Sex, drugs and libel: gossip forums lie

With JuicyCampus closing, people have lost one of the premier forums describing typical college life. There was no better place to assess the character of an institution than by looking at a JuicyCampus post. Where will all of these students turn for their dose of gossip? Hopefully, nowhere.

I fully endorse insulting a person face-to-face and letting him know exactly how you feel. If you think I am a nincompoop whose only value is to provide a model of what a human should not be, tell it to my face. It is comforting to know that you do not need to put on a show. Though there may be some awkward conversations, I feel it is better for all parties.

Even speaking behind someone’s back can be considered a slip-up. Comments can be traced back to who said them and people are held accountable. The worst and lowest level of this sort of gossip is the anonymous blog or forum post online, allowing people to assume an identity and say just about anything. It is not surprising that college and high school kids love to sign up for these sites and start typing away. People love commenting on others anonymously.

Celebrity gossip sites and JuicyCampus give people a forum to attack others with no consequence besides a blemish on their online nickname, usually something that can be changed on a whim. While I am sure Paris Hilton is not crying over the mean things said about her online by HrnyDude91, it is more damaging for the average person not used to the public spotlight.

These people are not public figures, yet can easily be slandered in a public forum, accessible by anyone. Posting these remarks online is not usually a slight directed towards the person in question, but a snarky insult to be digested by anyone aimlessly browsing the internet. Worse, the existence of the post means it can live on in printed word for as long as Google and other search engines exist.

While potential employers may frown upon the online drunken photo, it is unlikely they will hire someone who allegedly prostitutes himself in exchange for beer money. Or in the case of everyone’s favorite TV show Gossip Girl, to save the honor of his family and potential humiliation in front of his friends. What a burden.

The lack of accountability also encourages people to sensationalize and say anything they feel is right. That girl did not just sleep with that one baseball player, she slept with the whole team…at the same time! And they filmed it! It is ludicrous to imagine the insult reaching such levels, but escalation is typical and there is no reason not to say it; even if it is untrue, it has caused enough of a ruckus in the community where someone, somewhere is wondering if it really is true.

Anonymity even encourages people to defend against these attacks. The girl accused of being a ho is not a ho; in fact, she is the sweetest girl and would never commit the acts described in the heinous post. Who are they trying to convince? The original poster? The reader who stumbles upon it? JuicyCampus and the like have led to a culture where anonymous attacks must be defended by anonymous friends who feel as though credibility can be restored through a rally against the lies posted online. A noble cause, but it only feeds the machine that has started and encourages others to do the same.

We even see this phenomenon in our very own slivers. For every guy or girl professing his love for the person studying physics in the library (by the way, you are all weirdos), there are attacks against other people littered everywhere. Accusations of inappropriate relationships with teaching assistants and cheating rings are normally very serious offenses, but they are typed and sent into our sliver box as just something to write. If all the slivers were to be printed (which will never happen, sorry to disappoint), that little box at the bottom of the pages would likely be the cause of some lawsuits.

Instead of doing all of this, just go talk to someone—even if it is just to insult them. Think of it this way: if those sliver-ers finally get the courage to talk to that guy they keep noticing in class, they may actually start something. Nothing will happen if you post it anonymously online, and your own self-satisfaction of venting your feelings will quickly be replaced by the empty feeling that you have contributed to one of the worst online movements in recent history.