Split personality?

People routinely confuse the medical terms Schizophrenia and Multiple Personality disorder.  Both are very serious conditions with millions of sufferers and limited treatment options.  So, one should hope that most people who use the internet do not suffer from these conditions.  However, I have read and heard too many times online people state that they adopt a different personality when online.  This is mostly used as an excuse when a perfectly nice person turns into a raving psychopath as soon as she hits the keyboard.  Whether or not the split of online and physical persona is sustainable in the long run where more and more of our real life moves online is a different discussion (I think, anonymity is overrated, privacy is underrated).

So, while the interwebs provide the ability, they do not provide the motivation for this self-inflicted multiple personality disorder.   Ender Black commented yesterday on this and -eerily enough- pre-empted this half-written blog post with his comment:

[…] Essentially, I deny the theory of “The Duality of Man.” I deny that theory because it implies that a man is binary when in truth we are all lovers and killers, tormentors and nurturers. It is the situation that we choose which to be that decides in the end if we are lawful or chaotic, good or evil (to steal from D&D). […]

Exactly. Could not have said it better.

So, Ender is conceding that we all have an evil streak and a good one, a desire to rescue the damsel-in-distress and one to shoot her in the face with a sawn-off shotgun.  There are two questions.  Why the mean streak?  Did we not learn as children to be nice to others?  Say “thank you” and help old ladies across the street and not to steal their purses? Is the mean streak hardwired and we are just suppressing it by adhering to society’s laws and convention?  And the second question of course is why we release the self that we can not display in real life onto the anonymous internet crowds?

Centuries (nay, millennia) worth of discussion have failed to bring consensus whether someone is born a criminal or nurtured into one.  The truth as usual is somewhere in between and of course in today’s climate of syrupy  political correctness is almost impossible to discuss (no offence but not-discussing science for political reasons has never worked.  There are still fruitloops out there disputing evolution).  Ok, so there is no “crime” gene, as there is no distinct phenotype like the phrenologists for decades wanted us to believe.  There may or may not be genes that together increase the likely hood for anti-social behaviour but even suggesting that as a research topic will have your grant rejected.  Ok, lets agree that it is a mix of both nature and nurture (btw, that is the classical cop-out for all of these discussions.  Followed by request for more research money)

This leads back to the second question.  Why should a perfectly sane, competent, nice and caring librarian turn into into a foamy-mouthed cussing thing when he logs into an online game?  Why not be nice to his fellow man as he has been all working day? Well, that’s where conventional wisdom may just be right.  If a person has to work against his conviction all day, penned up emotions desire to be released.  A sales person has to be accommodating irrespective how stupid his customers are, a telemarketer, policeman or traffic warden endure the worst insults all during their working day, often for years just to pay the mortgage.  An unemployed man sees his self worth diminished by his girlfriend bringing home the money.  At night, these people may want to release all the penned up anger and suicide-charge into a Hulk.  The victim in the Hulk becomes the representation of all who insulted him during the day.  Revenge is taken.  Shits are given.

It is rare for me to concede that conventional wisdom may be correct but in this case, I make an exception.  Have been a full-time sales person I fully understand the self-control required to deal with complete idiots (=customers) all day and be meek, kiss their feet or other body parts and hide my emotions.  Being insulted by 20 year old college kids with zits whose professor I could or should be.  I digress.

My question goes to Mme.  Thalys who comment on my last post with these words

[…] For many people, the ability to destroy something lends them a fleeting feeling of power that works like a fix. Eventually you need more to sustain that feeling. The more such acts you commit, the longer the list of people who eventually might want to get even becomes.Your in-game existence becomes dominated by violence and paranoia. […]  (my emphasis)

How fleeting is this really?  Does a FHC resident whose entire vocabulary seems to consist of swearwords desensitise eventually?  Wanting him to advance his character and become a wholesome and balanced person as you describe?  See the futility in his verbal vomit and pick flowers for orphans? Some, sure, yes. Others, I am not so hopeful.  They find in this environment an welcome release valve for their frustration, pressure, self-hate and angst.  They may continue to be asshats as long as the internet stays anonymous.

And I want them to!  I do!  Really!  If I mine in EVE Online and someone manages to scam me, suicide gank my miner, blow me up, pod me, steal all  (ok, not all…) ISK but through that action receives lasting satisfaction, happiness and can go to work the next day and deal with imbecile customers again, I rate my loss as a cheap community service.  I really, really do.  I just try to see the fellow man on the other side of the internet and imagine his joy, his success and elation.  I am happy for him and just hope it lasts and that he does not need another fix soon.

But no, it does not mean that I fly a fleet of hulks during hulkageddon.

Lastly, quick personal note why I appear holier-than-thou.  I am not known to be a nice person in real life.  I am impatient, arrogant, impulsive, aggressive, pushy, ambitious and have insulted many friends by just being myself.  Maybe I try in the game EVE Online to bring out the better part of myself.  In other words, maybe I encounter the exact opposite scenario from the one described above where a genuinly nice person seeks an outlet for their frustration.  Maybe I just want to create a team built on trust:

[…]Because EVE is a game where violent aggression is very easy to do and gets you instant recognition (killboards), but building things and securing them by trust and defensive force is difficult, I consider the latter approach the real challenge. [..] Mme. Thalys

Ok, ok, I bring it home.

The online and the real life personae are parts of the same human being and how people conduct themselves online directly originates from and is an integral part of their real world.  Saying “oh I am an evil scamming pirate scum online but a nice person in real life” is creating a false split personality.  It is the same person acting out different and valuable parts of himself.  Value and love all sides if you want to value and love yourself.

7 responses to “Split personality?

  1. Sounds like you’re opposite of me, then. I play Eve to learn how to use strategic jerkness.

    That, and my emerging Bastard Detector are paying dividends in my career, incidentally.

  2. Great thoughts. Quite likely to cause defensive-agressive reactions by a lot of EVE-online players.

    I am, as usual, finding your choice of examples interesting. Salespeople, librarians, telemarketers … well there is a cop in your list. But in general, your examples have one thing in common: They are servants, powerless, and forced to be subservient to keep their jobs. Most interesting is the example of the man who feels bad because his woman is the breadwinner. I wont digress on that particular one right now, though. 😉

    So you pose the question whether it could be, that many people in our modern, politically correct, service-sector-dominated western world simply never dare to take any risk IRL because they feel it puts them into a precarious situation? Could it be, that they flee to an online world where they are powerful single-person weapons of mass destruction to compensate for that, and does that desensitize them on a personal level?

    I am pretty sure they do desensitize, but only on the level of online interaction. Reaping tears, griefing for the lulz, scamming because you can. It becomes second nature at some point. Does that make those people callous sociopaths? I don’t think so (because i think they already were j.k 😀 ) My favorite example to the contrary is the ragequit/ban tantrum of Helicity Boson. Here we have a prime griefer. Organizer of the largest mass-kiling-for-fun this game knows. CCP decides to release some flaky content he doesn’t like, and the guy flies into a panicked rage that is worse than anything I have ever read in the tear-record of a griefer blog. Paul Clavet, another prime griefer, reacted less aggressively but equally hurt on a personal level.

    Those people are just as vulnerable and sensitive as everyone else, only on a different level.

    P.S. I have no compassion for those people. Their ragequitting and Jita memorial shooting amuses me just as much as the tears of their victims amuse them.
    P.P.S. I am a much nicer person in game than IRL 🙂

  3. @ Mme. Thalys, Wrt the choice of people – I had not picked up on it. Sure, I have experience as a sales person but not as traffic warden. Thank god. you are right, it is these whose position renders them powerless who suffer most from asshattery of others. Normally, the market takes care of it somewhat, as people in those positions move on to others. The depression that hit the US at the moment does not allow this. It does not come out in the statistics but I can see virtually everyone around me clinging to their jobs, no matter how demeaning or miserable. This does not induce the feeling of being trapped, they are indeed trapped. And also, I have a very dark and cynical view of people. They will kick you when you are down, they will abuse and insult you if you can not fight back and they will exploit every weakness you show.

    And I know you were itching to throw a really good comment about the unemployed man who feels reduced as his girlfriends brings in the money. We can talk about that but its pretty serious and I met a few men who quit their jobs or were let go and do not acknowledge that they are unemployed – so great is the shame.

    Your comment on risk-taking is interesting. I would wager its the opposite. People who are risk takers do so in the game as well as in RL. How could this be surveyed?

    And lastly, I missed the Helicity thing – I googled it but could not find it. Was it one of those bitter-vet rants on FHC? I read a few and then they became repetitive. I just feel sorry for these guys that they have to spend money in order to be frustrated.

  4. @ Serpentine Logic – Now I am very curious – what would you use the strategic jerkness for in real life. Honestly – and not being snarky – I would love to know… The bastard detector – oh very useful.

  5. Re Helicity boson:


    In fact, the reason this guy flew into a rage was based on a leaked internal CCP brainstorming session explicitly intended for tossing around ideas that are controversial. The blogpost above does not feature his full angry rant at CCP employees, but it is referred to in the text.

    In the meantime his account was reinstated. Frankly I would not have done that if I were in charge at CCP. People should learn to live with the consequences of their actions.

    But well, to me the whole thing reads like any angry rant full of empty threats coming from a mission runner who has just been shot apart by a griefer. In fact it is even more stupid, because nothing really happened at all (and nothing like they all feared was actually going to happen)

    • I’m just a person, just because people happen to know me in EVE seems to lead to them expecting some kind of inhuman levels of being calm and collected from me.

      It’s quite silly, and to be frank if any company I am a customer of tries to bend me over the barrel, visibly disregards my interests and then further insults me by referring to my person as a cash cow. I’ll get mad.

      That newletter represented a destructive and corrosive mindset, which was threatening to ruin my /hobby/ which is something that I cherish. The delusional CCP Zinfandel then saw fit to treat us like 5 year-old children with his twisted rationales, and storybook explanation about why we should pay him 65$ for a monocle, the money for which would -not- be reinvested into our hobby.

      So I told him to go die in a fucking fire. And I stand by that, and I’ll quite happily say it to his face given a chance.

      I make it a point not to let things fester in my mind, a lesson learned after years of dealing with mistreatment, which I really brought upon myself by NOT speaking up.

      So I speak up, and in hindsight the words may lose meaning, but in the moment they encompass my feelings on a subject. And as it stands, many people felt with me, and hundreds went to Jita to riot, chanting my name.

      I was, for a brief time, a symbol for them to rally to, so they could tell CCP “no! this is not ok!”.

      And as we now see, it was all very much worth it.

      Also, you seem to be making some conjecture about what exactly it is I said, please don’t. Assumpting is the mother of all cockups. I am not here for you to apply your unlicensed armchair psychology to.

      I am just a guy, like many many other guys. I’m not special, not unique, not different.

      I’m just more visible, that doesn’t mean you get to make assumptions about my psychological makeup without bothering to actually speak to me, getting to know me. That’s just rank amateurism.

      • I don’t see where I made any assumption about your psychological makeup.

        What I wrote was, that you flew into a rage. You confirm that you did, for whatever reasons you had. The only other thing I stated was, that you were obviously sensitive to threats against your way of playing. You confirm that too.

        I do not take such raging seriously. Especially not when it comes from someone who is in the “tear collecting business”.

        Without making any assumptions about your RL personality, you belong to a group of people who play EVE in a way that involves provoking enraged emotional reactions from other players. I also know for a fact that griefers regularly petition for threats and insults they get from angry victims just to make them even more angry. Maybe you do that, maybe you don’t. In any case, that is exactly what happened to you: You made a RL threat against someone (no matter how seriously you actually meant it) and you got banned for it.

        I still stand by my statement, that people who ridicule others publicly for their raging should be held to the same standards. All of that refers to what you do in-game and in game related publications. I draw no conclusions about the player behind Helicity Boson, just about the way you present yourself as an online persona. Everything else would be preposterous as you correctly point out.

        As for the rest, it’s all water under the bridge. Have fun with the month-long Hulkageddon


        P.S. Maybe you never meant to address me with the reply but the OP. If that’s the case, so be it.

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