Published: Jul 1, 2016 12:00:00 PM

blues-brothers-nun.gifI remember when the internet and virtual reality became the new escapism for the non-conforming youth. Perhaps realer than the high-fantasy elves and goblins of generations prior because it was something the 90's rejects could actively live in. They could get away from the traditionalism that beat them down under pretense they defied.

So online, these rejects could share among one another. The sharper ones even had some measure of penetrating power online. And they had extra-special, secret names they gave themselves.

They could be anonymous, if they felt it. I get that freedom. It's a shield. They could vanish backward into anonymity, again, if they felt it.

Trouble is: that anonymity, that protectedness, that outcast mentality, it's burnt deep into the internet's bread and butter now. While once, it was a shield, now it's acid. The anonymity homogenizes and wounds online writing.

Anonymity's Shelter Turns Online Writing's Style Bland

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There are some that need anonymity. It depends on your place on the planet. Some places are not as comfortable as America. It requires people to remain guarded. There are lots of threats.

I'm not going to talk about safe spaces, as the kids call them. That's a different topic. I'm talking about the fact that when the internet came to life as we know it, and there were no names attached, that created collective thought-pools. Writing on the internet was founded on the principle of creating a community for weirdos who couldn't otherwise safely or comfortably exist as themselves. This security became groupthink. Whether that security was beneficial or not is not relevant to this point, considering any unique writing style wasn't needed when you had a thousand unified voices chirping the same thing.

Dissent would get you rejected. That's not the objective. The objective was security.

That lust for security and station overrode any desire for individualism, style, or manifestation. You'll see homogenization in design, in language, in presentation all across the internet, entirely in the name of being singular, but not too different. We've set ourselves on a tight leash.

While the anonyimity is perhaps even more important for those who need it today, its legacy has taught a generation of people who DON'T need it that it's fashionable to blend in. Writing style has dried up in favor of the quickest joke. A lowest common-demoninator reference or meme isn't a fitting replacement for wit. I don't think many people writing on the internet are capable of wit, or conviction, or true caring, not when we've learned for years that launching one-liners from the infinite cheap-seats at anybody who steps out of line is "the point."

I mean, that's a part of it :-) but it shouldn't be the only thing.

-- Alex Crumb
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