Everyone has their moments of insanity. The Internet has made that painfully obvious, as our moments of abstracted, often context-less, craziness are haphazardly posted and then, in some cases, amplified for all to see. Because of this dynamic, we’re also given endless opportunities to deconstruct the way in which someone else has come unhinged. To wit: The first thing we do in a national emergency and scandal? See if the suspect had a Twitter, Facebook or Myspace account — and then play comments-section psychologist. Or worse.
“We think of ourselves as sane and other people as crazy but really we are all a little crazy,” says BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti, who will be giving the keynote speech at TechCrunch Disrupt. The talk will be about this exact topic, titled: “Everyone Is Literally Crazy,” like the headline of this post.
After the last two weeks, I can confirm that someone somewhere needs to shed some light on why everyone seems more wacko online. I’m looking at you, Amanda Bynes.
“We think of ourselves as having consistent interests but really we are capricious and what we like depends on context more than our own convictions,” Jonah explains. “This all becomes clear on the web because we can measure human behavior so carefully.”
The examples of the Internet exposing and archiving humanity’s darker psychological side keep pouring in: Just yesterday, Gawker posted this email from a sorority girl at the University of Maryland. The article, which garnered over 1.6 million pageviews, featured a Delta Gamma board member lambasting her sorority sisters for “LITERALLY being so fucking AWKWARD.”
Another great thing about the Internet is how often people misuse the word “literally.”
“If you just opened this like I told you to, tie yourself down to whatever chair you’re sitting in, because this email is going to be a rough fucking ride.
For those of you that have your heads stuck under rocks, which apparently is the majority of this chapter, we have been FUCKING UP in terms of night time events and general social interactions with Sigma Nu. I’ve been getting texts on texts about people LITERALLY being so fucking AWKWARD and so fucking BORING. If you’re reading this right now and saying to yourself “But oh em gee Rebecca, I’ve been having so much fun with my sisters this week!”, then punch yourself in the face right now so that I don’t have to fucking find you on campus to do it myself. I do not give a flying fuck, and Sigma Nu does not give a flying fuck, about how much you fucking love to talk to your sisters. You have 361 days out of the fucking year to talk to sisters, and this week is NOT, I fucking repeat NOT ONE OF THEM. This week is about fostering relationships in the greek community, and that’s not fucking possible if you’re going to stand around and talk to each other and not our matchup. Newsflash you stupid cocks: FRATS DON’T LIKE BORING SORORITIES. Oh wait, DOUBLE FUCKING NEWSFLASH: SIGMA NU IS NOT GOING TO WANT TO HANG OUT WITH US IF WE FUCKING SUCK, which by the way in case you’re an idiot and need it spelled out for you, WE FUCKING SUCK SO FAR. This also applies to you little shits that have talked openly about post gaming at a different frat IN FRONT OF SIGMA NU BROTHERS. Are you people fucking retarded? That’s not a rhetorical question, I LITERALLY want you to email me back telling me if you’re mentally slow so I can make sure you don’t go to anymore night time events …”
My theory is that this email resonated with people not because it was super extreme, but because it reminded many of the more risky and out there stuff we’ve all done online when we think no one’s looking or even when, or because, people are. “Is it weird that I think this is a normal email?” joked TechCrunch writer Anthony Ha.
Behind every joke is a little bit of truth.
Phone call in the middle of earnings calls: 'Hi Ryan, I just sent you an email about a half hour ago.' MURDER MURDER MURDER KILL KILL KILL—
Ryan Lawler (@ryanlawler) April 18, 2013
Because these social communication platforms are so new, people have no clue what’s appropriate. Even, and maybe especially, the people we’ve hired specifically for that purpose. We’re just letting it all sloppily hang out in some sort of human communication avalanche.
“We have content to feed our obsessive compulsive selves, our narcissistic selves, and our ADD selves,” Jonah says. “We have content we like to search for on Google where nobody is looking but different content we like to share on Facebook where everyone we know is looking. We are strange creatures and our behavior on the web is a window into our contradictory souls.”