Image via WikipediaWhenever I get an anonymous comment on the blog, my heart does a little sinking thing.
Anonymity is the Internet’s great gift and at the same time its burden. It allows people the freedom to be who they truly are, to shake off the bounds of convention and propriety that tie down our everyday lives. It lets people share opinions they otherwise could not voice, speaking freely about their employers, their relationships or their governments. It lets people confess and share, unburden themselves and shout joy without having to worry about reactions, restrictions or repercussions.
It also lets people be mean, shitty and petty without ever having to worry about having to face their victims. It makes people into cowards.
I made the conscious decision to blog and express my own opinions under my own name (I think the only person to do so in the UAE at the time, but I’m sure I’ll be corrected on that one!). That’s something I’ve always done – as a journalist and as a commentator, columnist and contributor to TV, print and radio. I might be wrong, I might be a gob, I may well be a complete arse, but at least I’m out there taking it on the chin in public.
People that don’t have the strength of character to express their negative opinion or unpleasant reaction in the same way do irritate me. If I can be a brave boy, so can you.
Rarely have I seen anonymous comments on blogs justified by a reasonable fear for personal safety – more frequently they’re driven by vested interest. A distressing number of people representing companies still comment anonymously on blogs thinking that they can’t be ‘found out’. That is not the case – I’ve said this lots before – people who host websites, including blogs, can gain access to an amazing degree of highly granular information on visitors who are almost invariably traceable through their IP.
It’s not always about vested interest, of course. Sometimes anonymous comments are just from people who can’t be bothered to do the log-in thing. And sometimes they’re from people who are setting out to crap in someone else’s cornflakes but who don’t have the guts to do so in person. This last is the one that gives me the sinking feeling – a little slice of snarky nastiness dumped into someone else’s life by a person that doesn’t have the guts to do so openly.
Which is why I never bother taking up the conversation with anonymice. Just thought I’d get that out of the system, folks...