Chapter 1 Chat Rooms
One of the first things that wowed me about AOL was e-mails and chat rooms. While e-mail was cool back in 96 for being able to send things easily to other people, it was chat rooms that were really amazing to me. To get a spontaneous group of people together to chat about whatever from around the globe was nothing short of miraculous to me. On AOL I tried the various rooms for Catholic chat, named after the 3 Archangels and also went to a room called the Front Porch which was for more philosophical and general talk. My main screenname then was REVTCM –Rev. Thomas C. Miller. Incidentally try a google search for that, my name is soooo vanilla you will find out that we are almost legion. Anyway, I tried to be up front about being a priest and let people know that in chat rooms. It’s hard to gauge how people reacted to that, for all they knew I could be some punk kid making up an identity or some weirdo with the missing milk carton kids tucked away in a freezer. To be honest, my skepticism about people on the internet was something that really got to me in the early days because I was so suspicious of the seemingly anonymous nature of the internet.
What I discovered early on was that the anonymous nature of the internet did not bring out the best in many people, it did just the opposite. I have never been attacked verbally in person like I have in a chat room. The Catholic chat rooms tended to be the worst. Even before the scandal unfolded in 2002, I had the well adjusted people of AOL chat making comments about being a pedophile and unloading their frustrations with the church or clergy. Things were said that no one has ever said to me in person, because I would be tempted to punch them in the mouth or rip into them myself. Lesson #1 was anonymity = cowardly irresponsibility. Not everyone, but too many were malicious, irresponsible and just plain gutless. Far too many were spiteful, and I let a number of the jerks get to me. Against my better nature I got drawn into arguments that were a colossal waste of time and emotion. The other thing I found was that the semi-instant nature of chatting seems to have made more people, including myself, into impatient argumentative pricks. While I would like to think that my dance as a self-actualized prick was infrequent, I fear that it was much more than it should have been as a decent human being let alone a priest. Mind you, I don’t believe in pedestals for anyone living. Praise the dead, their chance to totally mess up their lives is past, but the rest of us are still a work in progress. I have no illusions about thinking I am “better” because of my life; in fact I fear just the opposite that I am giving the Boss the green light to cook my goose for being such a lousy servant. Anyway, being cursed as a smart-ass was not a benefit to chat room conversations. After a two year flirtation with chat rooms, they lost their charm. While in many ways they allowed me to meet some wonderful people, in the end they tended to be pretty impersonal. Seeing insults and personal attack in print did not help me as an individual. While I would tell myself that the words of some unknown jerk should not bother me, for whatever reason they often did. Chalk it up to my own insecurities or personal defects, but on a bad day a chat room could really take the joy out of my life. On a good day I thought they were pretty amazing. I guess I am thankful that I only had time in the evening for chat rooms. If the world had become a global village, does that mean we only get to encounter more village idiots? And how do I know that I have not morphed into one myself? I know neither of the questions are true, but back then I asked them often enough to remember them now. Next . . . MMORPG’s Evercrack – Horizons – City of Heroes.