I just got off the phone with this blog’s Managing Editor, Kurt Heinrich. He told me that Vancouver Police have encouraged Occupy Vancouver participants to not wear masks. The theory behind this, I think, is that people behave differently – if not badly – when anonymous.
This seemed to be a theme of my night. After saying goodbye to Kurt, I put on a delightful podcast in which a gentleman argued that the power of anonymity gives people a license to criticize with no solution-oriented purpose (e.g. “your joke was gross and you suck!”).
Here is a sample of how anonymity on the Internet allows people to say mean things that they would never say if we actually knew their names or if they were actually talking to the subject of their meanness face-to-face:
From Javear’s comments on a CBC.ca story about the Long Gun Registry being scrapped: “What an idiotic, but unsurprising, move by the Conservatives…This government, and its supporters, are an embarassing lot.”
From dirtylbk806′s contribution to ESPN.com’s ranking of the NBA’s 10 Best Players, which includes Dirk Nowitzki: “dirk is a no talent $@% clown with one ring that took him thirteen years to win.”
From Twitter [Editor's note: this is terrible]:1. @UFGreekGirlUFGreekGirl Q: How do you get an Alabama fan off your porch? A: You let mother nature take care of it…2. @UFGreekGirlUFGreekGirl Okay, so that last joke may be a little offensive, but in my defense I’m …a …bad person?
From maximumfun.org’s discussion forum (about a Jordan, Jesse, Go! podcast), which is the last part of aenemaTron’s story about how he said something really, really mean about the Food Network’s Rachael Ray…and then this happened: “…I walked a few feet away before I heard that voice—a mixture of gravel, bubble and squeak—Rachael Ray was talking on the phone right outside Barnes and Noble. Now I only say really mean things on the internet.“ [Editor's note: yeah, this one kinda proves my point...]
Personally, I remember a particular anonymous survey response that really got under my skin: “John Horn is a snake oil salesmen who got people to believe his ideas and then never delivered.” Ouch.
People. First, if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything. Second, if you have criticism be sure to offer a solution to the problem. Third, don’t say anything anonymously that you wouldn’t say with your name stamped all over it.
Anonymously behaving badly and/or mean-spiritedly on the Internet represent the capacity for humanity to cowardly throw toxic bombs into our communities without being accountable. Of course, there’s an easy way to combat said toxicity: be yourself and be nice. Simple.
Masthead photo courtesy of Christiano Betta