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{A brief, unpublished essay written in August 1999, originally titled “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.}

The internet has had its share of praises and criticisms, but one thing is for sure — it is honest. I don’t mean that everything you see is true. Not at all. But being almost entirely unregulated or censored, you get an honest slice of the truth and lies that is humanity.

It’s all there. The Good. The Bad. The Ugly. And it is US. Almost anyone can get online, chat, send messages, publish their wisdom and nonsense alike. Anonymity also reveals our true selves, maybe moreso than our “person” we show other people at work and at home. In fact, what we do online sometimes surprises ourselves as to what is really going on inside.

What is important to humanity? Merchandising? Music fandom? News? Sex? You bet. Which brings us to a very important point. When we revel in the glories of technology and world culture online, we are praising ourselves. When we condemn hate sites and pornography, we are condemning ourselves. The internet is transparent, or perhaps more like a mirror, which we praise or blame by what we see. And when we all figure this out, maybe we’ll start addressing the real issues, instead of being like Reverend Brimstone from the Miscellaneous Television Church of God, blaming the instrument instead of its creator.

But on the lighter side, maybe we should each really look at who we are online. Now that we can be ourselves, even more than we could let ourselves be in public, we find our real values, not just what we want to believe we are. And in the end, we’re perhaps all a little alike — a combination of the good, the bad, and the ugly.