Tuesday, February 17, 2009

anonymity

The social-connection aspects of the internet are very intriguing to me. I have never been a 'chat' room person. It's just not my thing - this probably has something to do with my short attention span. I signed up on Facebook because someone I know - and now don't remember who - sent me some link to something that I needed to be a member to see. There appear to be MILLIONS of applications you can use on there - again, I am lacking the patience to check them out.

The blogging craze is also very interesting to me. I'm sure there are now any number of doctoral theses (for those SOFT sciences, of course) written on the impact blogs have had on social interactions and even on politics and the main-stream media.

I'm intrigued by this medium that has such a potential for good. One example of this to me is the case of the Nielsen family. A popular blogger and her husband were severely injured in a plane crash. Numerous readers and other bloggers banded together and held countless auctions to raise money for their recovery. Tons of money was raised in a very short time. It was very inspiring to me that such a supportive community could exist by means of the internet.

Following the nature of opposition, something that can be so good can also has the potential for ugliness. I'm not generally a big reader of the 'comments' of the blogs that I follow, because I'm mainly interested in what the originally writer had to say, and not so much others' reactions. Sometimes I'll read them for a good laugh. The potential for misunderstanding the written word is pretty high, particularly in this medium where often the reader (I should say of popular blogs) doesn't actually know the writer. Sarcasm is not always easy to detect, and some folks really get in a tizzy about something they didn't understand in the first place.

Lately I've been struck by the cowardice of 'anonymity.' I've read a number of anonymous commenters complain about the narcissism of the blogger to whom they were responding. That just seems obvious - isn't the act of writing a blog in itself narcissistic? Anyone who writes is presuming that someone else out there CARES and actually wants to read what's being said! But how much more narcissistic is it to assume that your COMMENT to a blogger is going to change their behavior? That is just baffling to me. The irony there would certainly be lost to these commenters. If you don't like what someone is writing, or you think they are totally self-absorbed, then QUIT READING! It's even easier than changing the channel on the TV for crying out loud! Just don't type in that URL in the first place. Click away from the page. Spend your precious time doing something else!

More bizarre and simply sad to me is the need to attack someone personally through an anonymous comment. Many people choose to write about their personal struggles or feelings in blogs. Recently a friend wrote about losing a friend of hers to an illness. She expressed heartfelt sorrow at the loss of this friend, and expressed how she makes sense of it. The FIRST comment was from some anonymous coward, self-righteous enough to point out what was WRONG with her and her expression of grief, but too spineless to even sign their name.

I believe the intent of anonymity is to help foster free speech - e.g., you aren't as likely to say what's wrong with your work place if your boss knows you're the one pointing things out. And it is certainly appropriate at times. It just saddens and really angers me when people use it as a shield to hide behind to lob insults.

I'll get off my soapbox now. Imagine how irritated I'd be if I actually ever wrote about anything more controversial than the theme of Katie's birthday cake or the excitement of Alex's first hair cut.

1 comment:

MiaKatia said...

Ever since you first linked to Jana's blog I have had it in my reader. I rarely comment and usually just read it in my reader, but this particular post really moved me so I actually clicked over to read it. I was floored by the anonymous comment. And if I hadn't already been crying for what she was going through and how she expressed herself that comment would have made me cry out of anger.