09-17-2007, 04:25 PM
This is a complex subject which many have tried to explain. Since I'm at work I can't say much but...
Humans are social animals; we depend on one another for survival. To increase our rate of success, we've developed ways in which we interact in order to understand one anothers' action and intent. Language, facial cues, and empathy are some of the personal aspects of this, but there are shared aspects such as morality, justice, and community. In a virtual space such as the Internet, all of this shit goes out the window.
I can't explain why, but I feel there are a number of related factors.
Isolation; there is no physical connection to other users, so there is no need to develop relationships based the type of intimacy we have with true friends. You cannot "watch someone's back", so to speak, and thus trust is difficult to build.
Anonymity; without speech or non-verbal cues such as facial expressions, it's difficult to gauge someone's intent, so we cannot know whether or not they are a dandger to us.
Impunity; without the ability to punish transgressors, there is nothing to stop an individual from enacting any sort of seflish action, within the limits of the system.
But, the key factors in my opinion are human fear and laziness. When coupled with the above, and the young age of many users, the innate human desire for comraderie, which takes time and effort to cultivate, gives way to me-first-ism on a whole new level.
Anyway, that's just a start on my feelings regarding this. It seems your post has posited the question of, "where did we learn to behave like this." It's a good question that I couldn't begin to address.