The S.O. sent me this news article about a woman whose avatar in an online game was divorced by her avatar's "husband." The couple had no real world contact, but this woman hacked into his game and "killed" his avatar.
Which prompted me to show her this piece by the Occasional Superheroine, detailing how comic artist Megan Rose Gedris was harassed by some nut job, who repeatedly threatened to kill Gedris' characters. Fortunately, that's ended safely as the harasser was arrested and is, I believe, getting psychiatric help. (As an aside to where I'm going with this, how come this incident hasn't been more widely reported? Gedris talked about it in her online forums, but the ONLY other place I've seen any mention of it is on Val's site. Doesn't this warrant at least a mention on other blogs?)
And then there's this case where Amanda Knox is alleged to have killed Meredith Kercher. The prosecution is trying to tie the murder with Marilyn Manson, unnamed (to my knowledge) vampiric manga and some ill-defined Satanic sect. Whether Knox is innocent or guilty, somebody committed a crime. And whether or not there's any connection to any pop culture icon or artifact, the suggestion that there is a connection, to at least the prosecution, is plausible.
These are news items from the past week. The past week. It's hard not to see the argument that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, if it's not already been delivered and a handsome thank you note sent back. Like the rest of us, my dad has seen this type of thing and has wondered if there is more crazy shit going down than there used to be, or is the media just reporting on it more. From what I've read/seen/heard, it's some of both.
I think people ARE flipping out and going nuts more often than they used to. They just can't cope with the 21st century. It was supposed to be all A.I. robots and hover cars, and damn it, The Jetsons lied to us! This isn't what was supposed to happen, and they can't deal. Where's my jet pack? Alvin Toffler was right: we are seeing more and more instances of future shock.
At the same time, though, there's more media out there for us to consume as well. What did you have 50 years ago? One local newspaper, maybe a couple of radio stations, and three TV networks. Now, you can get almost any paper delivered to your door, there are hundreds of radio stations to pick up, and hundreds of cable channels to sift through. Not to mention the internet! There's an absolutely insane amount of information we get bombarded with daily. Of course we're going to see more reports of the off-the-wall-crazy shit -- there's more of everything being reported on.
Then you throw in opportunities to have "other" lives. Either virtual ones like in Second Life or through cosplay and LARPGs. Then the lines blur for those people who can't cope. Actors are seen as the characters they portray; avatars become the public face of people hiding in their basements... But the thing is: those are just outlets for their crazy. If there weren't things like SL, then people would have these elaborate worlds created in their own heads where no one else could see. Now, at least, we (collectively) have an opportunity to see where people are having problems and intervene before they blow up.
We can watch, as Gedris did, a person over a period of time as they immerse themselves in a fantasy world. And even if they're still living in the attic and have their dead mother tied up in the basement, we get the comparatively safe interaction with them online. It's not pleasant, certainly, but think about what happened in the Gedris incident. Had he not gotten violent in a virtual manner and brought attention to himself, he would've stayed in his home until one day he decided that his writhing hatred of I Was Kidnapped By Lesbian Pirates From Outer Space was transferred to a very real woman who he perceived to be a lesbian. We could've seen that on the news by the end of the year if Gedris hadn't intervened.
This, of course, can go too far. Children shouldn't be expelled because they like Death Note. I remember we had a week or so of art classes in 2nd grade where my buddy Steve and I continually tried to out-do each other by building clay models of bigger and more powerful weapons. We had planes with machine guns and tanks and cannons and soldiers with bazookas (with all the skill and accuracy you'd expect from 7 year olds) and, last I checked, neither of us have ever committed any significant acts of violence on another person.
But, what might've happened Mark David Chapman was able to create a Second Life avatar that looked like John Lennon? It would've garnered more attention, I'd wager, especially if he started espousing his personal views online where anyone could see, instead of in a handful of personal letters. Maybe he still would've tried killing Lennon. Maybe he still would've succeeded, but there would've been a greater chance that someone could've seen him and said, "He's not right; maybe I should contact the authorities."
I guess what I'm saying
is: crazy people online is better than crazy people hiding in their basement
until they go totally bat-shit crazy and take it out on the rest of us. Even if you get harassed by some low-life troll on your blog or message board or whatever, think of it as a public service you're offering to weed out the psychos and keep us from having to deal with them on the sidewalk.
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