To Assume means to make an…

I was thinking about assumptions today. Back when I first started on the Internet (back when alt. was the only way to chat and MUDs were causing people to flunk out of school) your username and your finger file were what people had to go by. When I used a female username, I was treated as date bait and when I used a male username, or even an indeterminate one, I was treated as one of the guys. That sounds a bit unfair, and it is. Even if I IDd myself as female, and used a male name, I was treated reasonably. I came to the conclusion (supported by my male friends) that it was presumed, when using a female name, that I was a guy acting out a bad stereotype (or that I was possibly some sort of technohooker).

But dong let me get sidetracked, the discussion here isn’t a boy versus girl one. Rather, it’s a case of presumption on the part of the participant. I’ve been mistaken for male, queer, libertarian, democrat, what have you and in each case it has simply been because the person I was interacting with had made a presumption that we were
the same. A person who had never met me, outside of an online chat room or comment string or other semi anonymous format had, barring additional proofs, decided we shared the same opinions and background.

Now, I know the Internet is a great equalizer, it allows people to transcend appearances and interact on a presumeably purer level, without preconceptions. But what I’m seeing is that preconceptions seem to be there *anyway*, that the mind fills the void left by the absence of face to face contact.

Is that better? Instead of assigning social stereotypes, were making an ever greater leap by assuming someone is just like us (and committing social faux pas like making social or racist or political comments we might not otherwise speak aloud).

It also speaks to responsibility on the part of the online user.  If you choose a username like “Baambi” or “A**munch”, that’s a deliberate choice on your part, that impression is one you are sending deliberately.  Is it really fair, therefore, to get pissed if someone treats you in a fashion that suits the identity you are imparting?  The socialy and crimminally minded do this all the time in reverse (or so the media would have us think).  They deliberately give the impression of nice, upstanding, harmless citizen while behind the scenes thier motives might be something far less harmless.

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