Who are you in trade chat?

I use an addon to help me set up chat tabs, and the one I usually use screens out trade chat. But last night I inadvertently had my “everything” channel on, so trade chat was streaming through in all its vile-ignorant-illiterate-self-absorbed glory. It was like watching a train wreck — too horrible to see, but somehow you are unable to take your eyes from it.

The first thing I noticed was that the main cast of characters seems never to change (I use the gender identifications the person has self-identified in chat):

  • The village idiot. This person has never once, to my knowledge, put together a coherent statement. Everything he says is something along the lines of, “dont start playin my never shinny sord is sharp” (actual quote). I think he is, seriously, a very disturbed individual, which should indicate that engaging him in conversation is not only pointless but also could do further psychological damage to him. Nevertheless, trade chat bullies and trolls on my server insist on baiting him, making fun of him, seeing how long it takes to get him typing in all caps and reverting to a steady stream of four-letter words.
  • The self-styled “intellectual”. This guy spends his chat life trying to show off what he believes is his mental superiority over all other humans. Most of his chat responses to others start out with “Actually, you are mistaken,” followed by some rather obvious Wikipedia info. He also frequently claims to have several advanced degrees, apparently to impress everyone further with his great intellect.
  • The trade flamer. This person lurks in trade chat, ever ready to pounce on, and hold up to ridicule, anyone daring to offer anything for sale. He uses several techniques. The most frequent one is to ridicule the price of the item being offered, usually claiming to have either bought or sold many of the item for far less than the quoted price. On the opposite spectrum, if the item is low priced, he accuses the seller of being an illicit gold seller or bot. If he is bored with these techniques, he sometimes resorts to just ridiculing the actual item, claiming it is ugly or useless or everyone has one so there is no chance of selling it.
  • The sex troll. On my server, this person identifies as female, and basically trolls adolescent males by incessantly discussing her supposed sex life and physical attributes, all the while whining about being “objectified.” Why anyone pays any attention to her is beyond me, but her presence on line never fails to incite the creeps who usually spend their game time “RP-ing” in Goldshire.
  • Other trolls, too numerous to list. These people usually specialize. We have a political troll, an elitist-gamer troll,  a hate troll, a religion troll, etc. It takes a special kind of sub-human, in my opinion, to be amused by inciting the base emotions of others, to apparently be gratified by thinking you have “power” to manipulate people. It tells me these are sad little losers with no real power over any part of their real lives.
  • Spammers of various kinds. Often these are people who just figured out how to macro an item for sale, so they hit the macro keybind approximately every 15 seconds. One of the most annoying on my server is someone who spams a word for the male genital, in caps, over and over again. On the plus side, I rarely see gold spammers on my server any more.
  • The hapless helpful person. There is actually someone on my server who is an incurable do-gooder, who keeps trying to bring reason and logic and politeness to trade chat. He doesn’t do it in a nasty way, always in an understated appeal for civility. Sadly, he is usually ridiculed and shouted down, but I have to give him credit, he is not deterred.

There is a human tendency to project our own opinions and values on others, and I am aware of this as I make my next point. The second thing that occurred to me as I watched the chat lines roll by is that I think –more often than not — people’s real life baseline personalities are magnified in anonymous interactions such as WoW’s chat. I have seen people claim — when called on particularly odious behavior — that this is a game, and their game persona is not their real one. But I don’t think so. I think if anything the person you are in trade chat is exactly who you are at the core of your personality. It is you stripped of all the restrictions of society, of having to face any real consequences for your behavior.

I am a believer in the idea that morality is what you do when no one is looking. The Internet, by virtue of its near-complete anonymity potential, is the modern day equivalent of “no one is looking.” No one can tell your mom that you were acting like an ass, you can call that big bruiser nasty names without fear of his fist connecting with your nose, your friends will not know that you routinely taunt and tease a mentally disturbed person, your girlfriend will never suspect that your favorite response to all females is “Bring me a sammitch, b**ch”, your father will never know that you were sashaying your little self provocatively in front of a crowd of horny teenage boys.

If, in spite of all the ways you can make sure no one you care about will be looking, you still show compassion and respect for yourself as well as for others, if you care for and help others, then you are at heart a decent person, worthy of belonging to the human race. If, on the other hand, you routinely leap at the opportunity to bully, taunt, threaten, and abuse your fellow human being, sashay your intellect or any other part of you in front of others just to tease or demonstrate power over them, or ruin someone else’s enjoyment of a game for your own amusement, then you are basically a waste of good air who will best serve the planet as worm food.

In my opinion, you are who you are in trade chat.

About Fiannor
I have a day job but escape by playing WoW. I love playing a hunter, and my Lake Wobegonian goal is to become "above average" at it.

2 Responses to Who are you in trade chat?

  1. By extension, a variation on the theme holds true in comments made in other’s blogs. It makes me wonder about what kind of personality I am projecting.
    I wonder if you have, as I do on my realm, a Server Troll. This guy is the big dog of the trade chat because he pulls, demands, declares and brags to get attention. In my brief jumps to other servers in some years of playing; there always seems to be One Guy. I wonder if there were a void that, like a bubble floating to the top, someone has to take that chore. Even more, what if that were a good guy?

    • Fiannor says:

      Yes, certainly. It holds true in any Internet activity where you can be more or less anonymous. Your question about what kind of personality you project in any online communication is one I ask myself all the time — I always try to read over any of my comments with that exact point of view.

      This is especially important because the written word conveys much less than verbal interaction. In my day to day verbal conversations, I am often thought of as “laconic” or “quiet” because I usually do not say a lot, but I think my facial and body expressions do a lot of my talking for me. Come to think of it, that may explain why I am so verbose in my writing — I am trying to compensate for the dimensions lost from face-to-face interactions.

      I like your idea of the Server Troll (yes, my server has one, too) being a “good guy” instead of the usual pompous, mean-spirited blowhard.

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