Report 1: Social Psychology of USENET Newsgroups

Yin & Yang of Newsgroups:
alt.tasteless.jokes and soc.culture.filipino

Dr. Leon James' Home Page(my instructor) E-MAIL ME! G5's home page Report 2 Home

Method of Study Results of Analysis Participating Annotated Index to Social Forces

Introduction: Laughing & Learning at the Same Time

Newsgroups consists of members that formulate their discussions based on the topic or theme of their newsgroup. By tapping into a particular newsgroup, one can find answers to questions, make new friends, and be entertained (believe me, some things that are posted are pretty zany) at the same time. There are many, many, many newsgroups for all sorts of individuals and you are not limited to one. To tap into newsgroups, just get into a search engine's (Excite, Lycos, Magellan,etc.) home page and type in newsgroups as your query.

I have peered into newsgroups earlier (two years ago), but was not an active participant. All I did was lurk and did not post. I was not fully aware of how newsgroups functioned then, and it did not capture my interest. Now, the second time around, I'm no longer a tourist, but a lively newsmember. It's a lot more enjoyable. I'm thankful that we have these classes (Psychology 409a, 409b, 459) at our University to aid us in adapting, understanding, and benefitting from the Internet. The Internet is growing at a rapid rate, and newsgroups is a contributor to its success. Cyber-psychology not only provided me with the knowledge of the Internet, but it also cultivated me as an individual. I have learned to always try something new. Whatever mistakes, though big or small, I will learn from it, and believe me, I learned a lot. If you haven't participated in a newsgroup yet, try it out. You could lurk, or be daring and participate. It's a lot more fun to put in your two cents. Heck, you do it amongst friends, face to face. Wouldn't it be easier on the Internet? They don't know how you look like and on the Net you're less self-conscious. So, let all inhibitions go, and have fun!

Two newsgroups that I am an active participant in are alt.tasteless.jokes and soc.culture.filipino (SCF). Both are two abolutely different newsgroups in style, philosophies, and makeup. It is really interesting comparing these two groups. First of all, my state of mind when I am interacting in the newsgroups are completely different from each other. I am very mellow and brain-dead when I'm reading articles in alt.tasteless.jokes. I'm in that newsgroup purely to satisfy the hedonic portion of my brain and to also stimulate my funny bone - nothing else. In the other newsgroup, soc.culture.filipino, I'm more active, I reply more, and while reading, my gray matter is fully awake. These two newsgroups are like yin & yang, Siskel & Ebert, Ren & Stimpy, Jim Carrey & the Pope...okay, okay, I wouldn't go that far, but you get the picture. I'm glad I picked two different newsgroups because I am not limited to the same things and the same type of the environment. The newsgroups are also an excellent way to gain different information while also intereacting with fellow cybernauts of all sorts.

In this report you will see my comparison between both newsgroups in method of study, analysis, and participation.

Intro Method of Study Results Participating Social Forces page top

Method of Study: Finding My Way Around a New Neighborhood

To look for newsgroups, I went into Netscape's Destinations: Newsgroups. I then picked "alt.disney", and it showed me the different threads. Boy, did all the icons, arrows, and words confuse me! I did not like this way at all. So I went into my favorite search engine: Excite There, I found the road to newsgroups heaven: Dejanews.
Choosing newsgroups was a rather difficult task. There were numerous newsgroups to choose from. Since I was having a bit of a stressful day, I wanted to be lightened up a bit so I made a Quick Search for jokes. There I found my first newsgroup : alt.tasteless.jokes. I also peered in to other newsgroups such as:
(if you're feeling you're having too good of a day, just go into this newsgroup and it will quickly change your mood!)
(great newsgroup if you are a Friends' [the tv show] freak. I love the show but that newsgroup was a little bit too obsessive for me)
After awhile, I got a bit tired of looking at advertisements and uninteresting stuff in different newsgroups, then lo and behold! I stumbled upon my second newsgroup: soc.culture.filipino. This newsgroup was very different from alt.tasteless.jokes. It gave me the oppportunity to converse with people in Tagalog and to hear from Filipinos around the world.

Dejavu? Nope! DEJANEWS...

Dejanews is an ideal Usenet for it is very user-friendly. If you're interested in a particular subject (cars, tv shows, sex [numerous newsgroups in this category], etc), you could make a Quick search and Dejanews will give you a list of newsgroups that pertain to your subject. Once you choose a newsgroup, it will give you a list of articles that newsmembers have written. It will give you 20 articles at a time, and you could always go back or skip some articles.
The great thing about Dejanews' format is that it is not distracting or an eyesore. There are no teeny-weeny words that you have to squint to read, but icons that are very descriptive, and when in doubt, it helps you out (ooh, that rhymes!) by showing instructions before your reply/article is published or when you have an inquiry. Dejanews does not bombard you with information all at once, you could look at different threads at your command and you could also read about the author of the article. And for your convenience, there is a navigation table (icons) at the top and at the bottom of the page.

Minor Setbacks
Like all novel things, it takes a while til you get the hang of it. I had to get over my fear of clicking on things that I was not familiar with. It was safer to "look but don't touch." If I stuck to that mentality, it would get me nowhere, so, I clicked on icons to see where it took me. It wasn't bad after all. After awhile, I grew comfortable and confident, and I found myself posting some articles of my own.

Intro Method of Study Results Participating Social Forces page top

Results of the Analysis: Cannibals, Mushrooms and Pinoys...Oh My!
alt.tasteless.jokes and soc.culture.filipino

This newsgroup is unique from the other newsgroups. I don't think it really matters if people reply to your joke. I usually scroll down the articles and just read the jokes, I don't think replying to them is necessary. Typcial replies basically consist of an addition to the joke. For example, there is one long thread on cannibals because of the many cannibal jokes people have contributed. In another case, if a person does get insulted by a particular joke or has a comment about it, he/she will reply to the author. The reply usually consists of a part of the joke (a sentence) or the joke in its entirety. For instance: a newsmember commented about a joke (Re: A mushroom walks into a bar)

Foszz wrote in his article:
>A mushroom walks into a bar, the bartender says "We don't serve
>your kind here" The mushroom says "Why not, I'm a Fungi"
That was in very spore taste
Hee hee! Liked that one? Well, you should peer into this newsgroup...there are countless other tasteless jokes. Anyway, since the majority of the jokes are short, the reply is the same also.

Since the newsgroup consist mostly of jokes, who would take things seriously there? Some jokes are really funny, but those that provoke flaming are those that poke fun at a certain race, or the joke was really in poor taste. I've read one joke about rape victims which wasn't funny at all, and a lot of people agreed (especially another newsgroup consisting of feminists). Stupid jokes like that elicit flaming.

Some articles in this newsgroup are particularly long. So if someone was to reply, he/she would indicate (>) the sentences he/she wants to reply to. It would be a waste of space and be repetitive to include the original article in its entirety. The replies are usually comments or questions to the author. One of my favorite threads in this newsgroups is:Dennis Rodman a Pinoy? What the heck is Pinoy, you ask? Pinoy is another word for "Filipino." Anyway, here's an article from Elson Trinidad from the thread.

Tikbalang wrote in article
>I don't think he [Dennis Rodman] is a Pinoy. Why his hair is blonde?
His hair isn't blond. It's pink. I mean, red. I mean, purple, I mean, neon green. I mean...

I thought that was rather funny. Now, if you're really wondering if Dennis Rodman is Filipino, the truth is, he's not. But from what I've learned from the newsgroup, his father lives in the Philippines and is said to have fathered over 20+ children. Aya! Well, you could go to soc.culture.filipino and see for yourself.

I would say the majority of the postings follow the one-topic-per-message rule. There was one article where someone has told a newsmember to follow the rule, so her article won't be too long and so that both topics would have its thread. From that message, it seems like the one-topic-per-message rule is enforced and preferred.

The threads in this newsgroup can get very long. The longer ones are usually the ones that contain a lot of flaming. Alot of the newsmembers don't tolerate racist and blatant remarks and unnecessary articles and it is evident in the replies.

Intro Method of Study Results Participating Social Forces page top

What It's Like to Participate: I Laughed, I Cried, I...Posted!
alt.tasteless jokes and soc.culture.filipino


The first day in the newsgroup, I felt a bit turned off. There were some jokes that were pretty offensive, jokes that poked fun at intelligence of certain races, abuse, and some perverse jokes. But, I stayed and read alot of jokes, and I must admit, I cracked up a few times (I must've looked like a fool laughing at the computer monitor). There was one joke though, that I did not get. I read a SMURF joke, and I did not get the punchline (Duh!) So I decided to post a reply back (after a day or so of pondering) and asked the author to explain the punchline to me. Til this day, I still did not get an explanation (*sigh*). From the absence of a reply, I was a little disappointed by the newsgroup. I only posted twice, the first was the inquiry, and the second was a joke. I think I would only be posting in this newsgroup just to share some jokes. I don't know if an intellectual thread could be stimulated because I don't think many people are serious in this newsgroup. I wouldn't blame them though, the only reason why I'm in the newsgroup is to catch a few laughs not to search for topics that can provoke deep thoughts.


In the first few weeks of being in the newsgroup, I have already posted 5 replies and articles. I have found that the newsmembers are very friendly (with an exception to some pyromaniacs [flame starters]). In my second posting, I introduced myself to the newsgroup and I have had four replies welcoming me. Boy, talk about positive reinforcement! That encouraged me to post more.

There are a lot of interesting topics posted: recipes, definitions, surveys, questions, etc. I find myself skipping articles (replies that starts off in "Re:...", but I know by doing that, I deprive myself from reading some interesting threads. Articles with Tagalog titles catch my eye. I like reading articles in Tagalog because my friends (who are Filipino) don't converse with me in Tagalog, and I find myself losing my fluency due to the lack of practice. This newsgroup is a great refresher.

Intro Method of Study Results Participating Social Forces page top

Annotated Index to Social Forces: How Other Forces Can Be With You

From a previous Cyber-Psychology class I had last semester, I discovered Dr. John Suler's excellent page. He discussed in his web pages numerous topics on Cyber-psychology - it's impact on individuals, relationships that are formed, its permanence, and the many personality types one can acquire online.

A lot of Dr. Suler's topics relate to our indepth exploration of newsgroups. First of all, there are relationships (though they are not physical) in the newsgroups. Newsgroups, particularly, gives you the fantastic opportunity to interact with individuals with your interests. At first, I thought, soc.culture.filipino is a great newsgroup to converse with people in Tagalog and to meet other people. It did not occur to me that other topics could be shared in the newsgroup and that I could meet people with similar interests other than being Filipino. Friendships could be formed and it would not matter what color you are or where you are (In SCF newsgroup, it did not even matter if one was Filipino or not). It is the same interest that unites various types of people despite the differences.

It's fun to share useless information with people on the internet because nothing gets in the way of "sharing". Outside of the Internet, people base their opinions on one's appearance, mannerisms, size of house, newness of cars, etc. - the material and superficial aspects of things. On the internet, we don't have to deal with such distractions. Our opinions of each other are based on our minds (intelligence, thoughts, ideas, etc.). Here, words are power. We do not care if a newsmember, chat-friend, or web author is heinous in appearance or a supermodel - it's how he/she conveys his/her thoughts that intrigues us. Here, the mind attracts. Our visual stimulation is satisfied by words, icons, pictures - which are all extensions of our mind. Right now, I don't care if you are black, white, yellow, purple, green, an alien, or a cow. Like Dr. Suler explained, that is not important. On the internet, there is an "equalization of status". Everyone is on the same level, regardless of race, age, status, etc. In the newsgroups, words release emotions and one can clearly see that in flaming. Though some postings are moronic in nature, it livens up the atmosphere, and those postings can excite the debator in all of us, which can be inhibited in our physical world. So what I'm saying (after this long-winded paragraph), is that the newsgroups is our ideal world where our words are power (not money, not how big, fancy, beautiful, appealing a thing is), and where we are judged by our mind. Hmmm, it's too bad we need physical contact now and then, but that's a different topic altogether. Dang, this darn computer is brainwashing me! (Just kidding).

Dr. Suler also covers the permanence of the postings in the newsgroups. Unlike, lost written mail, documents, etc. , by posting, you leave your idea/reply/message permanently in a computer file. I think that newsgroups are a great way to make an "in yo' face!" remark to a person because you can record "what was said, to whom, and when". By having this file, you have the liberty of referring back to it whenever you want or need it.

My Advice To Future Groupies of America

Future generations of psybernauts should go through the list of newsgroups and go through the ones that have caught their interest. You could just go straight ahead to your interest (cars, stars, hobbies, etc.), but you may never know while browsing the different newsgroups, another type of newsgroup (something you've never thought of participating in, but ignited a spark of interest)might be better. Be open-minded and expose yourself to different things. Variety is the spice of life. You don't have to post either. You could be a lurker, but participating is a lot more fun. Even if you feel uncomfortable and invaded, try it just once. Though it might feel like a big risk, you'll feel better once you see what you've accomplished.

Try different search engines. The search engines post their newsgroups in very different. Though Dejanews does not have as many options as Netscape, I feel more comfortable using it. As you can see by my links, the links for my newsgroups are linked via Netscape, not Dejanews. Unfortunately, Dejanews loses the query after a few hours, but Netscape doesn't. The best way to make links to my newsgroups was through Netscape, even though I feel Dejanews is a whole lot better. So, you should try different search engines, who knows, you might prefer one over the others.

Last but not least, Have fun! Or should I say, have good CLEAN fun. Just be a little attentive to the newsgroups' environment and use the proper etiquette. Don't elicit too much flaming, or you yourself might catch on fire. All in all, have fun sharing.

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