SPLIT PERSONALITIES ON ELECTRONIC BULLETIN BOARDS by Rangott Spliekin
During my brief visit to the United States in the fall
of 1987, I was able to study certain specialized cases of
split personalities. While they are considered harmless and
perhaps tolerably eccentric by the American psychiatric
establishment, it is acknowledged that it is a growing
problem among young technicians.
Frustrated by a lack of popular recognition which
continues to be focused on earners of large income (The
"bottom line" as it is popularly called), these young
geniuses are beginning to talk to themselves. But unlike
the ramblers and murmurers we find here in Moscow, they
use the technology available to individuals in America:
the home computer.
A network of electronic bulletin boards exists in
the U.S., connected by commercial telephone lines and
available to almost anyone who has a computer and a telephone
connection device known as a "modem." Individual subscribers
can then sign in and talk to other, similarly uninspired
individuals. The system was developed for the quick transfer
of information but has degenerated into a remote, arms-length
In fact, anyone who can afford to have their home
computers occupied most of the time can establish such a
board with "free" software provided by generous programmers.
When I suggested to an official of a conglomerate telephone
company that it was they who created the software to keep
technicians occupied instead of productive and to increase
the profits of the telephone company, the charge was denied.
But I digress.
I interviewed Dr. George Sands of the Institute for
Abnormal Electronic Behavior in Berkeley and he acknowledged
that there is a growing problem among young technicians
(which he insisted on calling "users") as the amount of
bulletin boards continue to grow.
"There are actually more bulletin boards than users
in the Bay Area [San Francisco and environs] and they kept
talking and arguing with the same people. Some were clearly
showing symptoms of boredom. A few clever ones signed on
these boards under several names, taking on a new persona
for each name. They would call under one name and answer
under another name.
"In one case, a man in his mid-fifties had as many as
six personas and possibly as many as eight. One of the
personas was actually promoted to assistant system operator."
"How could that be?" I asked.
"The operator had never actually met this man. Nor heard
his voice. In fact," he chuckled, "one of those personas was
a woman. Now that couldn't happen if he had ever spoken to
him on a voice line."
Dr. Sands dismissed my contention that the bulletin
board system was dehumanizing, explaining that that was what
was said about telephones when they were first developed.
"Americans have too little history to take it seriously. They
much prefer playing with their tools which they often mistake
for toys. Ships were redesigned, in the Nineteenth Century,
for quick, commercial, and sometimes revenue-evading, trips
to all parts of the world. Soon afterwards, Americans were
racing them for sport. The home computer is just another
The real danger, he went on to say, is that more
individuals will become isolated from their fellow men. "Home
computers are much more entertaining than even T.V. and
television has created a whole generation of stay-at-homers,
referred sarcastically by some commentators as 'couch
potatoes.'" If anything has staved off this horrible
eventuality, he went on to say, it is the fact that more
training is required to operate a home computer than a
At the moment, only "the best and the brightest and the
most eccentric" are falling prey to this problem."
I asked the good doctor how such people can be spotted
and institutionalized for their own good.
He gave the following indications.
1. Their homes lack most furniture, having only the bare
2. Everything is spotlessly clean except for the television
set which will have a layer of dust on the screen.
3. The bed is never made.
4. There will be six or seven phone lines to the home.
5. Only computer manuals will be present, no other books.
6. The men will be almost universally divorced (no women
have fallen prey to this yet despite the fact that some
of the pathological personas are women) or be on the
verge of divorce.
7. Their children, if any, will have run away from home. No
very young victim has had any children.
8. Sexually, they will be inactive. At least, they won't
9. As with alcoholics, they will be scrupulously careful to
report to their jobs each day but they will be uncreative
and rarely be promoted to positions of responsibilities.
Not because of lack of abilities, but because they will
evade the extra time necessary to accomplish these goals.
10. The refrigerator will contain only spoiled potato chips
and half-opened cans of beers. Many of these users drink
soft-drinks because of the high sugar content. One
institutionalized case had not eaten in six days. He was
found by the police in a small grocery store, after
closing hours, with open bags of chips and six-packs of
Cokes lying about, laughing hysterically and trying to
dial out on the computerized cash register. When they saw
the thick glasses and the plastic pen holder in his
pocket, they notified Dr. Sands.
The United States government has tried unsuccessfully to
introduce electronic bulletin boards in the Moscow area so
our geniuses are similarly engaged in fruitless labor.
The great Pavlov once pointed out that to hypnotize
a chicken, you merely need to draw a chalk line along
pavement, place the chicken so its legs are on either side
of the line and it will freeze. Human beings require a
more complex hypnotic tool and television has served the
state well over the years.
Now, such a hypnotic tool has been found for the
intelligentsia. It's even got them talking to themselves.
Translated from PRAVDA
Translation (c) 1987 by Yves Barbero