trust no one
I’ve been following the news about the Seattle craigslist sex scandal for a few days now and I’m starting to think this is one of the most telling reasons why I can’t stand some people on the internet. If you haven’t heard about it yet, follow the link above (worksafe, though other links from it may not be), to sum it up: This guy copied a hardcore ad from another city on craigslist and posted it to his own to see how many responses he’d get in 24 hours. He then posted all the responses (pictures, e-mail addresses and text) to a public wiki online. After that he asked people on his LiveJournal friends-list to identify people they knew in real life. Some of the ads were from married men, people in the military, etc. He wasn’t doing a study, he wasn’t trying to make a point about our culture, he was just being a smug little self-important asshole that wanted to wind people up and get a lot of attention in the process. Morgan Spurlock, he ain’t.
The story then hit the blogosphere, apparently he’s even been interviewed by the NYT. Wired Mag called him a narcissistic sociopath which seems the best description I can think of. What’s most disturbing to me is the number of people that support what this guy did. I read the various blog entries from around the net and a lot of the comments are coming from people who apparently think just like this guy and believe public humiliation of individuals just because you think you’re better than them is perfectly ok and that people who weren’t even breaking any laws should have their business posted on the internet for anyone to see. I agree that when you’re responding to any type of personal, whether on a free or membership based site, you should be careful because while there’s an expectation of privacy, a lot of states don’t have laws on the book to guarantee that others can’t run wild with your content. Even I’ve posted IM conversations and e-mails on my journal, but I use aliases to protect the not-so-innocent.
Stuff like this is constantly turning me off of snark as a dialect. I’m just as guilty of it as anyone else, but I’ve been gradually cutting back lately because I don’t want to sound like that character from Kids in the Hall with a speech impediment that made everything he said sound sarcastic. I believe some things and people are justifiable targets for it: news media, advertising, celebrity PR stunts, Bush. But I’ll read my gaming community on LJ and see that someone’s posting character names and bios that they want to make fun of, or I’ll be out with a friend and they start subtly pointing and saying “Oh man Brian look at that guy, look!” and as highly as I think of these people, they just don’t cast themselves in the best light at that moment.
I think enough of us grew up being bullied, teased, picked on, called names, et cetera, that we’d either be over it by now or at least think on how it makes us look to other people. And by no means am I saying a well-placed joke at someone else’s expense isn’t funny; many of my friends are clever and downright hilarious and when they zing someone, it’s damn good. I just think a lot of people could better pick their moments and their targets sometimes instead of sacrificing true humor or social commentary for an easy and cheap shot.