Anonymity

From the earliest days of blogging, we’ve had commenters and even a few bloggers who declined to share a real name. I will confess I posted a few times in a sports discussion board with a “designation,” not my true name. Upon reflection, I decided that if I wasn’t prepared to sign my name to an opinion, the opinion probably wasn’t worth publicizing. When I post by first name on different blogs, I always have a working e-mail (unlike some who comment here) and a link to my web site.

My mother wouldn’t approve of the internet’s most popular and most busy commentator. When we were kids, she preached that lying is worse than stealing. Seemingly, getting accurate information about what was around her trumped one-hundred-percent possession.

Anyway, I wouldn’t hesitate to describe the internet’s most popular and most busy commentator as a liar. Whether she or he is hiding from a spouse, parents, boss, friends, or herself or himself, she or he is engaged in an active misrepresentation. We know the person in question isn’t hiding from everyone, but they present themselves in that way.

A few of the old prominent bloggers have been outed as the years have gone by. Mostly, I just shrug. Why would that person need to remain anonymous? Seem like a normal everyday woman or man to me. Someone with loved ones, work colleagues, and friends who don’t float or sink a relationship depending on the viewpoints expressed on the net.

I’m not sure where I come down on handles. It wouldn’t work for me. Really, what am I going to do: prance around the internet promoting myself as the Sensible One? Or just SO for short? If you’re laughing with/at me on that one, consider some of the titles people do use. Well … some of them are pretty clever.

What do you think? Are there greater evils afoot than outing oneself as a blogger or commenter? Or are there times when you need to say brisk things you don’t want your boss, confessor, or spouse to know about?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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9 Responses to Anonymity

  1. Thanks, Todd.
    You know how I stand on this issue.

  2. Gavin says:

    Generally, I get annoyed with anons only when they don’t have a distinct handle with which to identify the speaker. I really don’t care who Xavier Rindfleish is (and suspect the real person has a greatly exaggerated opinion of his own importance), but it’s good to know “who” he is, in that it’s someone who claims to have worked on the translation, claims to have conservative views, and vocally condemns the 2010 text revisions. When you see the “XR” handle, you know what you’re going to get. Same thing with “Chironomo” or “Jimmy Mac”. A handle (any) gives context.

    I choose to use my first name only because there’s some sick people on the internet. I just yesterday had a friend at my church get stalked over comments on a mutual friend’s facebook. If you told me you never get personal or job-related threats or harassment, I’d be very surprised. And also, so much of blogging is “drive-by reading”. Someone who reads your whole work will see you to be a level-minded moderate with a great appreciation for tradition. Someone who reads two comments on Pray Tell or Chant Cafe may interpret you as a crazed liberal dissenter. And a prospective employer, for instance, isn’t going to go for the deeper research.

  3. FrMichael says:

    Did something on the internet happen to bring this topic up?

    My own anonymity is based on the pre-internet-origin press policy in my diocese which basically asks for pre-publication review. Not exactly blog friendly. So I (and a few others) work with a compromise: we can offer comments but not give names or otherwise appear to be issuing official statements of the diocese. Fair enough: my bishop has enough headaches to handle without needing to oversee internet tempests-in-a-teacup. I use my confirmation name as a “Google-proof” ID.

    Facebook seems to not be an issue though. It is stunning how much information people put online.

    With all the crazies about, I think anonymity is the way of the future online. Certainly wouldn’t want my parish to be harassed over my individual comments and I can’t imagine married folks would want their families potentially put at risk. Or alternatively commentators should live and work in the deep forests and deserts.

    I don’t think anonymity really hurts either. It becomes pretty apparent when people claim credentials they don’t have and can thus be ignored.

  4. Sherry Weddell says:

    Who is the internet’s most popular and busy commentator? Huffington Post is the most popular blog and Arriana Huffington is a real person, I think.

  5. Not that I discount the realities you outline, Fr.Michael. I have been attacked, ludicrously, at my position by just such folks you’ve described. But, like Todd, I first believe that if you cannot ascribe your name to your contention or belief, don’t publish it. Secondly, as I alluded to over at the Cafe, the cloak of anonymity is illusory, both in reality and in the metaphysical sense. A person who commits an injustice to myself or another blogger isn’t necessarily “invisible” in cyberland. Moreso, that injustice reveals itself in the perpetrator in other ways in real time among real people; not to mention He who knew us when we were in our mother’s womb, and who will recognize us as His or not on that day.
    As Todd and a number of our confreres across the liturgical spectrum (Carl D. comes to mind) have maintained, if you’re not prepared to say your peace to another soul face to face, don’t say it to them on the net hiding behind a mask. Is there any other Christian protocol to follow here?
    And yes, you can be savaged, eviscerated by folks unseen who may be a “somebody” in real life who is publicly known as a professed Christian, and it is excruciating and disabling. But, isn’t that part of the bargain, the covenant we make with God by professing belief in His ultimate sacrifice for our own sins? Jesus endowed Dismas with paradise. But did he not essentially love the other criminal as well as all of us for whom He died, the “pro multis?”

  6. Todd says:

    I don’t want to make a huge issue of it. Many anonymoi are rude, but I have no interest in snitching on them. And some people feel they have a legitimate reason to protect themselves and others. I have reasons along those lines, too. But I’ve made another choice. I’m willing to concede what I think is better for me may not be better for someone else.

  7. Gavin says:

    I think I left it unclear in my comment that I was mostly addressing pseudonymity as opposed to anonymity.

    My general zeal is for ideas, rather than personalities, and that’s why I support the legitimization of pseudonymity. It is entirely wrong to me that “David” can support the increased use of chant hymns, but “David Haas” gets eviscerated for doing the same. But then, focusing on personalities is a good way to distract from an opponent’s good argument.

  8. Bill Logan says:

    I’m not a big fan of anonymity on internet discussions. Some people do have good reasons for it, but in the vast majority of cases it just seems a way to be rude and offensive without account. This classic Penny Arcade comic pretty much sums it up.

  9. Copernicus says:

    I blog in my real name, and usually leave comments on others under this pseudonym. I see it as self-defence, that’s all. The internet can be a savage place, and sometimes you don’t know what bear-pit you’re stepping into when you join someone else’s conversation. I see plenty of gratuitous ad hominem, and I’m happy to keep a safer distance.

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