Over the last few days, I have seen several news reports and read a number articles on the subject of anonymous comments left on the Internet. Nearly every web site has a comment section at the bottom so that the readers can weigh in on the subject being discussed. The comment sections are meant to illicit open communication and the sharing of ideas. Sounds like a good thing, doesn't it?
First of all... there are all types of forums, blogs, and news outlets that offer spaces to leave comments. I love ...yes LOVE comment sections. Some of the best reading on any given web site are the comments.
Even if you are a person that prefers not to weigh in because you are uncomfortable writing your opinion down, by all means read the comments. Of those that DO comment, there seems to be a wide disparity in how they comment.
On my blog, for example, nearly every comment is polite and has a legitimate point of view. Often your comments have swayed my opinion on an issue.Of course, there would be times, I totally disagree with you as well. BUT... Even when I don't agree with your viewpoint, I am always interested in your thoughts. AND every once in a while there is some awful, hateful, obscene tidbit that I just have to dump. (that is extremely rare)
Unfortunately, that brings us to why a lot of the major players on the Internet want to go to a system that requires you to name who you are. The thought is that people are more brazen with their commentary if they are hiding behind anonymity. Would the people that leave the profanity-ridden comments if they had to attach an identifier to it?
According to Leonard Pitts, Jr. a columnist for the Miami Herald, wrote that comment streams are "havens for a level of crudity, bigotry, meanness and plain nastiness that shocks the remnants of propriety."
William Geuseskin, dean of academic affairs at Columbia said "...a lot of comment boards turn into a barroom brawl, with most of the participants having blood-alcohol of 0.10 or higher."
Thought Number One: Times are a changin'
Back in 1993, a New Yorker cartoon showed one dog talking to another:
|Well, actually after reading some comments, we KNOW you are a dog.|
The New York Times and the Washington Post are both in the process of revising their comments sections. While neither have made the final decisions public yet.
A number of ways are being evaluated to reign in the inappropriate comments.
- review each comment individually and delete anything that the owner of the site feels doesn't fit withing their forum. (the worry here is that this is a form of censorship)
- have a subscription only policy where anyone wanting to join in the discussion has to subscribe using a credible name and email address. (while the name could be fabricated a real email address would have to be used.)
- sign on with a name and email address that is verifiable for individual comments. (no subscription but on a comment to comment basis)
- sign on with Facebook (this would link your comment to personal information)
- create a rating system where people can rate comments. Both the Washington Post and Huffington Post are considering a system that ranks comments, I am not entirely clear how this would work but you can click here to read a pdf of how it would work.
Thought Number Two: To comment or not to comment, that is the question
According to Arianna Huffington, "There is a younger generation that doesn't feel the need for privacy. Many people, when you give them the choice, they choose not to be anonymous" I am not sure that is true of the majority of young people. As I am not a young person, it seems there must be those that wouldn't want their Facebook page linked to news forums or blog comments but maybe younger does equate to people being more open to be...well... more open.
As previously stated, I love comments and I appreciate hearing alternative views. It makes me think....but I also, like being somewhat anonymous....that is especially true on the larger news forums. Just living in Kansas (red state) can get me some %$^%&**^ and some @$*!$%!!! (BTW..there are varying opinions on politics even in the Midwest.)
So my readers...do you read or write comments on the Internet?
Do you worry about your privacy?
If you comment, do you want the digital disguise of being anonymous or are you fine to put your actual name on things?
Is there a difference as far as if your willingness to sign your name to comments but not use your real name and information on your blog?
For you bloggers, how important are your comments to you? Do you feel like people would be less inclined to comment if they had to put their names and or email addresses to their statements?
Do you ever get really nasty, mean spirited comments?
Do you ever leave nasty, mean spirited comments?
Note: There are a number of ways to leave anonymous messages on my blog such as setting up an account with a screen name at Blogger or Disqus. You can also leave anonymous comments but those typically don't show up immediately. They require me to approve them. I am glad to do that. You can also, email me directly.
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