WWW representation of Real World? (I hope not)

From: Amara Graps (amara@amara.com)
Date: Fri Feb 04 2000 - 13:05:41 MST

Dear Extropes,

I am wondering how representative is the World Wide Web of what
exists in the Real World? Do you think that the way that people
behave in that medium is representative of their behavior in real
life? I have participated in that "experiment" for the last 5 years
by providing a large Web site with very valuable content (so I was
told), and after these years, it's time for me to take a break from
the Web for a while. I'm really cynical and jaded and disappointed
in what I've learned about people who use the Web, so it's time to
stop, and be "empty", in that Zen way. I reached a kind of
saturation point, I think.

Today, I wiped my Web site clean. All 25 Mb and 300+ files. I didn't
give notice or put forwards on any of my pages, and I know that a
few thousand people today (and every day for a while) may be a
little bit unhappy.

One of my largest disappointments with the Web, was that folks who
visited and wrote me often didn't connect that there is a real live
human being, with a real life on the other side of those pages. They
seldom were considerate or courteous. Since 90% of the folks that
wrote me, wanted me to do something for them (help them with their
homework, help them with their research project, give them other
information, etc.), I would say that at least half didn't bother to
address me by my name (those of you who saw my site know that my
name was everywhere), or sign their own name, or even say "please".

Many people also mistakenly thought that, because my Web pages were
there for their use, that _I_ was a free resource for them too. One
(college-age, I would say) person who wrote me a couple of years
ago, bluntly told me: "You should add compression links to your
wavelet pages". When I wrote him back and said that "if he pays me a
lot of money, I will consider it", he sent me an indignant letter
telling me how rude I was! I've also faced strangers calling me, or
showing up at my door with their questions that they wanted me to
answer. I know that the proper response is: "My hourly fee is
$XMegaBucks", perhaps we can discuss it then", but I was so
surprised by their actions that I became flustered and annoyed, and
I didn't think of a good response fast enough. I never thought that
folks would have that audacity, yet they did.

Even when I made it quite clear in several texts at my site that I
didn't have the "resources" (time, money, my old repetitive strain
injury limited my computer usage, etc.), I still received alot of
queries for my help. I suppose that those folks were in too much of
a rush to read that, or to care.

Last year I put notice on some of my more active pages that I needed
donations to help me with costs, since I am living on a student
stipend, and it was difficult to maintain the pages. Out of the
100,000 or so visits since I added my notice, only 6 people have
donated money (none from any of the very wealthy corporations that I
know use my site). While I am very appreciative of those 6 people's
donations, something seemed really wrong with this.

Since I considered my Web pages the "shape" I gave myself in the
World Wide Web, I always wondered what was "enough" information to
give for my purposes, and what was "too much". The phrase "the map
is not the territory" seems particularly apt. I encountered some
situations where some people figured that they "knew" Amara enough
from my pages, and didn't need to ask me questions and learn in real
life, who Amara was, and they proceeded to judge and criticize.
In my opinion, those actions were laziness or fear-based, but those
actions caused me quite a bit of grief, anyway. So I caution folks
about how many "pointers" to give about oneself on their Web pages.
And if you are as "open" as I am, then maybe the World Wide Web is
the wrong forum, or maybe you should just provide a minimal

I have to say that I really like how the Web enables people to meet
each other from far-away places, but I also wonder if this extra
media layer promotes a less-than-honest representation of oneself. I
confess that I have a soft spot for bright, interesting people, who
are offering me interesting conversational topics, stories, poetry,
gifts...:-) , if I have the time, or I'm in town, etc. in order to
read their messages, but I've encountered more than my share of
people (OK, men), who don't describe who they are accurately, or who
are unable to state what they want and need, even when I ask direct
questions (and I am very direct). Several times I found myself in
pretty painful situations because of that dishonesty. (Sometimes, I
think that I'm too naive for the Web, or maybe even for the real
world. That's why astronomy is a good field for me :-))

So while I hear about all of you transhumans "moving on up" and
getting your positions and places visible on the World Wide Web,
here is one jaded extrope who is "moving on out" and taking a break
from the Web for a while.


Amara Graps email: amara@amara.com
Computational Physics vita: finger agraps@shell5.ba.best.com
Multiplex Answers
"If you gaze for long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into
you." - -Nietzsche

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