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"Why Is Everybody Always Pickin' on Me?"

By Troy Brophy   April 15, 1997

If you've just recently made it online and feel that other users are unhelpful and abusive, or if you are just tired of being called a "newbie," please read on.

When the World Wide Web came along (as the result of browsers capable of displaying graphics and following hyperlinks) the vast majority of the people using it were already Internet-savvy. E-mail, Usenet, FTP and IRC had been around for years and the addition of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) didn't require much new learning. Now, newcomers to the Net are dumped onto the Web for a few weeks of surfing around before they discover that there is more to being online than just typing in the URL from a TV commercial to learn more about Smints.

The problem is that unlike most other products and services we've grown accustomed to, the Internet is not entirely user-friendly. If you do find software designed to make something easier, chances are it isn't very powerful. There's the rub. How does someone new to the Net learn how to use it? The answer is: Be patient and pay attention.

Sure, you can hop into a chat room or a Usenet thread and demand that those in the know spill the beans. You might even pretend to know what's going on in hopes of being let in on the secrets that elude you. Chances are, however, that these plans of attack will lead to only one result: abuse. The reasons users get so abusive towards "newbies" are myriad. Some are just grumpy people, or they are living up to the expectations others have of their online persona. If you just sit still and consider their position for a moment, you may come to understand their derision.

People who have been online for a year or more have learned most of what they know from experience; trying this and that, seeing what works and what doesn't, concentrating on the letters of an acronym and looking at its context in the post to determine its meaning. Only as a last resort, and as privately as possible, will an experienced user go to another user for help.

Now we look around and see that the Web has gone mainstream. At least five TV shows are competing to be your source for information about the Net. Spoonfeeding newbies with lists of helpful sites and utilities. Dashing dudes and accented babes try to pull off an air of Net-knowhow, showing you how to customize your browser, or interviewing ex-"hackers." With this kind of media saturation, why does anyone need to come online and whine because no-one is nice enough to drop everything and e-mail them a FAQ on IRC or HTML? Visit a search engine, find the FAQs yourself. Someone has been nice enough to take the time to compile all of these FAQs; use them.

Let's face it, it's human nature to be annoyed by those who show no respect for their elders. And on the Net, even someone 15 years your junior may still be your elder.

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