~ How to walk the 'net without kicking yourself later... ~
         Petit image    Angela
Published @ searchlores.org in January 2003 (nitpicked: 0.1)
How to walk the 'net without kicking yourself later...
by Angela Natiash
slightly edited by fravia+
damn much required reading...

How to walk the 'net without kicking yourself later...

this FAQ began when the above remark was posted by somebody on the Seekers' MB as an idea for an article. I thought about it a lot and for a long time. Yes, a simple FAQ on "how to behave" while online certainly is needed. Slowly, it began to take shape. This is the first draft, by all means incomplete.

----Lots of people talkin'. None listenin'.... (was it SVD who said that?)

So far I have only seen article talking about securing your privacy by technological means. What about psychology and human behavior? I will try to answer the question on how to present yourself online.

Of course, remember the very basics. Never ever give ANY real personal information - your name, address (even general living area such as city or state), SSN, personal details (married, single), occupation, income, interests, etc to any strangers online. This is especially true when filling up forms for free soft or/and registering for free services unless you want to be flooded with hundreds of spam emails daily. Listen to your inner voice and trust your instincts. They are usually right. If something doesn't feel right or sounds fake, it most likely is. If you are in a chat room and something or someone is making you uncomfortable, discontinue the chat. If possible, when buying stuff online pay with money order instead of Credit Card.

Millions of us are now online. Each one of us is different, with our own sets of believe systems, knowledge, understanding (or miss-understanding) of how the world works, personalities, moods, sense of humor. We are all online for different reasons too. So it's NOT surprising when we meet somebody online who doesn't share our believes, or maybe our outlook on different subjects, or somebody who may not like what we say, or what we may do online and we end up getting in a huge flame war with them or something worse. After all, we can barely tolerate the idiots we are surrounded by in "real life" and their stupidity, so what's left for some moron online who is a pompous idiot and thinks he/she knows everything, right?

Topics here include: basics, avatars, chatrooms, Message Boards, Internet Relay Chats, UseNet, instant message utilities, Are arguments worth getting into?, Personal conduct

Basic tips

of course are to never give any real info about yourself, name, location, address, credit card, especially if you are in a sensitive chat-room, or BBS, MB, Usenet, etc. Before visiting any place online, think about what you are trying to get out of it. Are you looking for real knowledge, or to kill some time having a few laughs?
Modify your behavior accordingly. Be wary of quick friendships and of people agreeing with everything you say, or with people fishing for personal info. Do they have your best interests at heart? Ask yourself this questions: would you trust them with your life, your security, your personal information and possessions or your kids? What do you really know about them besides a "nick-name" and a few facts they told you? Do they appear too eager, or maybe they visit daily and stay in that chat-room for hours and hours? Are they there in the middle of the day (their time)? We all know both crooks, cops and "wannabie crooks and cops" populate the 'Net looking for the gullible and naive. Think about these things.

Avatars or Who IS the real you??

First thing you need to do is create several different personalities ("avatars" in Fravia's term) for use online. You may call it lying, I call it protecting myself. Each personality comes equipped with their own "nick-name", comes from a different country, has a whole separate life history and story, uses specific behavior patterns, ways of expressing themselves, and has different likes, dislikes and trust levels. Each personality should employ different speech patterns (laak me -a- speakin' d'awn sout' American English I learn'd from readin' Huck Finn in da original), different reactions to stimuli, different interests. Use your imagination here. Make them of several age groups, and different nationalities. Learning a few dozen words in another language and using them sparingly can certainly be helpful, or if English is your natural language, make glaring grammatical and spelling mistakes. Each nick should reflect the personality of the user. I have found out using humorous nicks makes people laugh and like you more. While participating in a chat room, MB or BBS use the main personality to post remarks, the lesser personality to ask questions that may be deemed silly or stupid and a 3rd personality to post links for example. Remember, do not come online or post when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. I have seen many idiotic posts where the person later came and apologized saying: "Duuh, please ignore what I said, I was on ______ at the time" (fill in the blank with your favorite drug of choice).

While on the net, I change and rotate personalities, nicknames, sex, age, languages more than I change my socks in "real" life! I have and use several nicks (males and females) according to what I am doing right at the moment and what message board or chat room I am in. Believe it not, but some men are still stupid enough to fall for the olde "I'm a bisexual female and I'm very weird." trick. Sex still regains supreme and men are still too ridiculously tied up by their hormones to think straight. [for a great and revealing look at personalities online read the great Pat Cadigan's "Tea from an Empty Cup." cyberpunk sci-fi book].

This said, even when rotating personalities and avatars, remember that there are techniques that aim to catch you :-)

Using chat rooms, IRCs, message boards and/or BBS:

Armed with the avatar of your choice, you can now visit chat room or message boards or even IRC. But hold on there!

When visiting a new chatroom or message board begin by simply "lurking" there for a while. Do not post, but simply study the established members and observe their interactions with one another. Each place has an established "pecking order" of sorts. It always has a leader or two, somebody who everyone looks up to, somebody who is the most knowledgeable. They always give the best advice and are always calm and rational, even in the face of the worst trolls. After them come the administrators, and the helpers.

The administrators will kick your skin outta IRC if you misbehave there. The Administrator will take care of the message boards or the chat rooms. They may even remove posts they deem not relevant and post that are obviously abusive and off topic. The clever trolls will immediately began to scream: "CENSORSHIP!" but hey, that's administrators' job after all. Learn to live with it.

The helpers are the one who will answer questions and give free advice. They do all this work for free, so be nice to them, ok? Of course, sometimes trolls will use a helper's nick and might even try to impersonate the "good guys".

Let's look at the technical aspects of chatrooms, IRC and message boards. Do they show your real IP number when you are there and/or when you post? Make sure you are anonymous by using a proxy and/or some IP spoofing. IRCs are notorious for being totally insecure when using them. Most chat-room, MB and BBS use counters to count how many people access them, so turn your images off because most counters work that way. Do they also employ cookies (most likely - everyone uses them today)? How about Java, or JavaScript? Turn all that stuff OFF when visiting!

"Measure twice, but cut once." the wise tailor said. Think carefully over your words before you post them. Can somebody misunderstand what you are trying to say? (my bad English sometimes makes it quite difficult for me to express myself articulately) Remember, words by themselves are dry and impersonal, easily taken for something else, while in a face to face communication facial expressions and body language plays a big part. Sarcasm, humor, jokes can easily be miss-interpreted. What "humor" is, differs widely from country to country.

Instant Message Utilities

are extremely popular these days. Millions use ICQ (I Seek You), Trillion, Microsoft Messanger, AIM, and so on. Learn how to set them up correctly. Only give your numbers to people who you really trust and not to everyone. Instant Message Utilities are definitely NON secure and they will reveal your IP number. Also, it is easy to get seriously hacked through ICQ.

While on Usenet:

I have met the biggest morons on Usenet, because its free and uncontrolled nature makes it a prime target for a place to be for all sorts of major idiots. Usenet is way better than WWW, anyway, you can find as much info on any subject there as on WWW, and it also has tons of free stuff just waiting for you to find it and d/l it...~_^. All of the above, strongly applies to Usenet too, and even more. Worse, lots of so called "politically-correct nazis" today just LOVE to get a knee jerk over the smallest excuse and can get "offended" when somebody uses ordinary words they have deemed "racist", "offensive", "degrading", and all sorts of other "policorrean" definitions.

For example I was recently assaulted by a bunch of morons having used the words "fat" and "ugly" to describe several fat and ugly women. Things got so bad because I ignored my own good advices and got into 10 arguments with 10 different people at the same time, some of those politically-correct fanatics even began urging people to contact my news server and complain. Luckily, either my news-server simply ignored them or they weren't as organized as they thought they were. Either way I am still using that news server ^_^.

Are arguments worth getting into?

Sadly, many times you can't really change people and their mind, nor teach them something. They simply won't listen to you, so your time will be wasted if you try to argue with them and all you get is sadness. For example, Americans are very good debater I found out. They even take debate classes in their schools, so it's hard to argue with them. You have to be quick and think fast on your feet with them. But they are hampered because they think they are the best, and the rest of the world is just some "3rd world country" without in-house plumbing. Sadly, their "politically-correctness" movement has penetrated into the rest of the world, making it eerily similar to George Orwell's 1984 double-speak. They get "offended" to the point of becoming "language inspectors", and every discussion wird "controversial". Americans are always deciding what's wrong and what's right, forgetting that anything is (mostly) relative, depending from the position of the observer.

Remember, there will always be people out there who will try to provoke you, especially if you are online doing something they have deemed evil, obscene, indecent or even just annoying. They are simply itching for a fight. Ignore them. These people are NOTHING else than wannabie trolls and that's all they will be. Simply stay away from them, for you don't really want to inspire them to return and they will return, often enough with reinforcements in the form of their friends and minions. (tip: the "SCRIPT" and "/SCRIPT" HTML tags can be very helpful if you know how to use them on a MB ~_^!)

Most arguments in MBs or BBS or on Usenet cannot be properly explained anyway, for the simple reasons they:

Take the case of Linux VS Windoze for example. Yes, Windoze is very easy to use, specially designed to be for the average (or below average intelligence) person. Yes, Windoze's easy use has nurtured the explosive growth of the Internet. But so what? Linux nowadays includes the K Desktop Environment which is as easy to use as Windoze, actually much easier. With Linux, you have the freedom of knowing exactly what is going on with your system, and Linux is cheaper to buy, use and maintain and most of the apps are free of charge too. So if somebody tells you about Windoze's benefits, just listen to them and them tell them: "Well, that's all fine and good, but your arguments are nothing but words in the final run. Linux is definitely better than Windoze in many aspects and I can list them."

Confronting people directly is the worst thing you can do. Take your time first and observe them. Read their responses, watch their reactions. Do this for a week or for a month if necessary.

Free e-mail services

Yahoo, Opera, Microsoft and many others offer "free email addresses" that you can use and give to online friends instead of your "real" email. Here are some more companies offering "free email services: https://www.PrivacyX.com, http://www.ziplip.com, http://www.1on1mail.com, http://www.myownemail.com, http://www.hushmail.com/ and so on. This is only a short list. Use them. Of course, when filling the information, and always lie like a mattress. (the same applies when filling up forms for free soft or/and registering for ANY free services). Last time I was from Israel. Before that I was from Shri Lanka. The funkier the names the better too. I get really creative there, but not too creative as to stand out. Arabic sounding names are a no-no-no right now. Of-course I also only use such services for a limited period of time. I change them every year or as often as needed. It's still amazing to me how many spammers find me, though. If they can find me so easily what about the rest of the world I wonder??

Personal relationships online

Let' me tell you from experience, people sure behave differently online. I dunno what it is, mebbe it's the illusion of privacy or something, but people really let EVEYTHING hang out online. I have been told secrets people will never tell me in "real life" or face to face.
So let's say you met somebody online who was really "cool and interesting" and you wanna develop some kind of friendship with them. How do you start?

First, you must go slow. Don't head rush into anything and you won't get hurt. Think about what you want to get out of the "friendship". Is it for fun, or do you share similar interests, or is it for a little bit of, AHEM, cybersex ^_~??
Begin by giving them that throw-away email Hotmail or Yahoo email address.

Test them. Do they make sense when talking?

If the relationship doesn't work out, tell the person in no uncertain terms NOT to contact you anymore. Tell them you do not wish to communicate with them anymore. Do not accept their emails. if they are one of your contact on ICQ place them in your invisible folder, so they won't know when you are online anymore.

Final tips: Learn how the Internet works and apply that knowledge when online. Technical know-how is a wonderful weapon, actually a whole quiver full of weapons, and it can probably save your skin.

This is all, so far. As usual, I welcome any corrections, suggestions, ideas to add here, etc. This simple FAQ is in progress and I hope to be adding much more useful info here.

Petit image

(c) III Millennium: [fravia+], all rights reserved, reversed, revered