Anonymous comments = losers (mostly)

I completely agree with Mark Morford on this subject.

Anonymity tends to bring out the absolute worst in people, the meanest and nastiest and least considerate. Something about not having to reveal who you really are caters to the basest, most unkind instincts of the human animal. Go figure.

Thoughtful discourse? Humorous insight? Sometimes. But mostly it’s a tactless spectator sport. It’s about being seen, about out-snarking the previous poster, about trying to top one another in the quest for… I’m not sure what. A tiny shot of notoriety? The feeling of being “published”… It is far from all bad, and many intelligent, eloquent, hilarious people still add their voices to comment boards across the Interwebs… But the coherent voices are, by and large, increasingly drowned out by the nasty, the puerile, the inane, to the point where, unless you’re in the mood to have your positive mood ruined and your belief in the inherent goodness of humanity stomped like a rainbow flag in the Mormon church, there’s almost no point in trying to sift through it anymore. The relentless nastiness is, quite literally, sickening.

I have never seen a blog/online news story discussion improved by allowing a hate-filled free-for-all in the comment section. Except in very rare cases, people really ought to put up or shut up. This is not a free speech issue; this is about condoning rudeness and idiocy. Why the abjection of personal responsibility is so accepted online, I do not understand.

A recent thread at the NCJ Blogthing reminded me of this.

10 thoughts on “Anonymous comments = losers (mostly)”

  1. I agree completely. I admire all who put themselves out here in print. I dont comment much as I am always afraid of being ridiculed for my opinion or spelling or grammar. And I dont know why this bothers me but it really does. I would never be able to put myself out there the way you all do. And I find most of you facsinating and cant wait to read all you have to say. And I often want to say something encouraging to you and your struggles so know that there are many silent and caring friends who are hanging in there with you. Keep your head up and keep doing what you do.

  2. I agree that anonymity in discourse adds nothing. I would go as far as saying that it is pointless, as it is impossible to meaningfully respond to an anonymous post; the only reason to post anon is to discourage replies.

    That said, anonymity in other types of transactions, such as purchases or inquiries, is essential to preserve.

  3. Yeah, maybe mostly bad. But, you can garner information sometimes that people would not be willing to say without being anoymous, so…….that is why I do not moderate heavily on my blog.

  4. There’s a difference between garnering sensitive information from anonymous comments and allowing anonymous comments that insult and tear people down. It’s sad when a blog article isn’t focused on critiquing a person, but a troll seizes on a reference and twists it to serve his agenda of spite and malice. The level of healthy discourse on a blog is proportional to the blogger’s willingness to moderate trolls.

    I expect rampant trolling on national blogs. It’s peculiar the practice is accepted on our local level.

  5. Anonymity has it’s advantages if you want to try to avoid the smallminded character attacks and xenophobic bigotry. Problem is, no one seems to be able to deal with what is said without assaulting the sayer.

  6. First off, Mark Morford is a genius! I’ve been a fan of his columns for a long time now, because his topics are about as honest an assessment of the human condition as you’ll ever find.

    Secondly, I also agree that the internet’s anonymity has stripped people down to a childish level. When you don’t have to own up to what you write, why bother being civil? I’ve never understood that concept, yet it seems no matter where you go online anymore where people actually interact, you find these kinds of people. Lame.

  7. It’s actually shocking sometimes to meet the anonymous poster. I’ve only had a couple introduce themselves to me who had been I think pretty mean. Not the worst, but not the best either. And yet, in person they seemed like decent people. I think there is a tendency, particularly with younger posters, to dismiss the power of words. It’s all just a game with the rules being based on the principle of sticks and stones. But it ruins discussions and just plain takes the enjoyment out of the experience.

  8. Jim – of course. I’m only addressing the practice of leaving hateful and otherwise stupid anonymous comments on blogs.

    Richard and AJ – I understand the value of keeping your sources unnamed (in rare circumstances) for news story purposes. I’ve yet to see something posted anonymously in the comments section of a blog that contributed real information, which of course, begs the question, how do you know information is valid, if you can’t verify the source?

    Joe – If I’m reading your comment correctly, you’re saying a benefit of remaining anonymous is so when other anonymous people say nasty things, it’s not really to “you” as a named person and hence, some emotional protection exists. Is that right?

    If so, I would argue that people might be less likely to attack someone that has a name and face attached. I would add that anyone who is too afraid to put their own name behind critical thoughts is immature at best, an asshole at worst and not someone whose opinion should effect another’s self-esteem.

    Clearly, someone remaining anonymous for reasons such as whistleblowing or to protect themselves is defensible. And I don’t have a problem with people who choose a pseudonym for reasons outside of being able to attack without accountability. But the hateful, inane anonymous comments? I stand by my post.

  9. What I was referring to what was in your example above, A recent thread at the NCJ Blogthing.

    Your question,

    If I’m reading your comment correctly, you’re saying a benefit of remaining anonymous is so when other anonymous people say nasty things, it’s not really to “you” as a named person and hence, some emotional protection exists. Is that right?

    Actually, the answer is NO.

    It doesn’t seem to make any difference whether you present an anonymous face or a name everyone knows. Nasty people are nasty people and that’s just the way they talk, whether it is gutter talk or sugar coated personal insults. When people without legitimate credibility can’t deal with the facts or the issues they just go right at the person. Who I am does not make or break what observations I post. What I say does.

    “Attack without accountability”? “Effect another’s self-esteem”? That’s what happen when you entertain worthless opinions.

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