Reading Response 9

I am torn about what to think about last week's reading. The readings by Julian Dibbell and Sherry Turkle address the issue of reality in a virtual world. It is so easy to take on a new persona and enter a chat room or as a player in a MUD. This sounds innocent enough, however, it can get out of hand and wreak havoc among the participants. The issue here is the fact that, even though it is only a game or a chat room, for many, the line between reality and virtual reality can become blurred.

In "A Rape in Cyberspace," the avatar "Mr. Bungle" crossed the line with his voodoo doll antics. It could be argued that what he did to those people was a heinous crime against humanity. The question then becomes what can be done about it? Can a person be prosecuted for their actions in an on-line chat room? To think that someone would go to such great lengths to hurt someone is beyond me. This sort of perverse sexual harassment has no place in our world or a virtual one. To say Mr. Bungle's actions did not hurt anyone would be wrong. No one should ever have to face that sort of verbal abuse on-line or in person. Can this sort of deviant behavior be prevented? . Legally speaking, guys like Mr. Bungle are not doing anything wrong. After all, it is just a game. Those players in the game who were offended could have easily just left the game, right? The scary thing in the Wild West that is the internet, not much policing occurs. As in "A Rape in Cyberspace" the individual community can deal with the offender.

From chat rooms to social networks, the media loves to play up the vulnerability of youth to online predators. Situations like this can be very frightening for parents. Many are not sure how to protect their children. The only thing you can do is educate and be honest. Even adults need to protect themselves against these kinds of attacks. It seems to me that people put so much of themselves in to their on-line characters, that they are vulnerable to this sort of trauma to begin with.

Obviously there is no real right answer to this. People are open to do pretty much anything on the internet. There is no telling what sick and sadistic things go on behind closed doors. In a way this cyberrape might be relatively mild compared to other things that might be going on, such as real on-line predators, kiddy porn or snuff films. It is funny that naturally we as human beings can not live without some sort of vice present in our lives. We may be living in the Garden of Eden but someone always takes a bite of that apple. Why is it that our society is so set on self destruct mode? How come anytime we get close to creating a utopian society, we ruin it by means of our own temptations? It is sad in a way, how we must always guard against these sort of things happening. Even in a chat room for people with likeminded interests.