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Teenangels / Scrapbook / Articles / Masked and Exposed by Teenangel Lisa

Masked and Exposed by Teenangel Lisa

Masks are scary. They allow people to act out of character and take actions that are morally ambiguous and/or illegal because they feel concealed and anonyms. Look at the killer in any horror movie, or just think about the Ku Klux Klan. Masks are definitely scary. But luckily, the masked murderer is the exception and most people do not normally parade around with masks on. Until recently, at least.

Now there's a new kind of mask to worry about, one that's perfectly acceptable socially, one that everybody's using. It's called the Internet.

College students, especially, rely on the Internet for email and instant messaging. And why not? It's fun, fast, and basically free. But while email and AIM may seem not only harmless, but completely necessary, it is important to not that they do present certain very tangible dangers which can be directly related to the idea of a mask.

AIM, especially, is considered to be a risk-free environment. Students will willingly IM not only their friends, but also people with whom they are barely acquainted, have met once, or even someone they have simply noticed but have never conversed with in person. They will IM with people that they would never have the courage to approach on the street or call. IM allows people to be removed, hidden behind a computer screen far away from the danger of rejection or the stress that often accompanies first dates. And with this mask, they can go wild.

Courting on IM is approached completely differently. The conversations are not used only to make plans for dates, as initial phone calls might be, because often the meeting is delayed. And the conversation is not restricted to normal, safe arenas as first-date conversations usually are. Instead, there are few guidelines or limits placed upon the dialog; nothing is out of bounds.

People will talk about race, religion, politics, parties, sexual histories, drugs, friends, and marriage with people that they barely know. But of course it does not seem this way. With all sorts of information exchanged, people begin to feel a sense of intimacy. The mask the Internet provides encourages people to take risks that they would be unwilling to take under normal circumstances. And because no sense of formality or propriety is felt, because there are no real guidelines to what's appropriate online, things tend to mover very, very quickly.

But the courage a mask gives is fleeting. When the mask is removed and one's face is exposed, he will immediately resume feeling accountable to his actions. Similarly, when people meet in person after becoming acquainted online, they often realize the awkwardness of the situation. While they feel as if they know each other, and in fact have exchanged a good deal of personal information, in reality no relationship exists. Instead, they find themselves dating a stranger who is awkwardly, and perhaps alarmingly, very well informed.

When conversing online, it is important to consider the idea of a mask. It is foolish to do anything that you would not with your face exposed. Do not give any information, tell any stories, or share any photographs or videos that would yield any embarrassment or present any danger if known or viewed by a total stranger. Do not discuss anything that would be out of bounds on a first date, or that you would not want your mother, friend, or professor to know. And remember the idea of a false sense of intimacy, and beware.

Teenangel Lisa

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