----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
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 :-)
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".
"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.
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 ^_^.
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:
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,
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??
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.