It's fascinating how vastly different people act in real life versus online. It's like all our normal emotions, reactions, and desires are blasted through the dick end of a fire hose -- nothing filtered, nothing held back, the pressure cranked up to Rambo-washing levels. It's no secret what causes it: Eye-to-eye, personal contact is the wall that holds back 90 percent of our worst impulses (even on the phone, there's a voice connection that can convey tone, reminding you that the droning idiot on the other end is an actual human). But remove that contact while keeping the ability to communicate, and we just turn into ridiculous children.
#5. We Now Have Disposable (And Fragile) Friends
In Real Life:
I am fortunate enough to have a diverse range of friends in my life. I have frequently sat in rooms full of Christians and atheists, democrats and republicans, and people from each side of every major issue you could dream up. We've spoken peacefully and respectfully. We have also had heated arguments that needed to be broken up before someone got stabbed with their own shoe. But we never let our specific beliefs dictate our bonds because there are enough traits that overlap to hold us together. That diversity is what makes us dynamic and gives our group its unique features. I would never, ever want to be in a group of friends who are all exactly like me. I'd set us on fire by the end of one conversation.
But on the 'net ...
This is the "I disagree with your last comment" button:
And this is the "I get the last word" button:
I know this because, though he doesn't do it much anymore, one of my favorite things used to be watching Gladstone point out the number of followers he lost upon making a joke about a band or show that some of his followers liked. I loved the fact that up until that point, they were totally fine with every hard-edged joke he made about recently dead celebrities or religion or just poking the beehive with a stick. But if he dropped even one innocent jab about a show that nerds decided to swarm around in a perpetual circle jerk, they'd drop out by the dozens like he just posted photos of their mothers doing anal with a horse.
Seriously, imagine that in real life. You start hanging around someone new, and you're getting to know them pretty well. They're funny, they have interesting things to say -- you could definitely be friends. Then one day, they make a joke about how the white-haired chick from Game of Thrones should really fuck one of those dragons before they get too big and she physically can't anymore. You know ... because of all the fucking in that show. Then without a word, you just stand up and walk out of the room, never to be heard from again. No follow-up conversation explaining why. No bullshit talk about why you can't be friends anymore. You just walk away like that person never existed.
"Wait, you packed? You don't even live here!"
But because of this weirdass type of social connection, that's now a regular thing. "Friends" are a statistic -- a definitive, representable number -- and your goal as the owner of your page is to collect as many as you can like fucking Pokemon. When that number gets to a certain level, losing one doesn't much matter. What's the difference between 499 and 500 at that point? The dude said Battlestar Galactica is boring. I can't listen to a single word he says beyond that sentence. He has to go.
#4. The Approval of Total Strangers Becomes an Outright Need
In Real Life:
Regardless of what all the family sitcoms taught us about the opinions of strangers (and the not-giving-a-shit thereof), there are still times in your life where you do need to make a good impression on people you're likely to never see again. Campaigning for class president, petitioning a council for a business permit, convincing a jury that you're not the "stabbing" type of dude they're making you out to be. And even in the nonformal sense, if your kid is being a screaming piece of shit in a movie theater and you do nothing to stop it, every person in that building wants to see you severely injured. The embarrassment you feel as you grit your teeth and pull the little bastard back up the aisle is a direct result of being rejected and hated by your fellow man.
And why you have to explain to your husband why you relapsed back to heroin again.
But on the 'net ...
Not long ago, I decided to start following people who regularly interact with me on Twitter. It's a big step for me because up until then, I never followed more than 10 to 15 people at a time, and most of those were people I knew personally. Following strangers is a big risk because, holy shit, what if they type something I don't agree with?
Now for me, follower count doesn't mean much because I have my column here on Cracked, and those "view" numbers are what define my literal worth as a writer. So it came as a bit of a shock to me when I realized how many people really do put massive amounts of value into things like that and retweets. For instance, one of the people I follow retweeted this from one of their friends, and I jumped on the first joke that popped into my head because I'm an asshole who automatically assumes everything I read on social media was written by an adult who can infer my intended tone in a text message.
I responded with:
Yes, now that I know I was responding to a 15-year-old girl, I feel 10 kinds of creepy and gross. Especially when she took obvious, justified offense to the reply. All she was wanting was a little bit of attention and validation, and I shit on her attempt.
And this is what's so weird about this current generation of early teens with this kind of easy access to a massive audience. It's developed a need for their acceptance to be measured by a quantifiable number. For this particular girl, that number is 100. What if we gave her 10,000? I don't mean that as a social experiment or thought exercise. I mean if I so easily put her on the defensive by making one dumb joke, imagine how happy it would make that girl to wake up today and find that her retweet request had been fulfilled a hundred times over.
Is that desire for mass acceptance a good or a bad thing? I don't know ... the adult in me has a natural knee-jerk reaction to reject the idea because it's a massive change over what I grew up with. The logic side of me says, "You are literally able to pay your rent because you were able to gain mass acceptance of total strangers." But the thing is, I am in the entertainment industry -- not a 15-year-old girl, just looking for validation.
OK, so I actually am a teenage girl. What's it take for a chick to get a little goddamn validation around here?
But like it or not, every form of social media has this rating system in place, and it's pretty obvious that people love the idea. "Did you like what I said? Did you agree with my comment? Did you enjoy this video of my cat?" Every comment, creative project, and passing thought gets immediate feedback and a numerical rating. At the very least, I hope it's a good idea because it sure as hell isn't going anywhere.
#3. We Demand (And Receive) Apologies from Celebrities
In Real Life:
Let's skip back almost 25 years to 1989. Andrew Dice Clay was supposed to introduce Cher at the MTV Video Music Awards. She was running behind because she's Cher, so they asked Clay to fill some time. He did one of his then-famous "adult nursery rhymes" -- specifically: "Jack Sprat could eat no fat. His wife could eat no lean. So Jack ignored her flabby tits and licked her asshole clean."
He was banned for life ... "life" in this case meaning "until 2011," when they invited him back for another awards show. His entire career was built on this offensive character, and he baited press and activist groups constantly until he was selling out 20,000-seat arenas based on the publicity they had ironically drummed up for him. Here's the point ...
At no point in his career did he ever have to stop and hold a press conference to apologize to the public for something he'd said or done, which is crazy because his entire act was purposely misogynistic. Not just that, but any protesting backlash came from the media because the public had no means to "unleash demands" upon him. He just did his act, and if people liked it, they liked it. And if they hated it, it didn't matter; he'd just move on to the next show and continue working, his act unmodified and unaffected by public input.
Frank Micelotta/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
His jacket growing ever angrier.
But on the 'net ...
Flash forward to 2007 when Alec Baldwin lost his shit and reamed his daughter's ass over a voicemail. He didn't do it in public. He didn't release the voicemail to the press, himself. It was a private call to his daughter's phone that ended up all over the 'net. Was he wrong in this situation? Was he justified? Was it bad parenting? Should he be punished for it? Here's the answer to all of those questions:
None of our fucking business. It doesn't matter what we think. The harsh, no bullshit truth is that he doesn't owe us a solitary second of explanation for a goddamn thing. Yet, he still made a public apology about it. He had to. Because in this day and age, if you don't you're fucked as a celebrity, and we know that as an audience. So now, it's become commonplace for us to not only expect them, but demand them when a celebrity says something we don't like or expresses a belief that we don't agree with. Or rips up your 8-year-old's sign at a WWE event, fully in character the way all heels do at every goddamn show.
Holy shit, how did TMZ pull off that exclusive story?
Before the Internet -- hell, for that matter, before social networking sites -- if you were to respond to a celebrity's behavior or comments with a demand for an immediate and personal apology, they'd never be able to tell you to go fuck yourself because of their uncontrollable, unrelenting laughter. Now it's the standard.