Hidden Behind the Screen

Sydney Weisser

Julian Dibbell’s article, “A Rape in Cyberspace” was very interesting. After reading the title, I was immediately curious as to how such a “rape” could play out. I learned that this specific act occurred on an online virtual community called LambdaMOO. A community like this provides people with the opportunity to make them into whoever they wants to be. They can design the way that they look and act, and can also control what they say and where they are.

Automatically, I see an issue with this. People nowadays are so addicted to technology, and mostly the Internet. Some use cyberspace as an outlet. If someone does not like who they are as an individual, they can hide behind the computer screen and pretend to be someone that they aren’t. The MTV television show “Catfish” reminds me of this. This show follows individuals who have gone through an online relationship, and have reason to believe that the person they have been dating is not who they claim to be. Most of the time, that is exactly the case. People have the confidence to hide behind their computer and do anything that they want. When it comes to showing their true colors, they are ashamed. In an article titled “Hiding Behind the Screen,” the author states that “one can enter and leave relationships conducted solely via the screen without any embarrassment, remaining anonymous or operating under a pseudonym, hiding behind an avatar or a false photograph of oneself” (Scruton). This gives people the confidence to do anything that they desire by remaining anonymous.

The article connects directly to this. An online persona named “Mr. Bungle,” virtually rapes many other online users of the community LambdaMOO. My first thought was “how is this possible?” Turns out this character created a “voodoo doll” program, in which he was able to control the actions of other characters online. He used this program to force other characters to perform sexual acts on him, as well as themselves and others.

Regardless of the fact that this didn’t actually occur physically to these individuals, they can still be mentally affected. The trauma that came about from these actions caused a stir in the virtual world of LambdaMOO. The main issue was whether the individual behind the character of “Mr. Bungle” could be reprimanded outside of the virtual world. The final decision was made to terminate his account.

To me, it is so interesting to see that some things go on online and we aren’t aware of them. Many disturbing things occur through cyberspace, and many don’t have any clue. This seems to be the problem with the usage of computers. They make people feel empowered and able to do anything that they want. By being able to create their own persona, they can be whoever they want to be, and nobody would ever have to find out who they truly are. Because of this, people feel that it is okay for things like the incident in this article to occur. That is where people are wrong.

Hiding identities makes it so much simpler for terrible behavior to occur. Cyberbullying, for example, has become such a problem with children and teenagers. The younger generation is being brought up in this technological age. They are being raised through the age of computers. From such a young age they are gaining that ability to hide behind a computer, and using it for evil. Anyone is brave enough to say something behind the scenes, but when it comes to speaking up face-to-face, we are all terrified.

The age of computers has effected our communication so much in the long run. People are losing that skill of communication that is so important to have in the real world. We all need that ability to be able to talk to people face-to-face about our feelings. Through technology, we are very slowly being waned off of that and can now easily communicate and shield our faces from the real world.

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