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Archive for April, 2009

Digitally Yours

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

(I should start out by saying there is no real point to this blog post. I started out with something that ended up going nowhere until it was really just a lot of nothing; so - with that warning in mind - just enjoy it for what it is!)

I suppose it goes without saying that I am a voracious - if not manic - Internet user.  I have a blog; ok, I have several blogs.  I have a number - alright, a lot - of websites.  Eventually, I also gave in and joined the MySpace brigade and, after awhile, upgraded to Facebook.  That was about it for my online socializing other than my Yahoo! Messenger account; which has been in use since (I kid you not) 1997.

For some time I refused to join Twitter; on principle.  It was the same argument I gave for avoiding MySpace and refusing to jump on the Facebook bandwagon.  It was popular; too popular. It was the "it" and "in" thing to do; where the "hip" crowd was.

Let me set the record straight right here and now.  I am not - never have been - an "in" or "it" person; I do not do the "hip" crowd.  I have stopped liking things I once loved the moment they became overly popular.  It isn't that I try to be obscure, but I do try to not be a clone-like conformist.  If "everyone is doing it", I'm not likely inclined to join.  While I did eventually cave, I took heart in knowing I, at least, came to it late and looked safely lame rather than ultra-hip.

The bug, however,  caught me after Twitter and I found myself gleefully using sites like Ping.fm (and its sister Pingle app for my iPod Touch) and FriendFeed to help keep up with my digital musings. I discovered Tumblr (it has an iPod app, too) and sort of liked the idea of micro-blogging in quick bursts.  I tried out, but lost interest in, YouAre (what seems to just be a Twitter-spinoff) and considered a few others but decided to put a hold on my digitally social ladder climbing.

I haven't always been opposed to being an obsessive onliner, though.  I, infrequently, write articles for HubPages and Helium, and one lonely, little piece for Squidoo.  I had long had an account with Digg, but started actually using it (and quickly became addicted; I'm a daily Digger now).    One of these days, too, I'll get back to making a vlog (video blog) on blogTV; I actually had a few devoted viewers for a little bit there.  My Flickr account I have used extensively for a few years now; it's a great way to share photos with friends and family.

It would not be stretching it to say that a sizable portion of my life is lived online.  It doesn't mean I don't have an active, social real life (I wish, sometimes!), but that when I am online, I am simply very active and, as my dear friend Rosie once said, have a "large Internet presence".  It isn't so much that I believe people know who I am, just that I do a lot online - as either Shanna Riley or skatoolaki (or, virtually, as Isadora "Izzy" Graves) - and am quite visible to anyone that may be looking.  I've been online - and actively so - since 1997; my website, birthed on Geocities under the user name "vamp_lynx", made its appearance in 2000 until I moved to my own domain - skatoolaki.com - in 2004.  This blog, itself, was started in 2003.  So, yes, you could say I've been around the block a few times, and being seen and heard online isn't anything new for me.

Sometimes you have to wonder, though,  if anyone truly cares about all of that socializing, posting, and tidbit-updating stuff but you.  Yet I don't do this for anyone but myself (and my two ever-faithful readers - hi, Mom! - hi, Amb!) because I enjoy it, and I love going back and reading what my life was like three or four years ago.  I may be the only person who ever reads any of this; which is, actually, just fine.

And I Will Smite You With Furious Anger

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

Though it's been around longer than the Internet itself, the age-old retort seems to have taken on a new life with the current state of to-the-second, worldwide reporting that we all not only have access to but - often - the ability to comment on in a public forum.  Before, it was murmured angrily to one's self; a particularly overzealous person might try and hunt down the person who had stoked their ire's home phone number or address to physically harass them - but this was not only rare, it was much more difficult to accomplish.  In this day and age, getting one's contact information is often only a two-second Google search away.

What is it that I am speaking of?  Why, the time-worn "death threat", of course.

We have - with our prevailing technology - instant and intimate access into the lives of millions who end up, for one reason or another, under the scrutiny of a media scrambling to keep up with a demand for minute-to-minute news.  What might not have even been considered a newsworthy story ten years ago could end up as front page sensationalist fodder today.

Media has traditionally had days and weeks to compile their news stories - now they have mere minutes.  We get - and want - more than ever before; we crave this mass feed of stories and reports.  Newspapers struggle to maintain their relevance; who wants to wait and read day-old news when they can get the latest and greatest - from blazing headlines to gossip trash - with a few strokes of the keyboard?  Nearly - and sometimes - live news, updated by the second.  There is no doubt that the Internet has changed the face of media dramatically.

Yet this isn't a commentary on the face of modern media, or how it's insomniac state is leaving traditional media in the proverbial dust.  This piece is about how that ever-present deluge of information - from the important to the irrelevant - has created a sort of vigilantism heretofore unseen.  From reality TV to the melodrama of everyday people's existence, lifestyles and life decisions that are alternative to how we live or what we are used to are broadcast to us in a never-ending stream.  The result?  Hordes of people who unfortunately, also, have internet access and ignorantly assume that anything differing from their choices in life and/or religious beliefs is pure, unadulterated evil and must, therefore, be destroyed.

While getting depth from a Cracked article might seem facetious, there is often hard truths and pertinent wisdom to be garnered from the witty puns and satirical commentary offered there.  Look past the laughs, and some of the things they share are downright depressing.  If humanity has reached a new low, Cracked will often be the first to point it out; all while making you laugh loud enough to out your Internet surfing to your co-workers just so you won't be able to hear God weeping.  And so it was that a recent piece by Ian Fortey titled, 8 Awesome Cases of Internet Vigilantism, got me thinking about internet vigilantism (obviously) but also, and more to the point, death threats.

Death threats seem to be the bread and butter of  people who hate everything that doesn't fit into the neat, little package of their personal ideals.  If I write an article extolling my love of the color purple that reaches a large enough audience, without fail, there will be at least one purple-hating person so irked by my purple passion that they will threaten to kill me.  People with an opinion to share or a story to tell receive death threats online like a Hotmail account receives spam.

Whether you voted for McCain or Obama, chances are that if you were very vocal about that choice during the elections, people were also very vocal about wanting to off you.  If you believe that homosexuals should have the same marriage rights as the rest of America - and choose to say so in a public forum - there are folks sitting at their computers right now who want to assist you in buying the farm.  Have you sounded off with the thought that teaching Creationism in schools is utterly ignorant and a giant step backwards for science?  Then there are some people - many of them parents - who would gleefully help you take a permanent dirt nap.

I could go on for days with the general examples - and especially the death puns, which I'm growing kind of fond of - but I think you see my point.  I'll do one better, then, and offer up a few specific examples for your consumption.

When - in December of last year - Vice President Joe Biden came to Linda Brown's Wolf Den Kennel in Pennsylvania to adopt a puppy, Ms. Brown was - naturally - honored.  Yet what should have been a banner day for her breeding business and a fun, family factoid to pass down through the generations became nothing short of a nightmare.  A nightmare that - naturally - garnered Linda Brown more than a few death threats.  What despicable act could Linda have committed to cause people to not only want her dead, but to assist her in becoming so?  She breeds dogs, and Joe Biden - who didn't seem to suffer the same humiliation and backlash for his choice - bought a German Shepherd puppy from her.  Were you waiting for something more?  No, that about sums it up.  Horrible, isn't it?  No, but PETA - especially - took umbrage with the woman who would choose to sell one of her dogs rather than send her business away to an animal shelter; their response was to quickly spew out this oh-so charming ad, Buy One, Get One Killed and and jam up the local television airwaves by having it played extensively in Linda's area.  Once the story broke, with PETA's help, of course, Linda's own, personalized death threats began to arrive.

I'm as much about adopting shelter pets over breeds as anyone - my own four kitties are rescues - but if someone chooses a breeder's animal over a shelter animal I don't get irate about it.  That is their choice and there is nothing wrong with that.  Domestic animals have been bred for hundreds, if not thousands, of years and it is bordering on the insane to think we should let them all die out in the hopes that a mutt-only race will eliminate the mass euthanasia of animals in shelters.  The problem is not breeders like Linda Brown, but irresponsible pet owners who don't spay or neuter their pets and let them roam the neighborhood to sate their lust in back alley orgies.  If you have half a brain, I think you will agree.  Apparently the dozens of morons that threatened to kill Linda Brown do not.

A prime example is the infamous Octomom, Nadya Suleman.  I can't stand the woman, personally, but I don't want her dead, nor would I threaten her life because I think she's a selfish, psycho whore.  For all that she's batshit crazy, it still does not excuse the hundreds of death threats she has received.

It would appear that, these days, people want to viciously murder others for the most seemingly asinine of things.  In the heyday of my popular celeb-bashing blog, Star Suck, I honestly lost count of the number of death threats I received; printing them out, I could have wallpapered every room in my house with what landed in my inbox or in the blog's comment section on an almost daily basis.  Every time I would voice my opinion on the latest untalented starlet or worthless heartthrob, hormonal, overly-excited tweens would inundate me with unfailingly creative methods for ending my life.

My pending annihilation was not always at their own hand; some would simply "pray to God" that I was hit by a car, stricken with a deadly disease, or raped and left for dead by a band of roving brutes (yes, those were all real threats I received).  It was almost like the 21st century equivalent of being stoned to death by an angry mob.  These "children" had apparently been raised with the mindset that anyone who disagrees with you or dislikes something you love is not only dead wrong but should also suffer endlessly; either by repeated torture or quick death.  Most of their sentiments ran along the lines of something like this:

- i love hil and i’m 20 get a lie yall losers!!!! yall suk so i bet u would luv 2 so suk her tits so stop bing jelous!

- i like and love hil alot!  any1 tHaT doesnt love hil shuld jus get hit by a CAR!!!

- I have an important comment about hil I think she is a REALLY NICE GIRL and I think anyone who doesn’t like her is just stupid and f***ing ugly.

If you don't like the person they emulate or look up to, you are fairly worthless in their eyes; worthless enough to, often, be deserving of death.  For not liking Hilary Duff.   Yeah.

Laughable though it is, in all seriousness these children are going to have a difficult time in the world once they are grown; very few circumstances are going to jive with their limited life view.  If they do not learn to accept an idea without embracing it, they are in for a life of frustration and anger.  Though, perhaps, these are simply the types of kids that grow up to be the Internet death threaters I have been writing about here.

So is it all Internet trash talk, typed out in indignant anger?  Or do the people ignorant enough to make death threats on innocent persons - people they do not even know or know anything about other than what they have heard in the media - really have it in them to kill the object of their wrath for simply thinking or behaving differently than they would?  Does the anonymity of the Internet simply allow otherwise-cowardly douche bags a way to vent their unwitting rage, or does it just give an easily accessible, public forum for them to threaten that which they really would do if given the chance?  Before the Internet, it was generally next to impossible to find or contact the object of a news story.  Nowadays, we have Google.  Were these kill-or-conform types always around or are the vast majority of them a lot of hot air?

I can't say for sure, truth be told.  I would like to believe, naturally, that the majority of it is no more than talk.  Yet from what I've learned of base human nature from being a citizen of the interwebs all these years is that anything - no matter how odd or disturbing - is possible.