The Anonymous Mask of the Internet and the Effects on Humanity

I play Scrabble online. Live and in real time. With real, though anonymous, people. They are from all over the world and play at all different levels. The games are timed and range from 3 minutes per player to much, much longer. Though I tend to stick to the 5-10 minute range. Players have ratings based on their number of wins and losses and the ratings of their opponents. I am rated somewhere amongst the average player, I think. There are several players registered who play in tournaments and such, and are much better than I am, and also care more deeply about winning. You can chat with the person you are playing against if you like, though some players have settings that don't allow for chatting during play, so as to not be distracted. I had never considered setting my play so that I could not be chatted with, but something has changed in the last couple of months. I used to chat with people a bit, or not, and have friendly exchanges. I don't know if something has changed because I am playing faster games, or my rating is getting higher, but lately a number of my opponents have been very obnoxious. I have been routinely accused of cheating when I am winning, have been sworn at, and told to grow up when I suggested that winning wasn't the most important part of play to me. Well, actually, the exchange took place during a very fast game, 3 minutes per side, me with a rating of 1300 and them with a rating of 1500. (Usually the ratings adjustments are 3-7 points up or down per game.) It went something like this: (we are taking turns the whole time and it's fast, so there's probably a word being played every sentence we type)

me: (plays "then" leaving a triple open)
them: (plays "soirees" on the triple) You can't do that to a 1500 player.
me: do what?
them: open a triple like that. they'll pounce on it.
me: oh, well, it's a fast game, so i'm just playing.
them: you don't care about winning?
me: it doesn't particularly bum me out if i don't win.
them: you're an idiot.
me: i am just trying to get better at playing fast games.
them: maybe less chatter would help, idiot.
me: why are you so snide?
them: because it distracts my opponent and makes it easier to win. trashtalking is a big part of winning.
me: whatevs. i am winning at life, so i'm happy.
them: you can't win at life.
me: i can! i am!
them: you can't win at a game for which there are no rules.
me: i love my life, so i am winning!
them: grow up.
me: you grow up. nyah nyah!

This is just one example. I have been called a fucking loser, an asshole, a cheating piece of shit...I have been flamed with dirty names by someone who I wasn't even playing, but who was chatting with someone I had just been playing with who had been calling me names and got their friend to start calling me names, too.

These are people I have never met, I assume, and never will, I also assume. Probably we would never know it even if we did meet. I make lots of assumptions, because I actually get upset when these incidences occur. The assumptions I make are along the unkind lines of deciding these people are lonely, angry, dirty, smelly, ugly shut-ins who are resentful of all the beauty in the world and would like to drag everyone into their own personal little hell. I can see why so many people have decided it's better not to be chatted with while you are playing. I used to have these lovely conversations with people about where we were both from, the weather, sometimes philosophy...but I guess I got better, and now there are petty, competitive sadsacks who have one goal in life - to spread misery.

I am making an effort not to feel the tingle of anxiety and bile when someone I will never know is anonymously mean to me in text over the internet. It's not easy. But, you know something? Blogging about it helps. Is that ironic enough to be hip?