Sunday, March 20, 2011

Twin Souls: Anonymity and Obnoxiousness

Anonymity is a quirk of the web. It can be a problem; it can be an equalizer.  It depends on how you use it.  People hover pseudonymously around various websites, writing whatever inspired or peevish thought enters their heads, clicking the send button and running, not daring to write under their own names. They can pretend to be a man, woman, or cactus plant.   We don't know who they are.

Negative anonymous comments can be a problem.  The Washington Post, New York Times, and Slate receive so much anonymous hate mail that they have started blocking comments and changed their policies.  At Slate, commenters are now required to sign in under Facebook, Yahoo, Google, or Twitter, though, as Slate writer Farhad Manjou points out, anyone can set up a fake identity account at Google or Yahoo. 

I don't leave comments at newspapers, pseudonymous or otherwise, and I'm not really big on using my name online.  My name is not Frisbee--I guess you figured that out.   Am I who I say I am?  A reader and a bicyclist?  Yes, last time I checked.  I don't put my name out there because I don't have backup--I'm not writing for a corporation, nor am I writing for a particular audience. This is a journal. 

Nor do I expect other bloggers to use their own names.  We aren't publishing for profit in most cases; most of us just like to write. The comments are mostly by other bloggers.  The atmosphere has been pleasant.  We're under the radar here.

I never had problems with negative anonymous comments until February when I MADE A JOKE ABOUT PERSEPHONE BOOKS and offended a bunch of people.  I deleted the joke, but Anonymous hangs out here now. It's odd.  First I started moderating my comments.  Most were from Anonymous. Anonymous has little to do. Yesterday I had six or seven persistent Anonymous hate-comments about a blog entry I wrote on the Des Moines Sculpture Park.  Who even read that? Besides my seven friends in Des Moines and my family?  They all liked it. I made a joke there, too--but a nice joke.  Is it the jokes?   Well, it turns out the commenter is not even from the U.S.  It's  ONE ANONYMOUS PERSON writing from the UK!  I couldn't believe it, either.   Now this nut can't possibly know anything about Des Moines's sculpture park.  And I did delete all his/her comments because really he or she doesn't belong here.

Now the question is:  do I moderate all the comments forever?  Or simply block all of them?

It is possible to have a no-comment blog.  Do I want a no-comment blog?

I just clicked on the Registered User option and hope it will cut down on Anon.  You have to be a registered user now--God knows what that means.

Here is what Farhad Manjoo, a Slate writer, has to say about comments:

"I think Slate's commenting requirements—and those of many other sites—aren't stringent enough. Slate lets people log in with accounts from Google and Yahoo, which are essentially anonymous; if you want to be a jerk in Slate's comments, create a Google account and knock yourself out. If I ruled the Web, I'd change this. I'd make all commenters log in with Facebook or some equivalent third-party site, meaning they'd have to reveal their real names to say something in a public forum. Facebook has just revamped its third-party commenting "plug-in," making it easier for sites to outsource their commenting system to Facebook. Dozens of sites—including, most prominently, the blog TechCrunch—recently switched over to the Facebook system. Their results are encouraging: At TechCrunch, the movement to require real names has significantly reduced the number of trolls who tar the site with stupid comments."


SFP said...

Look on the bright side: at least your stalker is driving up your stats. :)

Seriously, I hope this person finds something more constructive to do and that you won't feel the need to remove comments altogether. Would comment moderation help? You could then delete the nonsense without even having to read what's said.

I've not felt like blogging lately because I'm most decidedly TOO HORMONAL to be posting my opinions about anything. It's safer just to rant at my family than to set off anonymous people on the internet who feel invested in something I don't particularly like.

Frisbee said...

I'm not sure I have any hormones anymore. They offered them to me a couple of times before they discovered they caused cancer.

There are two possibilities about confronting stalkers: it will either rev him/her up (that's probably the pyschological outlook) or find another place to "hunt." It's kind of like having the bad vampires in Twilight hovering aroundhere, though I pride myself on being more assertive than Bella and have no Edward to protect me.