Here are some situations in which online anonymity is understandable:
1. You have something nice to say.
2. You live in a country where putting your name on your words risks your life. Iran or Syria, for example. Burma. Saudi Arabia. Tunisia, Egypt, China or Vietnam. Cuba or Turnmenistan.
Living in Humboldt County in Northern California in the U.S.A., not so much. Yes, authorities in our country also act terribly at times, ignoring the rights our forebears fought to establish. Yes, sometimes a community will dislike the political views of a member within, might even make that person feel unwelcome. If you’re a gay teenager in a conservative town, for example, and you choose to advocate for gay marriage under the public radar, that’s understandable. I know a black man married to a white woman who opted to leave Eureka after years of harassment by our local racists. That sucked.
But I doubt the folks leaving anonymous comments on Lost Coast Outpost, the North Coast Journal site, etc., are leaving their names off because they’re at similar risk.
Maybe I’m missing something, but I believe in owning one’s words, opinions, actions. I’m fairly confident that civil rights have expanded in this country due to people who stood up and fought the system in public – and I’m really sure that someone using a pseudonym to make a snotty remark in the comment section of a local blog in no way helps forward a noble cause.
Rarely do the anonymous comments contribute thoughtful, reasoned points to a discussion. Usually, they’re snarky at best and full of false information at worst. They’re a way to smear others, make statements with no necessary bearing in fact and speak without the burden of bringing respect into disagreement.
Oh, my job! anonymous comments whine. Oh, my family! I’ll get fired! My wife will get hassled at the grocery store!
First of all, you’re likely overreacting. Again, not in Burma. But all kinds of people in Humboldt County do business with people of differing political stripes. Lots of people work on controversial projects, volunteer for organizations not everyone supports, speak out on divisive issues, all with their names attached to what they do. Maybe not everyone likes them. Maybe they do get dirty looks while deciding between Fujis and Galas at the Co-op or while strolling Two Street during Arts Alive!. But it’s probably not even that bad.
Second, if you’re really concerned about possible repercussions of publicly aligning yourself on one side of an issue or the other, here are a couple options more honorable than anonymous spewing:
1. Make your post thoughtful, reasoned and respectful. (Takes work, I know.)
2. Vent to your friends instead. (You do have friends, right?)
This may shock you, dear anonymous readers, but you don’t have to put your two cents into every blog post covering our fair county. If you don’t want to share your opinion under your own name, perhaps it’s not worth sharing. Freedom of speech is a pretty sweet thing, after all – and seeing it devalued every time some scaredy-cat commenter “contributes” their ranty anonymous thoughts is a real shame.