A STUDY OF ONLINE COMMUNITIES

UNDER CONSTRUCTION
I am developing this site slowly. The introduction
is currently being revised and edited.

Last revision 8/23/2009

MISSION STATEMENT: To provide insight into the phenomenon of online communities such as Ares, such as understanding how anonymity of individuals makes a well-functioning community difficult to achieve and how it differs from real-world societies/relationships.


One day I stumbled upon a virtual community called Ares. I never visited a "chatroom" before, except some hacker IRC rooms many years ago. One day I read some blog where something called Ares was mentioned. I thought I would try it. I found it carried thousands of chatrooms.

At first I didn't appreciate the significance of it but eventually I realized that many people are actually living their lives in front of a computer screen, interacting with dozens of people in real time, making friendships, loving, hating and fighting, and experiencing all the same types of emotions experienced in real life but at a much faster pace than ever possible before... These were actually virtual towns with "regular" citizens! Each room has a different character, style and mood. Some rooms are very busy with dozens of "roomies" and random visitors constantly entering, and some are very quiet with a small "base" of regular users "regs". The rooms also have a social order. The hosts/co-hosts, and different levels of administrators with some having more power than others, and of course the regs and visitors which have no control over the room. Control means the ability to "muzzle", "kill" and "ban". So usually there is no "free speech". You are bound by the rules of the room which are usually posted when you enter, and the attitude/mood of the admins/hosts. Unless you are an admin or host you have to watch what you say. Room hosts/admins know each other so you can create a bad reputation for yourself in many rooms if a few people don't like you. Some admins have that status in many rooms. Many have spent several years on ares, so they are highly dedicated to their "job".

 

My first experience with Ares...

The Moira (Mili) & Ross Story
(Ross used to use a cyan name and Moira was pink, so Ross decided to mix his name with pink like this, to show they were a couple)

Since May 2007

Moira is a chatroom character. Nobody knows who she really is or how old she is, or even if she is really a female. She had lied about her age among other things, she is careful never to show a picture of her face, and never uses a webcam. She/he could be anybody who has decided to create an "online personality" However her/his effect on unassuming, genuine people can be significant. I chose her because she is a classic example.

She is a typical sample of others who have created a "virtual personality" for themselves. A common statement for these characters is that people they chat with online are not "real friends" but "virtual friends" or "e-friends" which somehow makes them unreal and thus they are fair game to be treated as less than equal human beings...

This case illustrates how an individual such as Moira can deeply affect the lives of well-meaning individuals, causing them pain and anguish, and causing them spend most of their time typing to people in chatrooms...


Ross in great pain on October 13, 2008

Another interesting aspect to this story is that I was involved in it too and it shows that you should always be cautious when entering unknown territory.

A couple of short conversations I caught!
(Camilla the chicken was one of the nicknames Moira used)

August 6th, 2009

P...: so u & ross are back together once again

Moira: we come and go all the time

August 19th, 2009

Unnamed 1: ross is messed up from all those drugs

Unnamed 1: as for moira id like to strangle that witch

Unnamed 2: yeah he is

Unnamed 2: and he fights with jerry all the time i hate him so much

Unnamed 3: camilla the chicken ??

Unnamed 2: that moira is messed him up

Unnamed 2: moira the fool

Unnamed 1:  what he sees in her ill never no

The first person I met on ares was a girl called Moira. She was extremely cheerful and friendly. She invited me to come back to a chatroom, saying "come back anytime, we are always here". I returned, and fell into something I never would have expected. My experience was so strange and unusual that I thought it should not remain private. What makes the story significant is that I made a mistake of introducing someone "Ross" to Moira and she has managed to take over his life completely. He lives with her online (and often without her) for 3 years now... To Moira's credit she often states that for her it's just fantasy... "Fantasy Island" as she referred to it... However she also hints to her virtual e-boyfriends that she truely loves them and might even meet them one day. She knows it's wrong to give people false hopes and feels guilty about it, but the thrill of living an online fantasy life and feel that it's real is too great. The men she deals with won't respond too well if they were sure it was all just fantasy...

What was even more astounding is that this wasn't an isolated case... After some time I found out that this type of game is common between men and women online. It seems to be more common among women but men do this too. However usually it doesn't last this long as in this case...

This type of online distance relationship can cause a lot of confusion, jealousy, anguish and hatred. When people are together in real life, they are physically there. They can sense expression, body language, know where each one is at any time... But online none of this exists. The other person is mostly text that comes to you when they feel like writing... It's almost like make believe... For example, ross thought all was going well between him and moira. They even talked voice on skype daily. One day she said she will be back tommorrow but she dissapeared for days. Then he found she changed her nickname to Nicole and was going into various chatrooms making new friends. Here is some text where he cries about it in one of the rooms she started to hang out in... Ross expresses a lot of anguish in a room after Moira dissappears on him and shows up as "Nicole" in various rooms 10/13/2008. Also if the other person doesn't seem to make much sense or they are unresponsive to your concerns, it can be quite horrifying, painful and confusing. In fact at some points Ross was so astounded with the way Moira talked to him that he wanted me to review his conversations with her. Here are actual texts he sent me to analyze. I did my best to comment in blue but all I managed to do was basically summarize the response as it's quite impossible to know why a person would respond in this way: Moira appears very cruel and uncaring towards Ross: 01/11/2008 and here's a second conversation where she doesn't seem to make much sense 01/13/2008. As can be seen, Ross is being very genuine and shows a lot of emotion and pain, but Moira doesn't seem to care at all. She appears to be psychopathic. Ross keeps talking hoping to get through to her but it hardly helps. For an 18 year old as she claimed to be she sounds quite cruel. But what if she's a lot younger, very immature, clinically depressed or has some other psychological problem?

LOG LIST

1. Ross expresses a lot of anguish in a room after Moira dissappears on him and shows up as "Nicole" in various rooms 10/13/2008

2. Moira appears very cruel and uncaring towards Ross: 01/11/2008

3. Second conversation where she doesn't seem to make much sense 01/13/2008