Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Internet is for Assholes. Thank God.

There is this NYT article, The Madness of Crowds and an Internet Delusion.
[By JOHN TIERNEY, January 11, 2010]

It contains this quote:
"[Jaron Lanier] blames the Web’s tradition of 'drive-by anonymity' for fostering vicious pack behavior on blogs, forums and social networks."
And one of his points is that anonymity allows us to be assholes.

I don't think this is a new concept. I think every activity which allows one to extend the self farther and farther away from the body enables the Asshole to grow and develop. Think about simple graffiti: for how many centuries have we been able to leave anonymous messages for others on public spaces? Are these deep or noble lessons, or just creative ways to make fart and dick jokes? The idea of being an asshole through words or art is as old as language itself.

I'll admit I am an asshole. When I ran for high school president, my cheer for myself was,
"A-S-S-H-O-L-E. Asshole, Asshole, yeah, that's me!"
And this leads me to some of the recent blog posts about the Annoyed Librarian.

The Annoyed Librarian is an anonymous blogger. Or pseudonymous, if you need accuracy. Like Elvis Costello or Madonna, she doesn't put her fake name on her income tax forms (until it's fiscally prudent to do so).

To say she doesn't like a lot of stuff in the library world is to put it mildly. Pretty much everything Annoys her. She used to write for free, but now she gets a paycheck.

I don't have the patience to comment on these latest anti-AL posts, point by point, and since I don't know AL personally, I don't know if she feels any injury from the attacks, but I'm pretty sure she can handle herself. If she needs someone to have her back, she can email me and I'll be there. But here are links to the most recent anti-AL stuff: 1, 2, 3.

There is the one constant criticism I hear about the Annoyed Librarian:
I don't like what she doesn't like, either. But I don't think she's as qualified to disapprove as I am. Because she's anonymous.

I hear so much about how she is too critical, how her criticism is more of an attack against good librarians everywhere. But so many of her critics actually agree with many of her points. She just has her Annoyed shtick that she wraps around the issues. That, and the anonymity.

Privacy is precious on the Internet. I value my privacy. Sure, I've screwed up and had too much information get linked to me, but I don't just post every detail about my life up for everyone to know. I wonder if in the future, "reverse ego searches" will be cool, where you search for yourself but find nothing. Like now, when you find some twenty-something without tattoos or unhygienic body piercings and think, "How the hell did you manage to keep your skin so pristine?"

My rage would be so much more effective if I could find this person's boss.

Why would you need to know my name or where I work? To have me fired? To have me lose my income and put me out on the street? Don't you think that's a hostile act? In this economy? That's like sticking a loaded gun in my face? How do you think I should react to that?

Well, you know AL's boss: it's Library Journal. But they hired her knowing in advance that she was not going to use her real name and that she would attack what deems "silly librarianship." So you can't get her fired because that's her job. And she's doing it.

I don't know what it will take to remove anonymity form the Internet. But it will happen eventually. If we don't forfeit all our own secrets on some social networking site, every electronic device we own will broadcast everything else. Someday we will have no secrets. And that's too bad. Because a little mystery is sexy.