The Main Page - A Review
Governance Structures Found in Several Different Text-Based Online Communities
Ethical and Social Problems that Arise in Online Communities
Identities and Social Interactions in MUDs
Because of the ease of deception online, one might suspect that players
on muds and mmogs are very guarded and do not readily share information
about themselves, because no one can truly be trusted. However, this does
not seem to be the case, and in fact, it seems that the online medium often
has the opposite effect one people, making them more willing to share personal
stories, confess wrongdoings, and even delve into intimate relationships.
This intimacy and willingness to share information online, however, does
not necessarily translate into intimacy offline.
FriendshipsRelationships online are much easier to forge than relationships offline, primarily because of the lack of vocal and facial expression involved in the communication. Because these types of cues are missing from any given exchange, it is easy for players to misinterpret what other players say, and to choose the interpretation that is most convenient. Even a comment simple as “I don’t like you” can be understood on the other either as joking, sarcastic, or as serious. In some ways, it can be difficult to express even the simplest of sentiments, because of the lack of facial and vocal cues to clarify. As one BlueSky mudder points out, however, there is a good side to the common misunderstandings: “The good side…is you can say things that maybe you’d regret later and say, ‘Oh I didn’t mean that.’ [The other person has] the choice of being mortally offended or just taking it as a joke.”
However, while relationships are, in some ways, easier to forge and keep intact online, as described above, many feel that offline relationships are deeper and contain more meaning that online relationships. This extra deepness that is characteristic of offline relationships is often attributed to the fact that neighbors and friends in real life can be called on to assist with favors, such as babysitting, airport trips, moving, etc; online friends, on the other hand, generally live far away, and so are not called upon to fill this role.
ConfessionsPlayers report that it is easier to be totally honest, to ask for advice, and to divulge emotional and personal information online than off. People often vent their frustrations about their work, school, and relationships (or difficulty in starting a romantic relationship). One BlueSky player’s distaste for his job was so well-known, that a robot had a pre-set response to the player’s name (Jet): “HATE JOB HATE JOB HATE JOB HATE JOB.” In the real world, one might be a little more hesitant to express such strong dislike, because of the risk that a non-trusted co-worker or a boss would hear about it. Curtis describes what he calls a “shipboard syndrome” in which players are more willing to share their personal lives with one another online, because they do not expect to meet each other in real life. Any embarrassment or inappropriateness is contained in the online space, and shared with characters online that effectively do not exist in the real world, because of the assumption that face-to-face contact will never occur.
Kendall, Lori. Hanging Out in the Virtual Pub: Masculinities and Relationships Online. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. p 125., p 166., p 165., p 162-3., p 122.
Curtis, Pavel. "Mudding: Social phenomena in text-based virtual realities." CPSR Directions and Implications of Advanced Technology Conference, June 1992. p401