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The audacity of the internet

As students at one of the nation’s top party schools, many of us are familiar with the concept “liquid courage.” We, or someone we know, have had a few drinks and subsequently acted with gusto in a way we would not have acted without the help of alcohol.
The Internet, its allowance of anonymity and the creation of “false distance” have revolutionized what I call “digital courage.” This is the courage we have to say and do things through digital media that we normally would not say or do in face-to-face interaction.
One of the most common social gripes we all heard growing up was, “Say it to my face,” or, “Why were you talking about me behind my back?” Now, with a computer screen and the vast, yet not-so-far-away Internet between our frenemies and us, saying things to peoples’ “faces” happens at an alarming rate and at an alarming tone.
From passive-aggressive Facebook statuses to yelling at each other on Twitter, I bet every one of us can recall participating in or witnessing an interaction of this nature. Some laugh and blow it off, treating it as if it is no big deal. Others remark at the silliness of it all. But, headline news should be a reminder that Internet gossip and feuding, no matter how light-hearted, can have serious side effects, both seen and unseen.
Anonymous bullying in the form of comedy is also on the rise. From being called out on OleMissProblems or some other form of “dramedy” spoof of Gossip Girl, our generation has been overcome with snide, subtle and sarcastic forms of bullying that are shockingly humorous, entertaining and addicting.
Just over a week ago, OleMissLawyered appeared and spread like wildfire. This Tumblr uses GIFS and Internet memes to depict the highs and lows of law student life. Some of the posts you would not understand unless you were in law school or knew who the post was about specifically. Other posts would make undergrads think law students are snobs, which we probably are on most days.
The law school student body has been consumed with these posts. A disappointing lull during finals week left many students longing for an outlet, and speculation abounds as to who is behind the Tumblr. Many believe it to be a female in the 1L (first-year) class, but really, it could be just about anyone.
A few of the posts on OleMissLawyered mention staff members. There is something to be said for airing grievances, but my guilty conscience, which I admit is more active than most people’s, could not help but think, “That person is just doing their job and here we are picking on them for it.” Yet I laughed and sent the link to some of my peers to make sure they saw it and laughed with me.
What is surprising about these sites is the way we relate to them. Regardless of their inappropriate nature (think “Texts from Last Night” or “Total Frat Move”), these blogs express something to which we relate. They let us know that someone else out there thinks the same things we do, and because we are not the ones behind them and because blame can seemingly not be pinned on anyone, we continue to go back and encourage the creators to make more.
This courage and the group mentality it creates can be quite dangerous. Combined with the decreasing privacy we face on the Internet, it will be interesting to see how these things come back to haunt us down the road.

Emily Stedman is a second-year law student from Marietta, Ga.