of his life, Tanya. It was after “We Live in Public” that Josh came to see me, a character witness to his nervous breakdown, before heading to the farm.

People in the chat rooms for “We Live in Public” were vicious to Josh and his then-girlfriend Tanya. They lost their empathy for the people living under video surveillance, and what had started as a fun time playing with technology turned into a nightmare. The audience tortured the subjects in the box–Milgram would have been proud.

It took Josh five years to recover from the “We Live in Public” experiment. I’m wondering how long it will take the rest of us to hit rock bottom and recover.

Godwin’s Law Meets Harris’ Law
Josh’s experiments in 2000, during which he and his cohorts became obsessed with their view counts, parallels today’s blogging, social media and YouTube “arms race.” In his experiment, the technology robbed the subjects–and their audience–of every last ounce of empathy.

Digital communications is a wonderful thing–at least at the start. Everyone participating in digital communities is eventually introduced to Godwin’s Law: At some point, a participant, or more typically his or her thinking, will be compared to the Nazis.  But that’s only part of the breakdown.  Eventually, you see the effect of what I’ll call Harris’ Law: At some point, all humanity in an online community is lost, and the goal becomes to inflict as much psychological suffering as possible on another person.

Harris’ Law took effect last year when Abraham Biggs killed himself in front of a live webcam audience on life-streaming service JustinTV. The audience’s role? They encouraged him to do it.

Harris’ law took effect in October of 2006, when Lori Drew, a grown woman, created a fake alias on MySpace (“Josh Evans”) in order to psychologically torture 14-year-old Megan Meier. Drew started a online love affair with Megan as “Evans” before pulling the rug out and viciously turning on her victim. This “cyber-bullying,” as the press likes to call it, resulted in Megan killing herself.

Harris’ Law took effect in October of last year when Choi Jin-sil killed herself, reportedly over the fallout from Internet rumors. The bullying in Korea has become so intense that you’re now required to use your Social Security Number to sign up for a social network. This lack of anonymity is one of the most enlightened things I’ve heard of from one of the most advanced–if not the most advanced–Internet communities in the world.

Ownership of one’s behavior? Who knew?!?!?

I’m sure some of the wacky Internet contingents will flame me for saying that anonymity is a bad thing, but the fact is that anonymous environments create the environments in which Godwin’s and Harris’ Laws apply. What’s the point of starting these communities if they eventually end in pain and suffering? Anonymity is overrated in my book. (Whistle-blowers are an exception, and last time I checked, anyone can anonymously drop an envelope in a mailbox, so it’s not like the Internet needs to be there for that).

Internet Asperger’s Syndrome (IAS)
I’ve come to recognize a new disorder, the underlying cause of Harris’ Law. This disease affects people when their communication moves to digital, and the emotional cues of face-to-face interaction–including tone, facial expression and the so called “blush response”–are lost (More: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FxwHfoWdS8 ).

In this syndrome, the afflicted stops seeing the humanity in other people. They view individuals as objects, not individuals. The focus on repetitive behaviors–checking email, blogging, twittering and retiring andys–combines with an inability to feel empathy and connect with people.

Now, I’m not using this new term to make light of Asperger’s Syndrome. Far from it, I jsut can’t deny the fact that the evolution of people’s behavior online eventually parallels Asperger’s. I feel I’m within my rights as pundit to reconstitute the idea of Asperger’s to explain my own experiences and thoughts. Although I’ll understand it if you, as someone affected in some way by Asperger’s, claim your right to flame me for “hijacking” the disease. Such is the life of linguists in the age of sound-bites over debate, and skimming over reading.

If you do choose to flame me, I’d ask that you attempt to throttle back your IAS and see me not as an email-producing object, but rather as a 38-year-old searching for answers at the mid-way point in his life, when his collective experience equals his remaining time to experience life. That’s really who I am–just another kid on verge of being old who spends a lot of time thinking about the half-way mark. Be gentle with me.

Back to the point: In IAS, screen names and avatars shift from representing people to representing characters in a video game. Our 2600’s and 64’s have trained us to pound these characters into submission in order to level up. We look at bloggers, people on Twitter andpodcasters not as individuals, but as challenges–in some cases, “bosses”–that we must crush to make it to the next phase.

The dual nature of Asperger’s, from my understanding, is that it makes the individual focused on very specific behaviors–obsessively so in many cases–while decreasing their capacity for basic empathy and communication. It’s almost as if you trade off intensity in one area for common decency and communications in another area–not that the person has a choice.

Well, trading off people’s feelings for page views and Twitter followers sounds familiar to me.

What’s the Damage (Partner)?
One of the reasons I stopped blogging was because the dozen negative comments under every blog post I wrote started wearing me down. I’d write for an hour and the immediate reward was four people, under 12 different accounts, slamming me. Some were people I had fired, others were mentally unstable folks but, in many cases, they were normal people suffering fromIAS.

As you know, I moved to this email newsletter to get away from the IAS factor on blogs. It worked for the first four months, but last month, someone flamed me, calling me an idiot and my missive “garbage.” It was the first time any one of the 12,000 or so people on the list ever flamed me.

Now, I consider myself a fairly thick-skinned, tough person, but I realized that I had not emailed you in a month, and that it was probably because of that short email. The 12k suffered due to a three sentence flame by just one person, probably suffering fromIAS.

I’ve had a couple of folks introduce themselves to me in the past couple of years and say something to the effect of “Oh, I wrote this horrible thing about you but I didn’t really mean it. I really respect your work.” They are normally very uncomfortable when this happens. Sometimes, they are even shaking and stuttering. I typically pretend I don’t know what they’re talking about and tell them it doesn’t matter–a complete lie. Typically, I know exactly what they said, because you remember when folks say something nasty. I’ve come to the conclusion that all I can do is forgive them and move on.

The switch, from an initial lack of empathy to cowering in shame from their own behavior, is telling.  It proves to me that otherwise normal folks will lose their empathy online, only to regain it the instant they face the “object” (aka real person) of their scorn.

What’s at stake?
We’re all canaries in the coal mines now, like Josh Harris was back in the ’90s. We’re harvesting our lives and putting them online. We’re addicted to gaining followers and friends (or email subscribers, as the case may be), and reading comments we get in return. As we look for validation and our daily 15 minutes of fame, we do so at the cost of our humanity.

Today, we’re destroying each other with words, but teaching ourselves to objectify individuals and to identify with aggressors will result in more than psychological violence. This behavior will find its way into the real world, like it did when Wayne Forrester murdered his wife Emma over a change in herFacebook status, from married to single.

It’s only a matter of time, sadly, until this loss of empathy will hit the real world. We’re training ourselves to destroy other people, and there’s a generation growing up with this in their DNA.  They don’t remember a world when communications were primarily in the real world.

The threats we’ve seen against women online are a warning sign of what’s to come–we’re all going to face this aggressive behavior and we’re all going to withdraw from these communication services.

I’m 100% convinced that the trend in 2010 and forward will be people trying to remove their virtual presence on sites like Flickr, YouTube and Facebook. Already, I’ve noticed people are moving their settings to private–perhaps something they should have done from the start.

What a shame, because there is so much gained from sharing.

Rafe Loses His Empathy
No one is immune to IAS, I’ve learned. Just yesterday, one of my old friends, Rafe Needleman, got suckered into the blogging trap of trying to get page views. He printed a story entitled “How to be the most hated person on the Internet: Five role models.” [Here: http://news.cnet.com/8301-17939_109-10150167-2.html ]

Yes, you guessed it, he included me in the piece. My crime? As he describes it, I’ve “taken to acting like a new-money rock star, publicly buying flashy cars, strutting around the conference he produced with Arrington with his two mascot bulldogs, calling his Twitter followers the ‘Jason Nation,’ and then telling bloggers he’s too good for the medium, opting to write instead to a private e-mail list. His weapons of choice: arrogance and money.”

Wow, thanks, pal!

First off, I bought the Tesla because it’s better for the planet. Oh, heck… Who am I kidding: I bought it because it’s really sexy and fast–and good for the planet. Probably in that order. Guilty as charged! Also, I show it to everyone, Twitter about it constantly and I could care less if people have a problem with the fact that it’s expensive. So what? Who cares? It’s just a car, and it’s drool-worthy because of the technology, not the price tag.

Also, if you’re going to hate on me because Taurus and Fondue are the most lovable dogs in history of dogdom, well, I think that’s kind of low.

Since the time of Rafe writing his piece, I’ve been involved in a very long thread with the other members of the “most hated” list, including Mike Arrington and DaveWiner. Rafe regretted doing the piece. However, I’m not surprised he did it.

Rafe has a goal: To get more traffic for the withering CNET brand. We are just objects to solve this problem. Rafe dehumanized his friends in order to make them objects that get him to the next level.

It’s classic IAS.

We’re Donkey Kong to him. These big, sad gorillas that he needs to take down to get to the next level. It’s all a game, but the hurt feelings can be real. Rafe now has to go to bed for the next couple of nights knowing that he’s taken someone who is his friend–namely, me–and thrown him under the bus. For the next couple of years, folks will reference that I’m “the most hated guy on theinternet” when, in fact, my life is filled with love and joy.

Next time I see Rafe in person, he is going to do the whole nervous, coy “I really didn’t mean it, you know I respect what you’ve done” thing and I’ll say “Don’t worry about it, it doesn’t matter.”

Didn’t you ask for this?
The classic argument when someone “famous” gets beat up is to say “Didn’t you ask for this?” Well, actually, no. The reason I got into blogging was not to be famous or to get attention. It was simply to have an intelligent discussion with people I respected. The people I thought were interesting were debating stuff in the blog format, so I was drawn to it.

Now, the entire blogosphere has collapsed on itself to the point at which a respectable journalist like Rafe is so desperate to get to the top of Techmeme, he has to rip his friends apart. Not to single Rafe out; this is occurring daily. People find the 20 people at the top of the hill and rip them apart, hoping to move up themselves.

Steve Jobs has had his personal life ripped apart by otherwise normal journalists who are obsessed with invading his privacy, under the guise that he should bear his soul to us. It feels to me like these Jobs-obsessed bloggers and so-called journalists won’t be happy until they can just stream Jobs’ next doctor visit.

Oh, the humanity of it. It’s really disgraceful.

Wrapping up
Thanks to the 17 people out of 12,000 who made it this far. I know this has been a rambling email and it could have been constructed better.

In summary, how we treat each other does matter. It matters because, without empathy, our lives are shallow, self-centered and meaningless.

The Internet and technology are turning on us, just like the story in “We Live in Public.”

Right now, I’ve got over ten thousand of you to share my thoughts with, until such time as you decide to crush and beat me down by hitting the respond key to this email and flaming me. If you do that, I’ll have to retreat again, but I’m not sure what’s left except the real world. Are we going to destroy ourselves to the point at which we unplug the Internet? Are we going to have to create private areas for discourse and lose the “Open Web” gestalt?

These are just some ideas I’m putting out there for you to consider. If you like, hit the reply key and share some thoughts with me.

Did I mention, I love you all? Each and every one one of you, including the guy who flamed me last time.

best regards,

Jason McCabe Calacanis

PS1: Mike Arrington was spit on in Germany this week, and had death threats last month. He’s now taking a month off from blogging.

PS2: Some press regarding “We Live in Public”

PS3: Today I started “empathy day” on Twitter. The concept is simple: say something nice to someone and put #empathyday at the end. You can do this on Facebook or your blog if you like as well.

  • Cloudforest

    Excellent excellent post.

    I would, however, like to counter …
    for all the haters, flamers and trolls on the internet,
    there are also many random moments of kindness,
    often from complete strangers.

    And though it seems basic manners erode more quickly online,
    they also erode just as fast on a freeway,
    regardless of what you drive.

    And finally, your dogs are absolutely adorable.

  • Donna Donohue

    Thank you Jason, for saying this out loud. Thank you thank you thank you.

  • Tim

    It used to be that anonymity led to the vitriol. Now it seems
    even real names and identities aren’t as much of a deterrent.

  • http://www,.twitter.com/BJMendelson Brandon J. Mendelson

    Read the whole thing. I don’t know if I agree with some of
    the items used for evidence (the Justin.Tv issue, for example,
    was not a case of people egging the kid on but what users
    thought was a now regular routine with that individual. The
    moment they realized something was wrong, the community
    became proactive to help.)

    But, I like the overall point and I agree folks should
    reevaluate the why of their social network behavior.

    Congratulations on the Sundance success.

  • Susan Ragland

    I read the entire email (post, as I am not on your
    email list). I follow you on twitter as ilikephysics.

    You’ve articulated something here that I have
    feared would happen for a long time.

    It is truly a shame that we humans literally have at our
    fingertips a way to spread love rather than hate and

    I know it may sound silly, but I dream of living in a place
    where folks are front porch people. We know each other and
    visit face to face, rather than only via technology. One of
    the best times I’ve had last year was actually meeting a
    few of my fellow highered techies at a conference. Before
    that we only knew each other via blogs and twitter.

    You really seem like an introspective person that wants more
    for and from humanity. 🙂

    Thanks again for this post. I am going to make it a point to
    not only spread the love via technology like we did today
    for empathy day, but in everyday face to face life.

  • Audrey

    I received this as an email, I was not on your list, but now I am.
    What you refer to as IAS, is just human nature.
    How on earth did people watch as other people were fed to the lions?
    How does genocide occur? On the internet when people are anonymous bad
    behavoir seems easier and even frequent, but is this any different
    than even our recent history suggests?
    People are good, people are evil. The internet has not changed that.

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  • Dimitris Rakopoulos

    Hi Jason,
    just attached my comments posted just right now to Rafe’s blog
    This is my opinion. All real IT professionals, must keep Web “clear” and social.I live in a small country but i am 20 years in IS/IT industry, and i don’t like all this.My best for you.

    my comments posted..
    “I think that you are wrong with this task!. We don’t have ‘titles’ in the Internet. Internet is passion and not hate for everyone.We are all over the world a BIG Social community. Everyone try to make something. Someone is better more lucky or smarter or innovator.This is not bad and we don’t hate him or her. I don’t hate someone makes money over web ‘air’. There are more serious thinks to write for, for big problems, solutions for crisis etc… BAD Very Bad! Don’t move the garbages of real world to the web. tnx, Dimitris Athens,Greece”

  • http://www.copyblogger.com Brian Clark

    I love your email newsletter.

    Keep it up.

  • http://www.delenemartin.com Dee

    This post reminded me of high school – we used to have these
    real world things called Slam Books. They were a spiral with
    your name on it and it was passed around and people wrote things
    in it about you. There were supposed to be nice things and if
    someone was popular their book would be full of the usual
    sucking up stuff. Often however the books were places where
    mean things were written anonymously. The books were always
    started by someone else and once out there you couldn’t stop it.
    I remember one girl who went off to live with an aunt after one of these slam books nearly crushed her.
    Maybe the internet has turned into a giant high school. Sad.

  • DoNotWantThreats

    Comment was too long for twitter:

    Thank you for Empathy Day on Twitter. It was refreshing to stop and be appreciative of others and see a ton of people doing the same.

    Thank you for sharing this article. It’s so enlightening! I didn’t know about internet-related deaths and threats (that’s ludacris!), but I’ve been fighting privacy on Facebook for years and I believe you’re absolutely right. I think we’re reached the tipping point and Web 3.0 will involve taking privacy back… whatever’s left of it.

    I do love the unbelievable amount of free(!) advice you and others like Kevin Rose and Tim Ferriss share. It’s overwhelming. Probably the best advantage of Web 2.0. The Web 2.0 koolaid got passed around because some were making seemingly cogent arguments for networking with every breathing human and the rest of us are trying to absorb as much information as possible so we stay “ahead of the curve”. For instance, what is a Tensla? Btw, why are you explaining your purchases? Nevermind, Google will answer the former. Latter = obviously rhetorical. Here’s a review of a book that argues that we already know enough people in the natural occurrence of our daily lives to connect us to people we need: http://tiny.cc/VMNn7 So perhaps Web 3.0 = anti-socialness! Me and my fellow introverts will be partying like it’s 1969! (Moon landing).

    For what it’s worth, if the wisdom and sensibility your words convey are what’s waiting near the half-way mark, then some of us behind you look forward to getting there 🙂

    Here’s some happiness to show my appreciation: http://tiny.cc/Uj76F

  • RebeccaLange

    Hi Jason,

    I don’t know who you are I’ve never heard of you, got here via twitter. I just wanted to let you know that inmany ways I agree with you, we are witnessing it in out kids, people that spend their whole time in “real life” or other such “worlds”, people who meet on line but forget to meet. And I am not saying that all of this is necessarily bad, but we are a species that needs to touch, look into each others eye to see what the other person is really saying.

    If we cannot then nothiing seems real, and if we hurt someone its almost like we expect them to jump back up without any emotional hurt. Well we are human and we do hurt, and we must live together. Your idea is there for great (it isn’t a mkt strategy is it (big wink), see you don’t know how this conversation is sounding in my head, and i don’t know you so i need to make up my mind whether you are genuie or not.

    But you know what despite this desensitisation of of our communication and emotions I believe in people and their goodness, and i believe we will come back and learn how to live as communities againbecuase we will ahve to.

    So because your words struck a cord with me, and my gut tells me they are genuine, and also becuase for approx 2-3 yrs i have noticed this trend myself (especially with our teenagers) i would like to thankyou for havinf the courage to get out there and make a difference. In the mean time should you want someone to communicate to that is supportive and not mean (although some of my jokes are really bad…) feel free to look me up on twitter. Because i know i am not alone in caring, there are many others that do, and we dont need to put others down to reach our goals.


  • RebeccaLange

    ps just checked my spelling in that last post..woeful…sorry 🙂

  • http://lenamusic.wordpress.com Lena

    I love you. You channeled my own thoughts and convictions. I was about to write and article about this exact thing. Coming from Russia and a warmer culture, seeing teenagers completely abstract from people online (and possibly not just teenagers) – it’s my own area of passionate pain and curiosity. People, their soul and abstraction from their own self (and as a consequence other people’s, too) – and productization of everything. I am inspired by reading this just now – sometimes I feel like the only human for miles around. 🙂 Which I am sure is not true – but you know….

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  • http://twitter.com/tavdb @tavdb

    After reading how deeply affected Mike Arrington was after
    being spit on after a conference, it took me back
    to my own sour experience which led me to shut down my social
    networking site and get a “real job”. …and made me wonder
    about the next version I’m working on — will it lead to the
    same conclusion: inflicting pain on each other. My intuition
    and past experience says ‘yes’ — the next social networking
    site has to be different in a fundamental way. There’s got to
    be some psychological trigger in our DNA that will turn on our
    empathy when engaged in an abstract (online) interaction with
    that person.

    …and I don’t think social security numbers are the answer but if we don’t come up with a formula “Social Media” will
    be forever “unsustainable”

  • http://www.ophilos.eu philos

    Excellent food for thought!
    I just think that you don’t have to care about the insulting
    messages, comments etc. These people have their own audience, their
    own followers, they have to exist, to be the voice of those
    who know only to criticise the others and not to spend time to improve thwir
    own lives.
    I read you because I know that not every time but once in a
    week or a month I will read sthg of yours that it will help me to improve
    my life, it will offer me this food for thought that I need to
    go a step further.

    Have a nice day!
    Greetings from Athens, Greece.

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  • anon

    Isn’t this what social networking is all about: creating new
    views of what’s being said and what authority we should give


  • http://yihongs-research.blogspot.com/ Yihong Ding

    Jason, great post. Coincidentally, I was writing an article
    that expresses the same topic. Getting our positive solitude
    back is a timely challenge to both of Web researchers and Web
    business people such as you.


  • http://canadianspacedaisy.spaces.live.com Ruth Morton

    Very interesting read and although I agree with much of what you’ve written here, I also believe that the Internet can be used to connect and interact with people in a real way that wouldn’t have been possible before. It’s a tool which can be good to benefit or destroy.

    Call me niave, but I hope that social media tools will be used by the majority to enhance their face to face human interactions, not replace them. To give them more empathy and richer relationships. Anyone else think this is possible?

  • claymeadow

    most socially enlightened piece I have ever read,
    anywhere, thank you. also, soon to be 38 and thinking about
    the passing of young adulthood and moving onto
    middle-hood. mostly, i have been focusing on
    what good is the internet if its all text based
    input and every one suffers from rsi in their shoulders,
    elbows, and wrists, contributing to it, but now have
    another dimension, toxic social.

  • Jonathan


    1. I’ve been reading you for a long-time, and this is one of the best things you have ever written.

    2. I agree that individuals become easier to ‘hate’ when they become symbols rather than people. This isn’t limited to the Internet, of course — it’s caused by the simplification of identity as filtered and projected through any mass medium. The significance of the Web is that it extends this simplification process to people, like you and Arrington, who (no offense intended) would not have been ‘mass’ enough to interesting to television and tabloid audiences. If you talk to ‘television-class’ celebrities, pundits and politicians, they’ll describe the same scary phenomena and they have for decades. Thanks to the Web and personal publishing tools, more people are now experiencing what they have experienced for a long time.

    3. But there’s another side to this. Which is that the simplification process — by which a person is reduced to a symbol or brand — also makes people easier for strangers to love. It’s actually the exact same process: the faster our recognition of the individual’s traits (brand attributes), the more quickly they become ‘popular,’ but also the faster they become ‘hated.’ The more nuanced the individual, the more complex his/her identity, opinions and representations, the less accessible they are, but the less hateable they become.

    With due respect, having followed you for more than ten years, I’d humbly suggest that you somewhat consciously created a strong and clear brand concept of “Jason” to drive your business interests. (Let me stop and apologize right here for talking about you personally — it’s extraordinarily intrusive and presumptive — but since you asked for thoughts on a post that was a lot about you, I hope you’ll forgive me. Sorry, in advance.)

    I’m not saying that this image was false. But I suspect certain true traits became accented while other just as authentic aspects of your personality were de-emphasized. And the process of your success probably played some factor in determining which image/personality elements were most definitively promoted. When you gave a speech, for example, and perhaps expressed a particularly flamboyant claim or ambition, you noticed that it increased your ‘marketability.’ It might have been the kind of comment that, in private and with more ‘room to operate,’ would have been more complex and nuanced, but in that large setting became… simplified. So you maybe somewhat consciously did more of that: look, it was working. And that resulted in you being a known entity, someone that people looking pundits, speakers, commenters — for role models in a space (the Web, micro-publishing, etc.) that was new enough to have a shortage of them — gravitated towards.

    Had you resisted this trend towards simplification — a kind of cartoonification when you think about it — you would have been less well known, less popular, less successful, and less disliked.

    So, in short:

    – Great post!
    – The ‘becoming a symbol’ simplification process you describe isn’t unique to the Web — TV and tabloids are even worse — but the Web is over time extending the number of people who are subject to it.
    – The simplification process is a two-sided sword. It enables rapid popularity as you become more easily recognizable and ‘consumed,’ but it also has the negative consequences you describe.
    – The antidote, of course, is to allow a more authentic de-cartooned projection, one that is more complicated, ambivalent, uncertain, confused — which, I suspect, is probably more faithful to your actual personality anyway, since these less-worshippable (and less-hateable) tendencies are our most common human tendencies.

    Thanks again for the post, and the opportunity to respond.

  • Tim Patton

    Best email yet. Definitely has me thinking about how I
    interact with people over the internet.

  • http://47hats.com Bob Walsh

    I’m a moderator for a fairly large forum (Joel on Software Business of Software Forum) and we cope with IAS types day in and day out.

    Non-anonymity is the cure, both for the affected and the rest of us who have to suffer this kind of behavior. Anonymous speech is the enemy of free speech: it’s the whispered lie, the snide gossip, the unrefutable smear, the troll bile dump comments.

    If someone in person were to spew the kind of IAS venom we’ve all seen online, they’d be tasered by security, straitjacketed and shipped off to the local county hospital on a 72-hour psychiatric hold.

    But more and more of our social interactions are happening online rather that face to face. We need to promote, evolve, establish the same norms of civil interaction online that keep people from each other’s throats offline. And we need to do it, like everything else, at digital speed.

    Kudos for your post, and don’t give up the fight.

  • Ben

    Excellent observations, though I don’t believe it’s a problem
    for the vast majority of people who don’t have some level of fame.

    Also should note that this has been going on for a long time.
    There have been some hellacious flame wars on Usenet, some
    going on for years. Before that, any number of small (and
    large) newspaper publications had reporters who would write
    the most egregious things about people.

  • http://vanelsas.wordpress.com Alexander van Elsas

    I thought I use a lot of words when I write posts 😉

    I guess the “Treat others as you would like them to treat you” hasn’t lost it’s emaning just becausew we went onto the web.

    It’s simple. Be respectful to each other. Makes the world a better place.
    And what is left is a bunch of morons you just have to ignore as there is nothin to do from stopping them.


  • http://anzman.blogspot.com Charlie Anzman

    Jason – I don’t know if it’s IAS or not but my perception is that many people have lost that all-important balance in life. Being connected to the Internet, no matter how you cut it, is NOT healthy. Breaks are important and living life outside of your particular area of interest. On the Internet that can be overwhelming and cause you to micro-focus to a point where you no longer see the big picture. As far as the Tesla, I honestly can understand some of these people. They want to read and follow someone that they can relate to. Some are jealous. Others feel it’s bragging (while you may just be having fun). The dogs? Great stuff! You don’t know me and honestly I have had some issues with your tweets but you are who you are and the choice to be that person online could affect your efforts to drive your start-up. Just my humble opinion. I am 14 years older than you, have been there and back three times like many of us in Tech, and my simple solution is simply to break from the technology at least for a full day each week and spend it doing other things. Food for thought. Thought provoking piece. Thanks

  • http://anzman.blogspot.com Charlie Anzman

    2nd sentence should have read – being connected to the Internet 24/7. Sorry

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  • http://vanelsas.wordpress.com Alexander van Elsas

    And fixing your comment box so that I can actually see which typo’s I’m making would be nice too 😉

  • http://blog.phreadz.com Kosso

    Really great post, Jason. Good stuff. I really look forward
    to seeing Josh’s film.

    I know exactly what you mean. Very well put! 😉

  • Tony McDonnell

    Received your email yesterday afternoon and read it last night
    Unfortunately the mob mentality has found its way to the
    internet. Which is why so many of us ordinary people are
    moving away from the social networks.

    Ban the Haters.

  • http://yeuann.blogspot.com Abraham

    Thanks for posting this, Jason. It’s terribly thought-provoking. And… I guess that’s the truth about us people. We’ll misunderstand, we’ll judge, and so on…

    It’s not every day that one sees a thoughtful posting like this one. Think just want to encourage you with Abraham Lincoln’s life example: he also faced bitter enemies, among them Edwin Stanton a rival who constantly put down Lincoln. But when Lincoln became president, he called upon Stanton to work with him. When a stunned Stanton asked Lincoln why, Lincoln said that he was the best man for the job. Well, we know how history went… and Stanton eulogized, “Now he belongs to the ages.”

    Hope you belong to the ages one day too. 🙂 Keep on going man…

  • http://blog.phreadz.com Kosso

    Also, Cloudforest makes great point about the balance from
    random acts of kindness on the internet, often from complete strangers.

    Sometimes brilliant, inspiring and very human things happen
    which somehow makes it feel all worth it and glad to be alive
    and part of it.

    What goes around… 😉


  • http://vinylart.blogspot.com Daniel Edlen

    Well conceived and said. Thanks for having the conviction
    and guts to say it publicly.


  • http://leaningtowardwisdom.com Leonard Klaatu

    Quite good, as usual.

    People will be people, whether online or face-to-face.

    We can all be ugly, or kind. Evil often wins though.

  • http://www.munssey.com Jeff

    Bravo, Jason.
    Thick skin is a good defense however your post creates a fantastic offense as well.

    Never doubt that the direction your wheels turn creates inspiration.

  • http://www.schleifstein.net Mike Schleifstein

    I was mulling your evaluation of rafe’s post last night after reading the initial email and come to a differenct conclusion. I think Rafe wasn’t criticizing the five of you so much as writing a satirical summary of how one can become viewed as the most hated person on the net. You are seen by some as “taken to acting like a new-money rock star, publicly buying flashy cars, strutting around the conference he produced with Arrington with his two mascot bulldogs, calling his Twitter followers the ‘Jason Nation,’ and then telling bloggers he’s too good for the medium, opting to write instead to a private e-mail list. His weapons of choice: arrogance and money.”
    but this would be a scathingly sarcastic view of those who see you guys with jealous eyes. Heck I wish i could have been as successful so early and so quickly as the five of you, and wish i could create a list of 12000 to send out my thoughts too, but i don’t hate you for it.

    I don’t know the contents of the conversation you had with rafe to get his apology, but I wonder if he didn’t mean the post as a traffic boosting hatefilled blast and more of a swift-like modest netizen proposal.

    Just wanted to put in my two cents from a former pro-blogger who flamed with the best of them, but tried to not flame those who didn’t actually deserve it 🙂
    Just a couple thoughts.

  • http://www.blogdesign.com Matt Blancarte

    Thank you for this post.

    I’ve had similar experiences, albeit I’ve never been thrown under the bus by a friend. I have, however, been thrown under the buss by peers.

    It takes restraint to remain uninvolved in flame wars, and I’m glad that we (UBD) have always focused on building positive relationships. Sometimes I just wonder what people are thinking when they go out of their way to destroy someone else’s brand, or even their personal credibility.

    Why waste time destroying, when you can spend time building?

    Again, thank you for the post. I’ve always admired your work, and I’m glad you had the cajones and intelligence to put this concept into words.

  • Tony V

    Why do people still seem to expect the cyber world to be any different than the real one?
    Never gonna happen…… Eventually, the governments, law enforcement, and the legal institutions will be as prolific in cyberspace as in physical space. So toss those iPhones, Blackberrys, and netbooks out the car window now and get back to steering your lives with “both hands on the wheel.”

  • http://www.sarahlacy.com sarah lacy

    great post. i’ve lived every aspect of what you describe over
    the last two years. this is why i don’t have ads on my blog: i
    don’t want the temptation to do what’s been done to me for
    cheap gain, also by “friends.” if i never get above 30k views
    a month, that’s fine with me.

    on a plus side, living it has made me a more compassionate
    person, blogger and reporter. that’s something.

  • http://www.memebox.com Alvis Brigis

    Nice observations Jason.

    You may be interested in a tendency called Smart’s Third Law:

    “The first generation of any technology is often dehumanizing. The second generation is generally ambivalent to humanity. The third generation, with luck, becomes net humanizing.”


    Technology cuts both ways. Only as we network together and realize the cost benefit of the technology and its impact do we learn to attain equilibrium and play nicely.

  • Owen Rowley

    I too received this as a forwarded email, and have now
    signed up for your list.

    This is what I think is the big take away.

    “Eventually, you see the effect of what I’ll call Harris’ Law:
    At some point, all humanity in an online community is lost,
    and the goal becomes to inflict as much psychological
    suffering as possible on another person.”

    Online Social Networks are first and foremost communities, and
    communities are comprised of people.
    What you (correctly IMNSHO) identify as “the dehumanizing effects
    of technology” don’t change the fact that we are people but they
    do modify our relationships at a human level.
    Bill Clinton kept a sign on his wall that read
    “It’s the Economy Stupid”,
    I keep one up that reads “It’s the People Stupid”

    The Popular Science Fiction films in the Terminator series
    present the “Rise of the Machines” theme, and pander to our
    fears of a top down threat against humanity after we make the
    machines stronger than ourselves. But I think we are actually
    facing the threat of a bottom up change to our sense of self
    and each other, our humanity.
    You make a good case that we ignore the potential of pathologic
    changes leaking from our virtual community into our physical
    community at our peril.

    The answer to “How do you boil a live frog” is to put it in a pot
    of cold water and raise the temperature slowly. We are considerably
    smarter than frogs and should be well able to recognize that
    the temperature in our networked pot is rising.

    We zone our physical space, soon we will need to zone our
    virtual space.

    The Wild West Web will likely persist for those that chose to keep
    it that way but since there is no effective penalty there for
    violations of basic human decency those who chose not to amputate
    themselves from such values need to be given the opportunity to
    craft a more civilized communal web as well. Then it will be up to
    market forces where people chose to spend their time.

  • Tina Marie


    Keep up the newsletters!

  • http://www.philippschilling.com Philipp

    Thank you and fight on.

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  • http://www.peripheralvisionary.com Alan Edgett

    Always thought you were a bit of a blow-hard, when I could anonymously listen to you. Now, you kind of Rock! Great post…


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  • http://www.aslightdelay.com Paul Bogan

    Jason: Thoroughly enjoyed the post. You address several things that nag at me over a lot of technology and social networking software. Ironic, isn’t it, that something (at least ostensibly) intended to foster community ends up atomizing it? That, in turn, brings me to Susan’s comment, part of it, anyway:
    “I know it may sound silly, but I dream of living in a place
    where folks are front porch people. We know each other and
    visit face to face, rather than only via technology. One of
    the best times I’ve had last year was actually meeting a
    few of my fellow highered techies at a conference. Before
    that we only knew each other via blogs and twitter.”

    It’s not that long ago that we were “front porch people.” It’s a lot easier to ignore the porch, or the stoop, or the neighbors’ yard, when GMail, your iSomething and 400 channels’ worth of cable beckon from inside the house. The challenge isn’t turning on community, in a manner of speaking, so much as turning off all the gadgets and time-killers with which we surround ourselves.

    Mind you, I’m not saying we ought to get rid of any of this stuff. Rather, I think we need to get back to a point where they’re seen for what they are: tools. Some really nifty tools, to be sure, but still, just tools. You wouldn’t ignore your friends or family over a socket wrench (I hope); why allow technology–no matter what it is, and no matter how cool–do the same?

    Just my $.02 worth.

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  • Jesse Chenard

    Awesome email Jason. Very insightful and well thought out.

    There will always be doubters and haters out there even amongst your own friends. Seems like you have the right attitude about it all though.

  • Pax

    A couple of comments that I wholeheartedly agree with (Audrey and Susan Ragland).

    It’s easy to forget what the real world is like when trapped within the emptiness that is cyberspace. It’s a trap when that is all anyone has in their lives. The world is still a pretty hostile place – you don’t need to read the daily papers to see that – just engage life itself. You will see the lack of empathy on a daily basis if you bother to look, if you care about what other people need to go through.

    It is because of this that people make decisions to try and improve it. It starts with you, however. This is where Susan Ragland’s comment comes into play. It’s an old philosophy repeated numerous times in many places – love everyone. This is a good starting place. The front porch metaphor is about life changes (materialism, personal contact, nature) vs placing too much value on material $uccess and friendships established for the single purpose of making money. It sounds like this kind of success is still important to you.

    I do like the sentiments expressed here but I do not believe that you are practicing what you’re preaching. No consumer-friendly solutions are offered. You shared personal info regarding a best friend including mocking a lifestyle change and possibly suggested a weakness because it took him 5 years to swing back to a certain kind of life. You are now beginning to question people’s motives but only after you have been attacked (have you ever attacked anyone? Of course you have, we all have). You called people seeking privacy wacky and that anonymity is overrated (possibly because you want to punish anyone who’s said anything about you). People you personally met who wrote against you quaked with fear because of guilt – I am suggesting they felt uncomfortable because with all your connections in the business, you could really go after them. You then go after a particular fellow on this post for quite some time.

    Ok… maybe that was harsh. I’m older than you by a couple of years and it’s been my experience that people who care only about themselves fail to see their own faults. Others looking to change for the better usually spend alot of time thinking about the pain they have caused others. This piece sounds like you haven’t started to look inward yet.

  • Gabriel

    I, too, have observed the dehumanizing effect of the internet, going back to the earliest days of bbs chatrooms through today. I appreciate greatly that you’ve thought, researched, and written about this, because with the reach that you have (far greater than the average internet junkie!) you may spur people to being to think before click “post” or “submit” about what they have written and how it will affect others.

    thank you!


  • http://www.gadgetytech.com Dave Peterson

    Nice post. I will confess, I just don’t understand why some people treat others differently online than they do in person. I guess I understand it in theory, I just have a hard time totally processing why distance enables cruelty. A friend of mine once summed it up so simply: “Don’t say anything to someone online you wouldn’t say to their face.” And as for empathy, one of the great pleasures of the Internet for me is that I can improve people’s moments and days at a distance with just a few words. I didn’t even know there was a hashtag for it.

  • http://www.KolbeMarket.com BarbaraKB

    Jason, lots of empathy here, thus, no end to empathy.

    Peace to your weekend.

  • Pete

    I didn’t know who you were before this post, and I still don’t. I can empathize with your trying to reconcile this slippery-slope, of sorts, that society has gotten itself onto. I’ve found that it is a rare species of human being that possesses true empathy, compassion, respect, and integrity. I surely hope that we, each, might take comfort in the fact that those people, however rare, do exist in this world…real or virtual.

    Kudos to you on this post. It’s thought provoking, for sure.

    Happy Empathy Day!

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  • @JSto

    Was just talking about this topic at lunch. Then came back to read this. Glad it’s on everyone’s mind.

  • http://www.coffeegeek.com Mark

    I thought this was a brilliant post. I’m certainly not in the league of ‘reach” that you are, but I’ve had my share of flamers, keyboard warriors and even some threats in the past sent my way because of the online community I run. Saw a lot of truth in what you wrote.

  • http://www.coldorbit.org etherspirit


    I think what you’re saying is that there is no electronic substitute for human interaction, something that each and everyone of us needs, just like vitamins or physical activity. If you are still interested in experiments, try this:

    IM with a person for one hour. Call that same person for one hour. Meet and converse with that same person for one hour. Face-to-face > phone > IM. There is a reason why long-distance relationships don’t work, generally. I think what needs to happen is that people realize this, rather than trying to change the nature of the internet. I believe anonymity on the internet is a great thing, because messages that you don’t want to be personally responsible for can be broadcast, unlike an anonymous letter. In fact, I am posting this comment under my cybernymn, mainly because I don’t want an online paper trail, however innocuous it might be.


  • http://lloydbudd.com/ Lloyd Budd

    “They are harvesting my psyche in order to feed themselves.”,
    Josh Harris, season 2 episode of Errol Morris’ First Person.

    Jason, your email led me to discover the episode and the rest of Errol’s excellent series.

  • Chris

    IAS? Really?
    I stop reading when people invent new words or phrases. It’s the height of arrogance to do so. Imagine if everyone in the world had insights so brilliant that it required a new word?

  • shan

    Great post. This is so true … the virtual world blurs out the fact that there is a real person typing out things out there. A real person with feelings

  • https://qpons.nearu.us/blog/ Matthias Galica

    Mr. Calcanis, your self-expression has convinced me to sign up for your mailing list. It’s precisely this sort of openness and vulnerability that gives opinion on the internet a glimmer of hope. Please don’t stop doing it.

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  • http://www.familyradio.com Ernst von Harringa

    Dear Jason,

    Thank you for your thought-provoking message. I found it via
    RedFerret.net. Your last two sentences were heart-warming 🙂

    Personally, I’ve been seeking to make a wise decision about
    joining one of the popular social networking sites.

    Regarding YouTube: Thankfully, I’ve had only one negative
    comment (so far) after posting four videos.
    The other five or so comments were extremely kind and
    encouraging. I guess it behooves one to be “thick-skinned”. And,
    as you said, to forgive.

  • http://www.apesphere.com Andrew Newton

    An anecdotal but troubling piece, and I’m not sure exactly how to assimilate it into my understanding of human nature. Let me give it a shot.

    My big life project is trying to understand how we might bring capitalism to the service of humanity, instead of continuing to let it undermine us.

    A couple of the conclusions I’ve reached so far:

    Adam Smith was a moral psychologist who in his Theory of Moral Sentiments observed as a matter of empirical fact that humans have an evolved (he was pre-Darwin, but he would not dispute the idea) sense of empathy. Contemporary neuroscientists, moral psychologists, moral philosophers and anthropologists are now embracing this part of his legacy. His Wealth of Nations has to be read in the light of someone who trusted that this innate empathy would accompany our prudence to serve not just our own self-interest, but our collective interest.

    Empathy is being undermined by the emotional distance wrought by decision-making in a globalized economy and by technology; by institutional structures (corporations, regulated electronic markets) and cultural narratives that reinforce this de-valuing of relationships; by narrow definitions of value that prioritize short-term shareholder value over the development of long-term relationships, and which value the consumption of a lifestyle over the harder challenge of building a meaningful life.

    While I accept completely that technology is part of this distancing problem, I think the kind of behavior you have observed is symptomatic of these broader and deeper issues. Technology simply makes it easier to give vent to the sterility and nihilism that contemporary capitalism encourages us to accept for a life.

  • http://causeglobal.blogspot.com Marcia Stepanek

    Great post! Yes, we’re canaries in the coal mines, but we
    also have power in numbers, in the self-organized swarms we
    create through social media—to reconnect, humanize, enlighten
    and enliven civic discourse and hold power accountable.

    This is a time of great destruction and innovation; fear
    and hope. We’re living through a period of rapid displacement
    of the old order. Our institutions are failing; our work is
    being disintermediated, our definitions
    of success are being turned on their ears.
    But I’m optimistic; we’re in an age of
    reinvention, driven by a majority of those who will no longer
    tolerate what doesn’t work. We’re just beginning to re-build; there is
    great opportunity for new leadership over how we do it and
    the kinds of values we infuse in these new systems and groups.

    It’s still up to us; the task has gotten tougher in an
    era of globalization and technological change and demands
    not single entrepreneurs but responsible communities; I think you’re right
    that many want to find their way back to
    the front porch and to the neighbors — but that doesn’t
    mean they can’t also use the new tools of the age to rediscover
    and re-engage rather than retreat.

  • Michael

    Wow. I hadn’t heard about that incident with the young many killing himself on Justin.tv. After reading your post I researched the situation. You are completely right. I feel sick. I don’t think that I will be able to read comments on blogs after reading comments on that story on several different blogs.

    Comments like this:
    “How pathetic can you be if people over the internet can convince you to kill yourself?”

    And this:
    “Natural Selection FTW.”

    Where is the empathy? Natural selecion? I’m only 24, but I hope that the generation that I am growing older with isn’t this cold. That was a young boy who killed himself. Someone not even of age to truly experience any form of what life had to offer. In regards to the things happening to youand Michael and other large bloggers its just sad. How demoralizing is our society in that we can’t feel compassion for those writers and thinkers that we both love and come to call on daily.

    Without Yourself, Seth Godin, Michael Arrington, Om Malik and many other writers and thinkers I am not sure how my day would be as productive and geared towards thinking.

    I hope that your audience responds to you and come away with a lesson.

    We love you too.

  • Sean

    Thank you for the concise summary, it pretty much sums up why I participate very little in subjective topics.

    Opinions expressed are just opinions, sometimes strongly held convictions wielded like sledgehammers because as you said, it’s an allout fight to overcome the level boss, not a face to face discussion where you can readily see where the line is and don’t become abusive, uncivil and embarrass yourself.

    I pretty much anymore stick to objective topics, what size is the circuit board, will it fit into this enclosure, wow is that sidewalk hot. People can even in these situations get overheated for the most insignificant reasons.

    There is a saying: “It is better to remain silent and seem a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

  • mtron

    Thanks for sharing. I appreciate the thought that has gone into your post, and the Josh Harris film sounds fascinating. I think back to the threats against Kathy Serra, and now Michael Arrington. Very demoralizing.

    Empathy Day. I’m in.

  • http://twitter.com/bradreppen Brad Reppen

    As one of the 17 😉 I wanted to say that your thoughts are resonating in my heart. I’d been chatting on MECC/MERITSS at 110 baud in the late 70’s and had to take a break after both high school and college. I didn’t Pick it up again until twitter. I also have found that online media is so removed from empathy and IAS is rampant by normally open-hearted people. Reading attitude, body language, or some forms of humor is impossible by normal online methods. Meet-ups, Tweet-ups, shared twitter-parties, connecting in RL, and other important tactile ways puts things in perspective and reduces IAS. I hope to see more of my friends, hear from the heart the things you say, and live more by what I put out there is what I want in return.
    A twitter friend sent me here, I hope to hear more from your email newsletter Jason, I like your style.

  • http://arv43.wordpress.com/ Arvind Ashok

    Wow. Reading this and the link to Mike Arrington’s is eye-opening. I am one of those people who read articles but dont ever comment as most of the time what echoes in my head is ‘That was neat. I liked that’ or ‘Hmm, doesnt mean much to me’. And I’ve felt that comments should be more substantial that that but I have been lazy to invest the time. So, for what it is worth, am gonna say ‘I like it’ to all articles that I like rather than think it in my head.
    Might not mean much, but if there’s 50 people like me who start doing this, you guys will see 50 ‘I like it’ and that should cancel some of the damage the crazy idiots do. Nott sure if this what I was supposed to get out of this article, but that’s what I feel.
    So, thanks for this. And screw all the crazy negative idiots. And this gores out to Mike Arrington too.

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  • elliotross

    And I don’t think it is that ‘new’ either

    Those of us who hung around on the old BBS’s and then USENET
    pre ‘WWW’can remember the ‘flame wars’

    The most reasonable of comments could be flame bait.

    Thank you so much for articulating this…..

  • http://blog.redfin.com Glenn Kelman

    This is a beautiful essay Jason.
    Regards, Glenn

  • Jon Harris

    Hi Jason, Josh’s brother Jon here..Well written and obviously very easy for you to have written since it seeming came from your heart, I believe-I believe. I haven’t seen the “WLIP” yet, though I hear I’m in it from being interviewed by Ondi a few months back. Big Brother is here and I do think I’ll be getting off of “Big Facebook” soon. I say soon but do I believe it? Too much information about me but also a great resource to obtain info…My brother Josh is a genious and somewhat scary because he gets it and WE don’t seem to believe it, yet. You get it and that’s encouraging because your respected(never met you BTW)but you are needed because you can “educate” the masses with your wisdom and truth. Good Journalism. Say hi to Josh, haven’t spoken with him in 3 or 4 years. Jon

  • Jon Harris

    Can you spell genius correctly for me! lol

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  • chado

    Great Post! Keep up the good work and don’t listen to the haters… 8>)

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  • http://www.likethespider.com Charlotte

    I’m not on your list, followed a link from RedFerret.net.

    I couldn’t agree more with what you’ve said – it’s been worrying me for a while now. Especially when I find myself sinking into what might be termed IAS. It’s good to read an article like yours to jolt me into thinking harder about my day-to-day interactions – I’m fairly “plugged in” most of the time.

    Thanks for posting/writing. Chin up, hun.


  • http://www.jednou-vetou.cz zimmi

    Just one word: excellent!

  • Paul

    Audrey is right, what you’re talking about is the mechanics of gossip and the tabloid press. Internet simply helps this phenomenon spread because anybody can now interact with anybody: what used to be talking behind your back is now public. Instead of viewing it as a curse, how about saying it’s a chance to become better persons by learning to deal with gossip the right way?

  • http://relentlessinquiry.wordpress.com/ Strata Chalup

    Thanks for posting this– it really reasonates and is something I thjink more folks need to hear.

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  • Dave

    Wow, really good piece. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. I am only 20 – I guess the first generation to truly be born into the digital era. I am torn between the strong desire to disappear off the internet completely and the knowledge that in some senses I am too far gone to be able to do it (not meant to be melodramatic or anything – I need to do things like check my emails and sort out my banking because society has started to migrate to the internet).

    I have just finished reading Marshal McLuhan’s ‘The Medium is the Message’ and despite being written in the 60’s, it has some surprisingly significant insights into the power of ‘new’ media over society. I am genuinely intrigued / terrified to see where the world is going next.

  • Heather Gilmour

    I read the email a few days ago, and just re-read it here. It’s a beautiful cautionary tale about our increasingly overexposed lives, friends and thoughts. And I agree, there’s something bittersweet about the excitement of sharing and connecting online and the dangerous, prurient flamespraying that follows that kind of trust.

  • http://indiegameproducer.com Dave Taylor

    Take the comments less seriously, both the good and bad. They’re just
    bits sitting on a hard drive somewhere. They got there because some
    fingers typed them. They got typed because a wet brain attached to
    same is programmed to do so given the stimulus you provided.

    Having a fully functional public life is about adapting to it. Yes, it is
    a game to some people to up their view counts at the expense of other
    online personae, but I’d posit those griefers have a healthier attitude
    about it than the ones who take it seriously.

    It’s always taken a few casualties to get used to new mediums. It’s a
    shame, but that’s the risk you take when you want to be an explorer on
    the digital frontier. It is a competitive space like any other, and the
    sooner you take competition professionally and not personally, even if
    it’s to do with your personal life, the better off you’ll be.

    Not terribly moved by the suicides. If we could cue another couple
    billion of those up, maybe we can solve the planet’s most dangerous
    threat, dramatic and largely uncontrolled overpopulation by homo
    sapien. Oh noes! I am showing callous disregard for the sanctity of
    human life! Controversy, comments, death threats, here they come!
    More bits on a hard drive. Gasp!

    And the deceased probably accomplished more in bringing awareness to
    the issue of taking online comments too seriously than they could have
    spending their lives as activists for the subject. They are martyrs
    who paid the ultimate price for attention on a subject that needed
    more attention.

    Here’s what I think is the best part. I suspect you’re not as worked up
    about this as you let on. You’ve had years of practice weathering
    annoying comments. I believe you are amplifying your hurt feelings a
    bit here for dramatic effect, and I don’t care. It’s fine. It makes for a
    more entertaining read, and I wouldn’t have replied without that

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  • http://arielart.typepad.com Arielle Finberg

    Hi, Jason,

    I am not going to flame you, but as someone who actually has the serious neurological
    disability of Asperger’s Syndrome, I am going to correct you:

    You said:

    “The dual nature of Asperger’s, from my understanding, is that it makes the individual
    focused on very specific behaviors–obsessively so in many cases–while decreasing their
    capacity for basic empathy and communication.”

    We have huge capacity for empathy, some of us think more than even non-Asperger’s
    (Neurotypicals), judging from the constant misunderstanding and abuse we Aspies often
    encounter at the hands of non-Asperger’s, starting with the bullying nearly all of us
    receive in the school yard.

    The problem is that we do not inherently know how to communicate our experiences and
    how to best interact with others because of the actual “wiring” of our brains.

    So it only appears to ignorant non-Asperger’s that we lack empathy. Once we learn how to
    better communicate, and those without Asperger’s learn more about our disability,
    others learn quite the contrary. Ask my husband. 😀

    And yes, it saddens and hurts me to see you using the term “Asperger’s Syndrome”
    in this manner. My daily life is extremely difficult and exhausting because of something
    with which I was born. If anything, your experience of being misunderstood on the internet
    should be able to help you understand our suffering.

    Since many of us with Asperger’s do not have the natural ability to understand facial expression,
    maybe all of you non-Asperger’s can learn from us how better to communicate on the internet.
    From that point of view, it could be said that those without Asperger’s have a disability! (For
    many of us with Autism Spectrum Disorder, communicating on the internet can be much
    easier and satisfying than face-to-face, in fact.)

    In short, maybe you could ask some of us how we navigate successfully through life without
    detecting the finer points of social interaction.

    Meanwhile, if you have empathy for us who
    suffer with this disability, please find another term. You guys are not Asperger’s. You are
    Just a bunch of Neurotypicals who are disabled on the internet. And we Aspies do not say
    that you all have “Neurotypical Syndrome” because you are unable to function successfully
    on the internet without social cues.

    My husband, who does not have Asperger’s Syndrome, says that labels are a lazy way of
    identifying something that promotes stereotypes and that there is a responsibility
    that comes with using a label.

    Therefore, Jason, I challenge you to seek out those in your own life who have Asperger’s Syndrome
    and other Autistic Spectrum Disorders and get to know us. You will see that Autism is very complex
    and varied among us with many more issues and challenges besides communication.

    Jason, you have no idea how many hours it took me to write this response and how difficult it was
    because of my disability. But we with Asperger’s Syndrome have to stand up and advocate for
    ourselves, despite our very serious and real difficulties communicating.

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  • http://life.magitam.org.uk Farhan Rehman

    It’s an interesting post.. Even though I’m subscribed to your newsletter, I’ve been missing
    most of my mail lately, just been feeding myself information through the Twitter stream lately 😉
    But a point that you make, that is most salient, is about the whole creating digital media for the
    sake of popularity, and attention from others.. I’ve got my own thoughts and ideas around this
    which I’ll be blogging about in the next few weeks.. But in essence, the Web has become ever more
    social, and now that we start “meeting” the people we know online, we start to develop and cultivate
    a more extended network of sorts.

    I wouldn’t look to the few examples of people being hurtful, or unkind, sometimes, it’s just better to
    delete the comments from someone who is repeatedly being vindictive, or harmful. Block
    their email address. Don’t let the entire conversation suffer for a few that aren’t engaging with it

    Remember, that this is only technology, and we always retain control, If we give that control away
    and let others be rude and uncivilised to us, it is we that choose to pay attention to it.

    We can always ignore those people who don’t provide constructive criticism, and continue to engage
    those people on a one to one basis, those people who are actually debating the topic, not
    assassinating our characters.

  • Cecilia

    OK. I’m a latecomer. Just read this now. Great posting. Clearly from the heart. As the person who offered her couch to Tanya for the first three months afer moving out of weliveinpublic.com and ctalked her into writing her NY Observer piece to get her side of the story out. I tried to convinceher not to do the Ondi interview since so many people have said negative things about her and I was so worried the documentary would be skewed to make her look bad. She truly loved Josh and was truly heart-broken when he kicked her out of the loft. She genuinely loved him. She lived with him in public because he asked, as her girlfriend, she complied. It was a 24/7 job and she couldn’t get another job at all,so I talked her into asking him for an allowance to compensate for her having to get a paying job where she could’ve earned 2-3X what he gave her. Anyway, the past is past, we all learn from our mistakes. Myself included for perhaps giving bad advice to a friend. Clearly, your posting shows wisdom and heart. Very thoughtful and considerate. Congrats Jason! You have earned the wisdom, experience, and respect gained. You deserve the Tesla, the beautiful wife and any future successes which may and will come your way.

  • Christine

    One person who thinks you’re intelligent and thoughtful and that this reflection is long overdue.

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  • Rose

    I am someone who never got much into online social networking or even cellphones because I have a mental illness that causes me to be unable to balance too much stimulation. I was even horrified by how sel
    f-centered the world was becoming in the late 90’s when everyone was always talking on them and ignoring the world around them. Even at that point the world seemed to be becoming an unbearably lonely and mean place. And it seems to have only gotten more so in the 2000’s. My only suggestion to you would be to just use the Internet for research and simple communications and don’t bother with the rest. It seems to only be for the thickest skinned among us. Let them tear eachother apart. You don’t have to be a part of it.

  • CouthyQuine

    Excellent post, you make some good points.

    A previous commenter (Aurdey) mentioned other acts of “mob violence”, and this seems to
    be true of humankind throughout history. The internet is just another forum where sheer
    numbers give a sense of anonymity, even when real names are used. Just like the crowds who turned up
    to view a hanging or a public flogging, we feel protected by being part of a crowd.
    Likewise the instigators may be in a tiny minority but, like a riot in a crowd, once a few people start,
    others get sucked in. Of course this does not excuse it, but once again the internet reflects real life.

    Thank you Jason for opening this up for discussion.

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  • Jackie Prentice

    WOW that was awesome!

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  • Taueret

    Can’t believe I’m one if the 17 ;-). Well said, and sorry
    that it sounds like you have a sad.

  • kristin

    Jason, your comments are interesting and well crafted.
    Friends who tear you down to promote themselves, hmmm well good
    riddance. Karma is a b-tch, might take some time, but Rafe
    will end up getting back what he dealt to others.
    I follow you on twitter and wish you/Mahalo every success.

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  • willwalmsley

    Really enjoyed the piece. Thanks!

    One thing you should remember is that for every one bad comment you receive you likely receive ten times that amount that are positive. Taleb talks about how we place more importance on negatives even when faced with a disproportionate amount of positives.

    I just gave up my internet anonymity and it feels good. I’m now far more responsible about what I do and don’t write. It forces more responsibility for your actions and words which can only e a good thing.

    Your points about stat porn couldn’t have been any more on the money. Well done for articulating it so well!

  • http://twitter.com/ASSEMBLY2G2 Stuart

    Great read.

    Removing identity has been an interesting phenomenon. I would love to see transcripts of the conversations that take place on http://www.omegle.com

    Probably a lot of people practicing hatred behind a curtain.

  • Edvin Aghanian

    Jason. Thanks for an interesting read. I think you hit on some intriguing concepts, but I’m not sure you are correct in your diagnosis. I have to agree with Audrey who commented before me that what you are witnessing is very much inline with human nature. More specifically, the loss of inhibition that is resultant of “mob mentality.” Humans are complex social animals, and the human group dynamic is often shockingly different than an individual and small group interaction. I don’t blame you for thinking that people should be more civil. The truth however is that we are not, nor have we ever been.

    It will be interesting to see if we, as a species, can evolve to deal with the pressures of what is sure to come in our near future. Twitter, Facebook, etc. offer a glimpse to what might later become a collective stream of consciousness that ties into all of our lives. Perhaps this is an evolutionary cue for us to evolve our behavior to fit a new social paradigm. Just as it is no longer accepted that we spit in public, or bite one another, we may one day be more respectful of our online peers.

  • John A.

    Dear Jason,

    Your observations about people being cruel on the Internet
    are interesting and mostly compassionate.

    However, your comparison of Internet jerks to
    people with Asperger’s is unfair and misleading,
    because few if any people with Asperger’s obsessively
    persecute other people.

    I realize it’s possible you’ve encountered “faux-Aspies”
    who claim to have Asperger’s so they can use it as an
    excuse for being jerks, but that’s not really the point
    of Asperger’s.

    I applaud your concern for human behavior on the Internet,
    but I think you owe the real Aspies some kind of apology
    and a clarification to your non-Aspie readers.

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  • Rush A.

    Hey Jason,
    That was a nice post, until you said you loved us all. You
    first get to know a person, then you’ll see if you love them.
    I point it out cause you also seemed to share that IAS you are
    talking about. And, maybe we all do.

    But i got to see that these things you say, we are all
    aware, but we don’t dare say them. Thanks for the post.

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  • http://www.HerLoveBucket.com Sherrie Rose (The Love Linguist)


    Very poignant and sobering thoughts in your post.

    Private and public are some of the considerations I discuss
    in “7Ways to Fill Her Love Bucket.” Every woman (and man) has
    personal wishes as to what they like to be publicized and
    what remains private.

    Living in public with social media and the immediacy of
    broadcast the choice seems to be missing. Why? It is because
    of permission or lack thereof.

    Permission Marketing memorialized in Seth Godin’s book may go
    the way of the dodo bird. The social media medium sidesteps
    the need for permission. Everyone is a paparazzi.

    Digital paparazzi act for many reasons: sensationalism, a
    possible sale, a quip without forethought, banal banter, etc.

    Respecting another is empathy. Respecting individual privacy
    takes understanding, forethought, and compassion. Your intention
    in your posts, tweets, and digital banter are a reflection
    of how you operate in the world. You are your character.

    From my friend Barry Dunlop:

    Watch your thoughts: They become your words.
    Watch your words: They become your actions.
    Watch your actions: They become your habits.
    Watch your habits: They become your character.
    Watch your character: It becomes your destiny.

    Sherrie Rose
    The Love Linguist

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  • Lee-Ann

    Thank you for writing this. I think it is an extremely well written expose on the perils of internet communication, and why the spoken and written word should never be completely lost. I don’t Facebook or blog myself, except for certain LiveJournal posts, but I’ve seen the effects on my friends and family. It saddens me that so many people out there can be so hateful and petty as to tear down others to simply make themselves feel more important. I sincerely hope that when the trolls finally collapse the blogosphere that the remains will be more viable and more pertient to our real lives.

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  • http://www.google.com/profiles/msasg1970 andreaurbanfox

    @ CouthyQuine I know all about “mob violence” I had a certain “celeb” flame his 1/2 million psychofans and “unleash” them on me.

  • Jason (how ’bout that?)

    Jason, I do not blog. This e-mail was linked to an
    article on Cracked.com. Thank you for writing it.
    And I did read all of it. ^^

    I have been arguing with my friends for years about
    this issue. I’ve heard that anywhere between 30
    and only 10% of communication is non-verbal, which
    is why I’m such a prolific emotocon user…

    If the Internet is to continue in the format it is
    now then there must be a movement to restore its
    humanity. People need to read stories like these.
    They need to know what they say affects real people.

    Unfortunately, I do not have that much hope in
    humanity. I’ve met and conversed with a lot of
    good people. But those same bonds have been
    shredded by a misunderstanding brought about by
    the inherent flaws in text-based communication.
    I’ve lost real life friends because of
    miscommunications in IM chats. It’s tragic.

    So thank you for this article. I intend on sending
    this to all of the people I’ve met online. I want
    them to know how serious the issue is.

    But I won’t let them flame you! ^_^

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  • http://www,hearus.us diane nilan

    So glad I was led to your post, though how I can’t tell you,
    another syndrome, Internet ADD?

    My Change.org Poverty in America blog covered the same topic,
    not as eloquently, but spelling out ramifications for social
    justice issues and actions.

    Keep hammering this issue. Losing sight of our humanity
    should not be the consequence of internet activity.

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  • Duncan

    Harris’ Law == John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory:



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  • allemalice

    I have tried to write something witty and poignant, but I can’t seem to.
    Suffice to say that this was a wonderful piece. Thankyou for writing it.

  • Annalee

    If you are reading this, Mr. Calacinis, I thank you. It’s hard to remain interested in comments after the 130th repetition, and my message is rather long. I completely disagree with your message, but I will try and present my views in a polite and restrained manner. You won’t give me a shred of credibility otherwise. I’m including the excerpt of your post that ticked me off to jog your memory, because the entry’s already a month old.

    “Harris’ Law took effect in October of last year when Choi Jin-sil killed herself, reportedly over the fallout from Internet rumors. The bullying in Korea has become so intense that you’re now required to use your Social Security Number to sign up for a social network. This lack of anonymity is one of the most enlightened things I’ve heard of from one of the most advanced–if not the most advanced–Internet communities in the world.

    Ownership of one’s behavior? Who knew?!?!?

    I’m sure some of the wacky Internet contingents will flame me for saying that anonymity is a bad thing, but the fact is that anonymous environments create the environments in which Godwin’s and Harris’ Laws apply. What’s the point of starting these communities if they eventually end in pain and suffering? Anonymity is overrated in my book.”

    From what I’ve observed, it’s remarkably easy to avoid being emotionally wounded on the Internet. I just need to stay calm and assess the context. More important than that, though, I know how to retain a proper distance between myself and the people I’m conversing with. By experience I’ve learned the barriers necessary to communicate and not get hurt. It’s not too much to expect people to learn this distance because we utilize them all the time in real life. We shuffle the amount due to context – are you talking to a homeless person, or someone in the grocery store? A boss, or your brother? etc. People just need to learn that the internet is just another kind of context, learn the correct limits, and act accordingly.

    Let me explain. When you enter anonymity, the persona you adopt in everyday life crumbles. Many people, such as myself, find this fact liberating. I am not judged by my race, my gender, my nationality, but by my thoughts and attitudes alone. In this way the internet is a meritocracy.

    The people who complain about the savagery of the internet are the ones who feel threatened by the collapse of their persona and hasten to repair it. They post their pictures, their locations, religious affiliations. Instead of embracing the fact that they can’t carry the same identity /everywhere/, they crudely slap one together and present it for all the world to see. They go on to describe their thoughts and feelings, purge their souls, hoping for sympathetic ghosts to materialize from the machine.

    This is a deadly mistake. There are barriers to uphold, and failure to understand them will get you ripped apart – just like in real life. I’ll give you one real example and one hypothetical example.

    Once I was watching a promotion for a new book on Youtube. It was about a pair of gay lovers (or, I don’t know how they’d want me to say, it, “partners”) who wanted to reenact Walden by moving from New York to a rural town in the countryside. The video grated on my nerves.Their conditions seemed a tremendously more comfortable than Henry David Thoreau’s, and I didn’t hesitate to tell them with biting language. I was baffled by the reply.

    “Read the book before you pass judgement. We’re not perfect ,that is what we learned. How do you know what we have weathered? Emotionally and spiratually ?. Finding yourself . Life is not always about being so literal and serious. This is Gary, Wade’s partner writting and you have personally hurt me. Perhaps if you weathered more in (omitted because I understand the internet) you should right your own book, Or is that the issue?

    Why would you get emotionally wounded by a comment on Youtube, of all websites? Does he not understand how chaotic and balls-to-the-wall stupid the comments are on there? Has he never opened Internet Explorer before? Is this the first time he’s sat behind a keyboard? His response betrayed nothing but inexperience and failure to adapt to a new situation, one where traditional barriers shatter but new ones spring to their place.

    Imagine you’re lounging at a bar with some buddies. The more alcohol you sip, the less inhibited you feel, the less limited by social norms you are. The people who get emotionally wounded on Facebook are the ones downing shots of vodka and getting roaring drunk at 7pm. They collapse next to you and proceed to sob out their entire life story, and chronicle every corner of their psyche. It’s difficult to feel sympathy for them, isn’t it? Instead of exercising caution and moderation, they get carried away, take the opportunity to lay every aspect of themselves bare to the world and have the gall to expect bystanders to give a damn. The internet is not some Kleenex dispenser full of sympathy. Nor is it your hugbox.

    Yes, it is nice to collapse barriers once in a while. Relieving, even. But, as with alcohol, moderation is needed, You always need your wits about you. You need to know when to stop. Or, for a different analogy, putting a healthy distance between you and other browsers on the internet is like putting on a hardhat before entering a construction site. You should expect certain dangers before going there, and you should be practical enough to prepare beforehand. It’s common sense and decency. People who don’t understand are probably people who weren’t raised with the internet and don’t fully grasp the communication differences, haven’t had enough time to learn their barriers. There’s a generation gap, I suspect.

    But, I can assure you, the internet is not dangerous and it does not need to be castrated like what happened with Korea. People just need to learn to adapt. I have no fear, despite being a sixteen year old girl, because I never post my picture or address, I never mention where my highschool is located, and, when necessary, I pose as a man and call myself Abe. Because I know my boundaries, I filled out my email address and name with trepidation and resentment. But it seems there’s no other way for my ideas to reach you.

    And, here is what my message would be like if I weren’t restraining myself every step of the way.
    “Fling your bleeding heart elsewhere, you fucking faggot. I can almost hear the tears dripping on your keyboard all the way from here. You don’t belong on the internet if you don’t understand that you need to keep a healthy distance between yourself and every other quivering fat neckbeard surfing along with you. The internet is not your hugbox, or your therapist. People who treat it as such deserve what happens to them.”

  • AndyW

    Great, thoughtful, heartfelt post! I appreciated it very much.

  • Jenny Creed

    As someone with late-diagnosed Asperger’s, I’ve spent about 25 years working to figure out how people are different from objects. However, I’m getting better at it, even though I primarily communicate over the Internet. You make a very interesting point, but I wouldn’t be so worried about the future. People are always learning things.

  • brendan

    With anonymity people shrug off mental filters like self restraint and the bar for what’s acceptable is virtually non-existent. When you express yourself or your opinions through this medium any degree of hostile response will be a given. That’s the nature of the beast. So when actual intellectual debate and redeeming conversations do happen on the internet, you can’t take it for granted. View it as a miracle.

    tl;dr the internet is a cruel beast

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  • http://www.realthingshappening.net/awv AWV

    admittedly I haven’t read your entire piece, just about the first half. But I’m just what you expected–a person with Asperger’s complaining!

    You may not mean any harm but you obviously don’t know anything about Asperger’s and it is kind of rude of you to try to make your observations more interesting by name-dropping a condition you haven’t had much experience with. A person who is an asshole on the Internet is not comparable with a person who has AS, because people with AS are not assholes any more than anyone else is. I’m not unaware that other people are human and I’m not mean to other people; I just have trouble knowing how other people might be feeling, and have trouble knowing the right things to say and do. That doesn’t mean I thoughtlessly insult everyone all the time.

    I do think it is a problem how hateful people can be on the Internet, but please refrain from equating hatefulness with Asperger’s. It might make your post sound a little cooler, but this kind of offhand insulting of people with Asperger’s makes it hard for real AS people to disclose their diagnosis, because other people think we are unstable or vicious.

  • http://www.realthingshappening.net/awv AWV

    *I mean, other people assume that Asperger’s means “unstable or vicious,” nott hat real Asperger’s people appear that way.

  • psudomorph

    Does anybody read these? I don’t care. I feel like I need to say something, if someone hears it, all the better.

    It really scares me that people consider the death of anonymity to be an enlightened solution.
    I have aspergers, real aspergers, (I’m not complaining about your use of the word, it is perfectly accurate for what you are describing) and anonymous communication is the only way I *can* communicate. The only time I can really be myself is when I am behind a pseudonym, because communicating with people is a painful and uncertain process, and the pseudonym insulates me from that pain. The thing is that psychological attacks are not unique to the internet, they occur in real life too (although maybe not as much towards “normal” people), and if I’m going to be attacked, a pseudonym provides the best possible protection.

    I just want to let you know (in the million to one chance you read this) that there are a few human beings who would be hurt by your solution just as much as normal people are hurt by the problem.
    When people attack and kill one of my online identities (as has happened once or twice), I can try again in my next incarnation, and maybe be a better person. But if the law decides to kill off *all* my identities and leave me naked before the cruel throngs of humanity? Then that’s the last you will ever hear from the *real* me.

    Maybe it’s worth it, maybe some of us have to die in order to save the majority. Maybe I’m being selfish (It’s hard for me to tell). Just, when you have your empathy-filled utopia, remember that not everyone was able to join you.

    If you need me, I’ll be cowering inside the mute weirdo over in the corner. Don’t expect a response.

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  • Hobbes

    Truer words were never spoken – cyberspace makes it too easy to objectify each other more than we already were doing IRL. We all know it’s cruel and heartless to objectify each other, so why do any of us do that??

    Because we’re scared. Damm scared. We’re terrified of being overlooked, ignored if we act ”nice” because our society almost has us convinced that nice folk finish last. Really? They do? No, they quietly finish first. The jerks might have a splashier finish but they are not in the running and never really were. We know this, but we’re too scared to remember this. Why are we so terrified of being objectified that we’re now objectifying each other just as hard as we possibly can?

    In the 1980s when all the damm fools started greedily, voraciously and narcissistically empire-building, merging company after company and laying off hundreds and thousands of people with ZERO compassion for any of the lives they were hurting, sometimes destroying… is that when we got scared, really scared. We saw that the rotten jerks were finishing first and everyone was being kicked to the curb. We got scared, and some of us broke, starting to act just like their aggressors. These broken people started turning on other people, broke them and pretty soon, everyone was fighting. They weren’t fighting back against the jerk job killeers, but by turning on each other in video games. Wow, that really showed those egotistical power-mongering job killers, huh! No, it did not.

    After turning on each other long enough in those games, then everyone started turning on each other via brain-damaged ”reality tv” shows. Yes, nearly all reality tv is brain-damaged – made by brain-damaged people for other brain-damaged people’s ”entertainment”. Get serious – who in their right minds thinks it’s ”entertaining” to annihilate another living being for ”sport”? Didn’t we grow up thinking that throwing people to the lions was disgusting back in old Rome? Or did some really disturbed people think that wasn’t such a bad idea after all? 😛

    Think about it – we weren’t standing up to Big Biz by turning on each other. No, we were hurting each other while the viscious power-mongering job kills LAUGH at us from their ritzy penthouses and vacation homes!!

    Why don’t we stop *playing into the hands of the bad guys here!!* How about we instead turn that fear and anger on the greedy pigs who caused our heartache in the first place?! Don’t go do anything stupid. Do mourn all the pain and suffering those greedy pigs put us all through. Heal so they have no more power over us. Then…

    Stop buying everything possible from any company that is *not* scrupulously ethical and honorable. Definitely stop shopping at evil WalMart which does NOT give a damm about any of us, only about every last dollar it can extract from us. Buy LOCAL from people you know. Buy organic so you don’t support evil monsanto and the other massive agri-cons.

    If you really want to fight back against the greedy power-mongers who have been callously destabilizing American society for over 20 years now, the answer is simple. Don’t support them at all. Don’t ignorantly support them through their subsidiaries – Clorox bought Burt’s Bees – only buy from Burt’s Bees if you really love Clorox. Instead of continuing to blindly and stupidly turn on each other, how about we stop playing Big Biz’ games and instead start having as absolute little to do with them as we possibly can.

    What would be great is if we could contribute what we know about various companies to one reputable website. Liars would be permanently banned from that website. The rest of us could contribute what we know about every company so we can start putting our money into companies that are seriously cool. The ”bad” companies would have to play by our rules if they wanted our money. Lol, if we got enough people on board, the ”bad” companies might begin to settle down.

    I think teh internets could become a lot friendlier once we stop letting the nasty mega-corps have power over us. Whatdya think? Anyone else with me on this? ☺

  • http://www.hearus.us diane nilan

    To affirm Hobbes…catch Michael Moore’s latest flick,
    Capitalism: a Love Story.

    We’ve complacently let this happen. It’s going to be difficult
    to get things under control. We have a lot to lose if we fail.

  • Matthew

    Tonight I was going to see “we live in public” I participated in Quiet – because of my busy schedule I will have to wait for the DVD or another showing. As a participant Quiet was very disturbing, and there was a lack of empathy for the sake of the “project”. The one thing that links what you are saying to Quiet is empathy is losted when people invest everything in their persona without understanding or feeling or knowing their own deeper private lives. what I found there was an avoidance of depth, which resulted in lack of empathy, and lack of soul. I am still very curious about the movie. Ironically during a shooting it was Ondi who set down the camera for a moment to empathize over what I was saying, I am curious what the resulting film reveals.

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  • http://www.cuyx.com Mark

    To remark on IAS – “Internet Aspergers Syndrome” – I believe
    the majority of online communication over social networks
    is intended to extend and more importantly increase and enhance
    our real-world interactions rather than avoid or replace them.
    Great new sites like cuyx.com
    make meeting people close to you easier so you can develop
    real-world relationships if you choose.

  • Rachel

    …Everything in this article is exactly what I’ve been saying
    for at least the last five years. And it’s good to finally
    see it laid out in a most eloquent piece. Thank you. I’ll
    have to track down “We Live In Public” at some point.

  • anonymous

    If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. Sticks and stones might break your bones, but words can never hurt you. This is the Internet; grow a thicker skin or GTFO.

    Also, LOL at the leftist faggotry in the latest comments. Corporations have nothing to do with this. People do. Take a step out of your ivory towers and take a look at the real world. Man up and grow some balls.

  • http://www.barelydrawn.blogspot.com Andrew

    I was diagnosed with Aspergers at a young age. I consider the comparison between Aspergers and Internet anonymity/lack of body language entirely logical. Interestingly, in learning to understand people without an instinctive understanding of body language, I find it easy to see why normal people would struggle to express themselves properly without these tools.

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  • Joural

    you know, on the topic of internet-aspergers,
    I have aspergers. and I’m more than a little offended by you
    trying to pin those dicks on aspergers. I understand you
    aren’t saying they actualy have it, but let’s just call it
    what it is- being a dick. MAYBE they are handicapping
    themselves. maybe your right. but these people seem to be a
    lot worse effected than people WITH aspergers are. Maybe the
    term we should use is a simple one- moron.

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  • http://JetJaw.com Mark Salsberry

    Jason – Great watching you at the Founder Showcase last night! Valuable bluntness on investor pitches and startup advice. Much appreciated and enjoyed!

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  • BEG

    It’s hard to say. One thing that strikes me… I could have written much of this in the mid ’90’s when I had similar issues happen on Usenet newsgroups. And then again on public mailing lists. And now I’m watching history repeat on blogs and such (which, with commenting and threading and so n are becoming like re-invented usenet groups…)

    Anyway back then, because I had used my real name (no one in those days imagined what the Internet would become), I actually wound up with physical, credible threats to my personal safety. I withdrew from everything online for several years, then slowly came back online with an pseudonym and I take care to make sure as little info about me goes online these days.

    But time goes on, puts things (even flames, yes) into more perspective. It would be interesting to see what you think of all this 10 years later.

  • Jack Eisenberg

    Jason – please read Zygmunt Bauman, one of the most significant intellectuals of our time.
    His concept of liquid modernity has been striking at this for decades, and I think you would enjoy it.