Right on the heels of the Mike Arrington spit incident and the ensuing discussion, Jason Calcanis published a great essay on his private email list, which he just published on his web log (so now I feel comfortable quoting it). The key points are:
It is easy to dehumanize people who you do not know in the real world, but see in a videostream, blog post, etc.
Online community is an illusion beyond a certain scale and it is the law of the pack to turn on people, attack them and try to destroy them. Jason says Harris’s law is that ” the goal becomes to inflict as much psychological suffering
as possible on another person.”
Jason calls this Internet Aspberger’s syndrome and explains:”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
And where does this lead? Link-whoring, pushing for followers and being an asshole is pretty much what J says,.
And the money point? “…otherwise normal folks will lose their empathy online, only to regain it
the instant they face the “object” (aka real person) of their scorn.”
Final great quote: “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.”