The popularization of the internet has made room for a new breed of coward, Mr. No Name. Anonymity many times is used for ones own safety, like in the event of having to report a crime or some other wrong doing. The hope of law enforcement is that people will be more willing to speak up when they see something if they do not have to reveal their identity. Anonymity has also been a useful tool over the years in other ways, think anonymous donations or anonymous good deeds. People who want to do something for someone else just because they feel it is the right thing to do and they do not want a big show about it.
In recent years however, I think the word has become more synonymous with hiding ones identity while on the internet and for me the word now has a bit of a negative connotation.
I was having a conversation with my girlfriend Tuesday about my blog, she was surprised to hear that I use mine and my fiance’s names in my posts. I understand her concern, the fact that I do this does make me vulnerable for a few reasons. The main two being;
1. There is no denying that this is me. That is my exact reason for this decision though. My name keeps me accountable for my words. I cannot type anything on here that I am not 100% willing to explain if asked about it outside of this forum. My name forces me to own what I am putting out there which in my opinion is how it should be.
2. It makes it much easier to be found by persons I may not want reading my blog. In truth this did worry me in the beginning. The first post that I wrote that made me feel truly exposed was hard because I was making a difficult admission and I was concerned about judgement if “the wrong people” ever stumbled across my writings. As time has passed I have become less concerned. I do not like to edit myself, it makes me feel uncomfortable and allowing myself to be vulnerable here has been therapeutic in a way. If someone from my past did find my blog and actually chose to read it I have no control over that. I made a conscious decision to put myself out there by posting my words to the internet and I own all of what I say.
Overall I do not regret my decision to be me on this site. I do try to keep a level of anonymity for my friends and family when I talk about them on here but honestly I am not always very good about that either.
I have been thinking about the internet anonymity issue for a few weeks now. It started when I was watching the Brene Brown/Oprah interview a few weeks back. Brene Brown was talking about the level of criticism she received after her Ted Talk and how hard it was for her. The thing is, these anonymous comments that were being posted about her online had nothing to do with her actual talk, people were making cruel comments about her weight and physical characteristics. I don’t get it. Why? Are some people just so miserable in their lives that they sit around on the internet behind their shroud of invisibility and pick at others like this? Brene was admitting that at first she was hurt by the negativity but then saw it for what it was, cowardice. The way she sees it is that if you can’t put your name on it then it doesn’t count. If you can’t say it in front of my kids and own it, it doesn’t count. She went on to say something to the effect of “if you do though watch out, because I will come out swinging”.
The Brene interview started my thought process about the topic but then it was the most recent case of Bullycide locally. Like so many cases in recent years it was the internet harassment that pushed the girl over the edge. I do not know the details of this specific case well enough to say if the bullies did their bullying online anonymously or not but either way it is the same idea of hiding behind your computer screen and not truly owning your words and actions. I can say with certainty that in the research I did last year about the bullying epidemic that plenty of “kids” (I use this term VERY loosely because in some cases we are talking 20 somethings and in one case it was a parent) do hide their identity online when abusing their victim.
What brought this topic home for me and ultimately led to this post is my realization that this really is a big issue. I am talking strictly about using anonymity as a way to be negative or abusive and not take ownership for your actions. I understand, for example, that some bloggers rely on being anonymous because they are talking about the work they do and being honest about aspects of their job that maybe their employer would not appreciate. I do think that is slightly different. Yeah, a piece of me still feels like they are not owning it but I completely understand why. However, for some people online, and offline for that matter, this ability to be invisible is like the highest form of passive aggressiveness.
Look at the woman in Canada that sent the anonymous hate note to the family of an autistic child, in my opinion she is an absolute coward. Own it lady.
How about the Catfish of the world? It may not be the exact same issue but I still say you need to own it sirs and madams.
Or the multitude of critics just spewing general negativity all over the place. Oh you think JcPenneys shouldn’t be working with Ellen DeGeneres because she is gay? That’s fine. By the way, I didn’t catch your name.. That’s what I thought.
It really is everywhere and it is a cancer. Unfortunately as opinionated as I might be on the topic I don’t have ideas on a solution.. Well except for maybe the obvious, people owning their words and actions.