Internet anonymity can have both good and bad consqeuences. Some people can fall in love, yet never meet in person. Others, can engage in sociopathic behavior that they would not do without the cloak of anonymity.
This blog came about because I wanted to ask provocative questions that I didn’t feel safe to do in church. So, anonymity has helped me be more truthful than I otherwise would be inclined to be in public. I will also admit that on occasion, my temper has gotten the best of me, and perhaps I have left some comments on other blogs that could have been phrased in a more polite manner.
I came across this article at MSNBC which talks about Anonymous behavior, both the good and bad (although it concentrates more on the bad.) So, is anonymity a good thing, a bad thing, or both?
I think there are clearly good and bad elements (I didn’t follow the link for lack of time at the moment, so forgive me if I say something stupid).
1. We’re not quite as anonymous as we’d like to think. More than once I’ve posted things I hadn’t intended more than a few people to read, because I didn’t think anyone paid attention to my site, only to have people I know (and very much didn’t want to have reading it) come across it.
2. It does lead to some cheeky comments at times.
3. It has the potential to prevent some social connection–for example, I’ve often wondered if some of the bloggers/commenters I have come to recognize (but who remain anonymous in name/location) might actually be people I know, or would at least have the opportunity to get to know because they live just down the street.
I can’t stand most internet anonymous commenters, however that being said some of the biggest stories (in my admittedly niche beat) have been broken by anonymous internet commenters.
Is it good for discourse? Definitely not. However, I think anonymous commenting is a necessary evil. I think in some cases, this blog, etc., it can prevent bias that would normally exist. However, YouTube commenters are the worst variety, and make my stomach hurt.
Well, you didn’t ask for commentary. *grin*
“You do find, every once in a while, someone who has actually thought about the same problem in a very different way”— and that can be the most important sort of catalyst: the kind that leads to new discoveries.” (Harvard Magazine)
That’s my ideal conversation when people disagree to some extent or have different perspectives: one where each person discovers something new because of the different way of thought of the other(s). I’m not interested at all in broad, sweeping generalities. I’ve heard all of them by now. I’m interested in thoughtful, nuanced discussion.
Yes, anonymity can be a good thing. We vote anonymously, and most surveys are done anonymously specifically because it is viewed as a way to obtain more honest answers.
Yet, on the other hand, if we think we can get away with something, then we are more likely to engage in behavior that is embarrasing.
Of course, anonymity can serve a useful purpose. Or it can be a shield for bad behavior. Read the anonymous comments from your local paper if you do not believe this is true. Sheesh.
As an essentially anonymous participant in the bloggernacle, I try to behave responsibly and maintain civil dialogue.