In a column at Slate, Michael Kinsley remembers his shock when a Washington colleague put up a personal website for the first time. Now it all makes sense, he writes:
Poor Joe! Had the World Wide Web driven him crazy?
If so, we are all crazy now. There is something about the Web that brings out the ego monster in everybody. It's not just the well-established tendency to be nasty. When you write for the Web, you open yourself up to breathtakingly vicious vitriol. People wish things on your mother, simply for bearing you, that you wouldn't wish on Hitler.
But even in their quieter modes, denizens of the Web seem to lug around huge egos and deeply questionable assumptions about how interesting they and their lives might be to others.
This is strange. Anonymity, for better or for worse, is supposed to be one of the signature qualities of the Web. As that dog in The New Yorker cartoon famously says, "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." The Internet is a place where you can interact with other people and have complete control over how much they know about you. Or supposedly that is the case, and virtually everybody on the Internet is committed to achieving that goal.
But anonymity does not actually seem to interest many of the Web's most devoted users.