Keybored Madness

Thomas W. Rimkus (trimkus@COMP.UARK.EDU)
Sat, 18 Mar 1995 11:04:07 -0600

I would like to submit the following observations about a recent event on
the list. Maybe this would better be fleshed out in a forum on sociology
or psychology (maybe even psychiatry) but anyway, here it is.

First, I would like to differentiate Robert Johnson, a real person whom I
do not really know, from the "RJ" stereotype which emerged from our
discussions, debates, and fistfights on the issue. Some might argue that
this is not possible, but I would like to try.

In an attempt to understand the RJ experience and evaluate our
relationship to this new medium of impersonal electronic communication, I
began to explore the possibility that there might not really be a need
for the rules which we usually rely on to communicate face to face.
Maybe we could all be tough enough to "say it like it is" and bedamned
with the social niceties. As I was pondering this possibility, I got
into a battle of concepts with someone on the list who did not see some
issue the same as I. Others joined into the controversy in various ways
and before I realized it, we were in an unsavory flame war. As I worked
to respond to the attacks, one night I realized that not only was I
becoming an RJ in the mind of others, I was becoming one in my own mind.
The bounding rules of normal communication were not at work, and I was
slipping farther and farther away from seeing the addressee as a person.
The analytical frame of mind which I thought was dominant in this new way
of dealing with an issue was giving ground to a mean spirit without my
awareness at an alarming rate.

A letter of kindness broke the spell and allowed me to see what I was

The point here is not that I was being hard hearted in my responses (or even
whether I was right or wrong on the issues at hand). The point is that,
because I was not being confronted with the clues normally given in a
confrontation, I did not realize what was occuring. RJ never seemed to
make that realization. Maybe it was because he never recieved the letter
of kindness which I did. Maybe he is not supported by a loving family in
a safe, clean, beautiful mountain valley like I am. Whatever, I was lucky
to see what an impact on me the experiment was effecting.

If you have not gone thru this experience, this all may seem trivial and
with obvious results, but I was profoundly amazed at how quickly I
unwittingly fell into the trap. This keyboard is a dangerous tool unless
it is moderated with kindness, it will slip up and bite you.

I hereby apologize to all offended by my comments and all bored by the

Tom Rimkus
Madison County
(where the mind is free to wander, and the deer are free to roam)