Anonymity: The refuge of the frustrated immature

There are people who would have you believe that anonymity is somehow crucial to a functioning and civilized society, and that it's somehow essential on the internet.

It is not.

In the vast majority of my experience in real life and on the internet, anonymity is only ever abused.

In real life, people are much more likely to behave in ways that are harmful to others if they feel they aren't being watched.

It's the same way on the Internet. When people feel they are anonymous, they will do and say things they would otherwise never consider if they had to sign their names to it.

The vast majority of those things are harmful. Check any forum that allows anonymous posting. Under the veil of anonymity, people post things as if they have no capacity for self-restraint. Anonymous posts aren't thought out, they're overly aggressive, and are frequently meant to intentionally hurt others.

There's this movement, called "Anonymous", whose greatest achievement is that they've vandalized a few sites on the internet.

For the past several years, I allowed comments from anyone on this blog because any comment is at least better than no comment, right?

Well, perhaps not. Overwhelmingly, the comments that were posted on this blog anonymously were poorly thought out, overly aggressive, and most of all, dumb. Most anonymous comments would never be posted if the writer wasn't sure that they won't have to answer for it.

And for tolerating all this crap, what do we have to show for it? I gained insights into human nature. I learned that if you give people the opportunity to show their unrestrained selves, many will turn out to be meaner, dumber and less worthy of respect, than you'd expect.

That's an interesting insight in and of itself. But since anonymous commenting is about as unrestrained, as unpleasant, and as intelligent as farting, we really shouldn't be offering an audience to it.


Charlene said…
Being anonymous give people the ability to say things they would never say publicly otherwise. When people comment in shaddow, I don't allow the comment to post. I figure they shoudl speak privately if they want to be hateful.

I've never seen an anonymous compliment, have you?
boris_kolar said…
Anonymous posts are almost all spam, but the 0.00..001% of anonymous work that is not spam is extremely important information (such as information from whistle blowers). It's good you disabled anonymous posts on your blog.
denis bider said…
I'm not sure there's even much value in anonymous whistle blowers.

For example, the mass release of US diplomatic messages just seems to have created a whole lot of trouble, and didn't tell us much that we couldn't have already guessed.

And the guy who released it got caught anyway.

I'm not sure that there's really that many situations where anonymous whistle blowing is useful. If you really think you're doing the world a huge favor by releasing certain info, you should probably consider whether you're willing to bet your career on that. If it's really important, your identity is going to be uncovered anyway. And if it's not important, should you be releasing it?
Jenny Woolf said…
Don't you think trolls are worse than Anonymous? I believe there are a lot of people paid to troll on Tripadvisor and Amazon reviews etc, paid to assume fake identities and cause trouble. It must be hard for the victims to discount them because the trolls sometimes build up quite elaborate fake identities and seem genuine. Makes Anonymous seem quite honest and decent imho!!!!
denis bider said…
I wasn't aware that there was an extensive problem with trolling on TripAdvisor and similar sites.

If this trend exists, is it motivated by individuals who are simply being malicious, or by businesses that want to discredit competition?

I wouldn't make any claims as to whether trolls are worse than memes like Anonymous, or vice versa. This blog post is about anonymity not being all that great, but of course, there are lots of other bad things in the world.

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