ANONYMITY VERSUS ACCOUNTABILITY ON THE WEB
Is it no wonder that those who are or can be anonymous online behave differently than if that online community knew them personally?
Without reviewing their name or alias, can you tell by the severity and ruthlessness of one’s comments if comments were made anonymously or without their actual name? If you are able to say what is really on your mind without any filter or inhibition, how will that change what you say and how you say it?
I often read the Daily Herald and Chicago Tribune for local and state news. And regularly read the New York Times for technology and business news. By and large, it is truly remarkable to read and hear the difference in the tenor of the comments between the different online sources.
It is common for readers and commenters of the Daily Herald or Chicago Tribune to use aliases and pseudonyms before commenting on online stories. I’ve notice it is common for commenters to search for articles that are “controversial” or “emotionally charges” stories before they add their input. Often, the online discussions are not civil. Often the direction of the conversation becomes less “give and take” and more “my way or the highway.” For the most part, New York Times readers who generally comment use their first or first and last name and discussions are much more courteous or respectful of others’ comments.
Generally, if you are part of a community or neighborhood with a good reputation and people know you; this helps the civility of the discussion. You’re being accountable for your comments. Those discussing a particular topic may not agree with one another, but the conversation is more likely to find common ground and not focus exclusively on the differences.
I understand people are frustrated with the economy, but let us have civil discourse. I understand people are frustrated with both political parties, but can be remain civil and not personally attach one another? Why such finger pointing and negative posting? I understand people may be frustrated or disenfranchised with our current local or state government, but why not state your opinion civilly without name-calling or telling those on the other side of the aisle; they are ignorant, misinformed, or stupid. Should we not focus on what we agree on and not what divides us? Could improving our tenor between folks that don’t always agree with us help “set a more positive tone” in Washington D.C.?