When I was in college, I lived in a house with a bunch of pre-med students who were, as a rule, a quiet and studious bunch. Except for once a week, when the radio in one room would blare for exactly one hour. I eventually discovered that the girl with the radio cranked it on purpose to annoy her neighbor, who had once asked everyone to keep it down so that she could watch her favorite TV show in peace. The radio, it seemed, was meant to be a lesson not to take something as trivial as a TV show so seriously.

And that was how I met my first griefer.

Virtually every griefer I’ve encountered since then has had a similar mission statement about teaching others not to take life so seriously. While I can certainly agree that many folks could stand to lighten up a bit, I’ve never understood what made someone think they were qualified to decide who needed to chill out and when. I’ve been looking forward to this issue for some time, hoping it will shed some light on the griefer mindset. Because I gotta tell ya, from the cheap seats, they just look like a bunch of mean-spirited jerks. Creative, sometimes truly brilliant and funny jerks, but jerks just the same.

Oh, sure, I’ve heard the explanations about “social engineering,” about how if a system can be broken, it should be broken, about how it’s “just the internet” and so on and so forth, but I’m not buying it. Yeah, we all enjoy a bit of schadenfreude from time to time, but constantly having fun at others’ expense just seems like a dick move to me. Admittedly, I’ve only met a handful of self-described griefers in my time, but they all had one thing in common: They could apparently only feel good about themselves when they were making someone else feel bad.

Is that typical of the griefer state of mind? Is my small sampling of griefers indicative of the whole? I really have no idea, but I’m fascinated to find out. I’m hoping that this issue, and your responses to it, will help paint a more complete picture for me. I suppose it’s possible that it’s simply people savoring the anonymity that leaves them free to be bastards without fear of reprisal, but I’m guessing there’s more to it than that.

Lighten up,
Susan Arendt

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