Erik Petersen: If you can't be decent online, let me have it
MY name is Erik, and I'd like you to call me an idiot.
Go on, do it. If it helps get you through the day, head over to thisisnottingham.co.uk, find this column, and tee off.
If you're reading this on the website, good news – steps one and two are already completed.
Tell me what you think of me, my opinions, the fact that I have a job, my hygiene, whatever. Just do it to me, OK?
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Now then, let's have a disclaimer. When I say "you", I'm not talking about, well, you.
As in the 99.9 percent of us who can go on the internet without being overcome by the need to start spewing hate in all directions.
No, I'm addressing that other, special breed – the anonymous warriors who get their jollies lobbing online bile. If you like posting stuff like that, I've got a request.
Do it to somebody like me who writes in the newspaper for a living.
Don't just drop your hate in the lap of people who neither expect nor deserve it.
Last week, something horrible happened in Nottingham. A six-year-old boy, Ryan Hooley, was seriously injured falling 35 feet in the city's Primark store.
This newspaper published a story and then, like grimly depressing clockwork, the anonymous comments under the story started.
Ugly, accusatory, mean comments about people who had just suffered a tragedy.
Even the most casual internet users will know this isn't a Nottingham Post phenomenon, it's an internet phenomenon.
Occasionally when some anonymous online cretin goes far enough, they get exposed.
You might have heard recently of a vile little man in Texas named Michael Brutsch. He anonymously posted all sorts of images to the website Reddit – two of his more popular creations were devoted to underage girls in skimpy outfits, and to revealing pictures taken in public of unknowing women. He's a real charmer.
You may have seen what happened next.
A reporter found out his real identity and outed him. He's now lost his job and been on CNN, where he talked about understanding that what he did was wrong because – wait for it – he's got a daughter.
Watching him squirm, I got the feeling I was witnessing somebody being forced to consider for the first time that the scantily clad daughters he'd put on the internet were similar to his own, not just anonymous images that flicker up on a computer screen.
Likewise, it's tough to imagine any of the drive-by commentators ever walking up to a family of grieving strangers and telling them what they reckon they've done wrong.
It takes a degree or two of separation for that.
This is no "Oh, for the simpler pre-internet days" plea.
Technology doesn't create cretins, it just gives them different platforms.
Likewise online anonymity doesn't help – and I think cases for the "necessity" of online anonymity are overblown – but it seems unfair that the decent majority should have to give up anonymity because of the scummy few.
So instead of any obvious solution, I've got what is probably a naïve request.
Cretins, send it my way. Don't hold back, do what you love. I'm a big boy, I can take it. Other people shouldn't have to.