Internet Anonymity

June 23, 2011

Does Internet anonymity bring out our dark side?

On the radio this morning I heard Lisa Hendey talk about participating in Internet discussions, such as in the comments section on blogs.

She suggested that people seem to feel more free to be a jerk when they know (or think) they have the cover of Internet anonymity.  She recommended that we instead make a point to treat others, even on the Internet, with love, and try actually to listen to the other person and to have a dialogue.

The interviewer, Matt Swaim, reminds us that tone of voice isn’t necessarily conveyed by the written word, which may make it even more important to choose words carefully to avoid being unkind.

My own recommendations would include these:  Re-read what you’ve written and try to imagine how it sounds to a skeptic who doesn’t agree with anything you’ve said.  Do your words give him any reason to change his mind?  Maybe more importantly, when in doubt, I recommend going back to what you’ve written later, before posting it, to re-read it as if seeing it for the first time and see how it strikes you.  Sometimes I end up significantly revising what I was going to say; often I end up deciding not to say anything.

What do you think about all this?  Do you think Internet anonymity makes people behave badly?

12 Responses to “Internet Anonymity”

  1. Mickey Mouse Says:

    I think your decision to monitor comments is unfair. In the past you have denied me the right to post what I wish because for whatever reason you think it is inappropriate, yet in my world half of your posts are down right discriminatory and inappropriate and I still read your blog; for now.

    – MCKY

    • As to particular decisions about particular comments, I would be more than happy to discuss, here in the open or by e-mail, any comment you submitted and why I blocked it. (Note that, by complaining just now, you’ve admitted that you were the one who submitted the inappropriate comments I blocked.)

      As to my use of moderation features generally, since you mention it, comments on this blog were totally unmoderated until you and Leroy scrawled some particularly disgusting graffiti on one of my entries.

      As to the content of my own writings, I encourage you to respond to the particular things I say when I say them by submitting comments, civilly and concisely articulating what you think was inappropriate or “discriminatory” about them.

      • Snoodickle Says:

        I have no clue who “Leroy” is, but apparently I am trustworthy enough that you have ceased to moderate my posts.

  2. Snoodickle Says:

    Also, I would like to raise another issue that relates to this post.

    Chillingworth, do you remember when you said this? “Leroy, I think it’s pretty rude for you to insult someone you don’t know on my blog.”

    It appears as if you missed the bevy of insults that “Tevyeh” sent my way a couple of posts ago. Indeed, even in the last post “Tevyeh,” the devout Christian that he is, implied that no one would care if I were killed.

    I would appreciate it if you would remind Tevyeh that behavior of this kind is not to be tolerated on this blog, as you did with me. In the event you do not, my suspicion that you and Tevyeh have some sort of gay romance, or otherwise weird bromance, that prevents you from ever saying anything bad about the other will be confirmed.

    • Just to make my reasoning explicit and public, at least this once:

      (1) I can never tell whether you’re joking or serious.

      (2) Based on the first three paragraphs of your comment here, I was inclined toward the “serious” interpretation, and I was preparing to have a serious conversation with you (which I would be happy to have) and explain how the various “insults” you mention are very different from each other.

      (3) Your fourth paragraph clarified that you were joking. In that case, no response from me is necessary.

    • Tevyeh Says:

      I guess I should weigh in. Let’s see…

      “‘Tevyeh,’ the devout Christian that he is, implied that no one would care if I were killed.”

      I’m sorry, I thought you and Mickey Mouse were having a contest to see who could come up with the most offensive “imponderables.” I was just playing along. Please don’t take more offense than I took from your irreverant treatment of Christian theology. (By the way, do you know anything about my religious beliefs? The handle would suggest that I’m Jewish.)

      As for the rest of the “bevy of insults,” maybe you’re just thin-skinned. (Or was that an insult too?) I did call you “truly a stupidhead dumdum,” which I have to admit was in mockery of your calling me “truly an idiot.” I also said “you’ve got that ‘I’m so stupid I’m cute’ thing going,” which isn’t quite the same as saying you’re stupid. I’m trying to remember what else I wrote that could be considered personal attacks…

      Sure, my tone may get caustic now and then, but typically only after you’ve declared your intellectual superiority, using poor logic or bare assertions. If I seem uncharitable in my rebuttals, consider the context. If you don’t want your “arguments” rebutted, keep them to yourself. If you think my rebuttal is flawed, counter.

      As for the “gay romance” / “weird bromance” you refer to, let me suggest different name for it: “respect.” Chillingworth and I have had a number of respectful disagreements on this blog, not one of which required the use of personal insults or bluster about one’s mental superiority.

      Then again, maybe Chillingworth is right and you were just joking with this post. Oh well, I like to argue.

  3. Snoodickle Says:

    This is truly pathetic.

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