The social factor may be partially or completely independent of the technical aspects of the environment. Every culture and subculture has its own standards about what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. According to the theory of "cultural relativity," what is considered normal behavior in one culture may not be considered normal in another, and vice versa.
A particular type of "deviance" that is despised in one chat community may be a central organizing theme in another.
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Standards may be generally more restrictive in one community as compared to others. At the Welcome site, where new and often naive Palace users arrive for the first time, the rules about wearing inappropriately sexy avatars are much more strictly enforced than at the Mansion site, where the more experienced members hang out. Some critics have even suggested that the people at Mansion have become so desensitized and caught up in the "let people do their thing" philosophy that they don't see the smuttiness as an outsider would.
Many Palace sites are privately owned. Some are commercial. This distinction can have an important impact on the deviance that is permitted. Some owners of private sites have strict policies about misbehaving users. Get out of line, and you quickly are booted from the community. The overseers of the site are more concerned about the congeniality and integrity of the community than about the rights or psyche of the ill-behaved user. At some commercially owned sites, there may be more leeway. The business depends on sales, so a "customer is always right" philosophy may lead to a greater tolerance of impoliteness and mischief.
Booting someone from the site may be viewed as the measure of last resort. After all, snerts do buy, like anyone else. Of course, if they get too snertish, they may drive off other potential customers. So, ultimately, it's a delicate balancing act between maintaining a congenial community where strict rules weed out the snerts, and a "customer's always right" attitude that encourages sales.
It's a business. It's a community. It's a business AND a community! It's also important to remember that the large majority of chat communities are a leisure activity for most people - i. The strategies for managing deviant behavior also can be classified according to the "technical" and "social" dimensions.
At the Palace, software features such as the ability to mute , pin , kill , and gag were specifically designed to help members and wizards deal with annoying visitors. The more social interventions require interpersonal skills. How do you talk to a misbehaving adolescent, or an adult acting like one?
That's the issue. In fact, the technical solutions alone are insufficient. Without a psychologically sophisticated person knowing when and how to use those tools, they may be applied inappropriately and thereby become just another form of abuse. What strategies are used - and how - will vary according to the culture. Much has been said lately about how anonymity on the internet "disinhibits" people. Feeling relatively safe with their real-world identity hidden, they say and do things they otherwise wouldn't normally say or do in "real life. People may be more honest, open, generous, and helpful.
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In other cases, however, the nasty side of a person gets unleased. Hence the snert. I'd like to give a slightly different spin to this "disinhibition through anonymity" concept. No one wants to be totally invisible, with no name or identity or presence or interpersonal impact at all. Everyone wants and needs to express some aspect of who they are, to have others acknowledge and react to some aspect of their identity. In some cases, it's a benign feature of who you are. In some cases, not. Anonymity on the internet allows people to set aside some aspects of their identity in order to safely express others.
Snerts need someone to react to and affirm their offensive behavior.
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This need is a bit different than simply catharting their frustrated drives, as the "eros-ridden" idea suggests. Snerts are trying to express some unresolved and warded-off feature of their troubled identity in an often desperate attempt to have it acknowledged. Unfortunately, they do it in a way that abuses other people. Under ideal conditions, they may be able to accept and work through those inner feelings and self-concepts that torture them.
If not, they will continue to vent that ooze through their online snert identities, while safely dissociating it from their "real world" identity.
Does greater anonymity result in greater deviance? It's an interesting question. Because greater anonymity usually is associated with less accountability for one's actions, the answer would seem to be "yes. Until then, their name is a number "Guest " and their avatar a generic smiley face.
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The greater anonymity for guests does seem to result in their misbehaving more often than members. But members misbehave too. So there are other factors at work.
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The higher prevalence of misbehavior among anonymous users may be more than just a "disinhibiting" effect. Rather than the anonymity simply "releasing" the nasty side of a person, the person may experience the anonymity - the lack of an identity - as toxic. Feeling frustrated about not being known or having a place in the group, the new user acts out that frustration in an antisocial manner.
They need to feel that they have SOME kind of impact on others. It's not unlike the ignored child who starts acting "bad" in order to acquire attention from the parent, even if it's scolding and punishment.
The squeakiest wheel. Humans, being humans, will almost always choose a connection to others over no connection at all, even if that connection is a negative one. Some snert guests may think perhaps unconsciously that their misbehavior is a justified retaliation against a community that they feel has stripped away their identity and alienated them. They reject because they feel rejected.
In rare cases, people who are well known in the community - even wizards and others of high status - may become the trouble-makers. Social psychology has demonstrated that people with power and status often have "idiosyncrasy credit" - they are given a bit more leeway in violating some of the less critical rules of the community. But they are not permitted to break the major rules - especially the rules that protect the integrity of the higher status group.
For example, wizards may get away with wearing avatars that are not entirely appropriate, but giving the wizard password to an non-wizard cannot be forgiven. People are ousted from the wizard group for such offenses. The most severe types probably are those that would be universally detested anywhere, anytime.
The most mild types may be labeled as deviance or not depending upon the culture and the particular situation. For the most part, these mild and usually unintentional forms of deviance are the result of carelessness, playful mischief, immaturity, or simple ignorance. Correcting such misbehavior may be very easy. If that simple, benign intervention doesn't work, then the deviance may be more intentional and indicative of a personality problem.
Users entering the environment for the first time may be very confused about even the most basic aspects of how to move and communicate. With all those visuals, sounds, avatar movements, and text coming at you, programs like the Palace can be a bit overwhelming for newbies who have never experienced multimedia chat. They may not even know where their avatar is on the screen or that people are talking to them.
As a result of that confusion and a need to figure out what's happening to them, they may act inappropriately. People tend to regress and exaggerate their behavior when disoriented. Some newbies blurt out inappropriate statements "What the hell is going on here? Some keep hitting their return key, expecting that to somehow save them.
Hyperactive people may bounce their avatar around the screen "Gee, how does this work? A common problem is blocking.
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Not knowing where they are, or how to move, or ignorant of this faux pas, the newbie sits his or her avatar on top of another user's avatar. It's a violation of personal space, which really annoys some users. Possible Interventions - Clueless newbies usually don't require disciplinary action, but rather a little help. Unfortunately, wizards sometimes mistake their unintentional blocking for abusive blocking and may pin them, especially if everyone else in the room is complaining and the guest fails to respond to the wizard's inquiries.
Wizards have discussed the possibility of a "nudge" command that would gently shift a user's avatar an inch or two to the side. Often, simply addressing newbies by name, in order to get their attention, and saying "just point and click to move" is enough to save the day. One obstacle in helping newbies is the fact that they may speak a different language.
If unsure, wizards can check the user's IP address to determine where she is coming from. Unfortunately, if there indeed is a language barrier, there's not much anyone can do except hope that the newbie can figure things out for himself.