Saturday, July 9, 2011

Anonymity & The Online Disinhibition Effect

The practice and proliferation of so many 'anonymous' comments and postings on the Internet has become so annoying that it's now a pet peeve of mine.
And, I suspect that a growing number of others have come to feel similarly.

This article pretty much sums up my views on anonymity on the Internet.

One reference within the above article directs to this site which is also helpful in understanding what's going on with all the anonymity being practiced, particularly on the Internet.

Respecting privacy is certainly desirable, but I wonder if that is really what is going on in many instances. There are definitely situations where anonymity has been useful, like in exposing wrongdoing in government, institutions or elsewhere. Watergate comes to mind as a clear example.
But many other instances -maybe most- involve pettiness, meanness or just deliberate mischief making. None of those need to be forced upon us, at least not on the Internet commons.

Different media outlets have differing policies on anonymity, with some prohibiting it and others severely restricting it because it gets in the way of a civilized exchange of ideas or opinions.
Others seem to be blissfully unaware of any problem, or glad to encourage such conduct in the interest of attracting invisible verbal fistfights.
And, of course one is never required to read or believe anything anonymous anyway. Its a matter of choice But people are tempted to use it as nasty gossip which can do serious damage to others, often unfairly or even maliciously.

Point is, the Internet is an open forum that is available to practically anyone these days. That much is good. But, it's also potentially bad, too.
Without unduly restricting Internet use, ISPs and various websites and chat rooms could fairly easily institute simple restrictions by requiring limits on anonymity. Of course, everyone won't like that, but I think most people will support the idea in the interest of common good.
Then too, all those 'anonymouses' out there are creative enough they can always find alternate ways of expressing themselves.

Honestly, the idea of so many calling themselves 'anonymous' is ridiculous, don't you think?
By now it must have become the most common name in history! I wonder how long it will take to have someone actually given that name.

Close cousins of 'anonymous' are the legions of clever pseudonyms that talk to each other -and themselves- regularly.
You've probably noticed that a few of these characters like to dominate comment columns with multiple postings within a short time.
It's like their need to vent or be heard on a subject overwhelms their better judgement. You think such folks probably just need to 'get a life'? But, what if that IS their life? Get a better one!

Some time ago, I chanced upon a clever website written by Mike Reed that describes a whole range of Internet persona he calls 'Flame Warriors'.
Check that out here for laughs.