Should Anonymous Posting be Allowed?

A few weeks back, I heard this story on The Current on CBC radio, and it affected me deeply. It was an interview with Pam Murchison, a woman from Truro, who lost her 15-year-old daughter just a few months back. Jenna committed suicide. She had a long history (or as long a history a 15-year-old can have) of depression, but she had also been bullied. And some of that bullying came in the form of cyber-bullying through a social network called Formspring (which is based on a post-a-question-get-an-answer format), which allows users to post anonymously, or even from someone else’s account.

In my experience, when you allow people to post anonymously, they will be much, much less nice than if they have to take responsibility for what they are saying. If you allow them to hide behind a different or anonymous persona, they will feel like it’s safer for them to basically say anything they want, because no one is going to call them on it or challenge them.

My blog requires that you sign in with your name and an email address before you can post a comment to my blog. I’m okay with people posting controversial comments, I’m okay with people not agreeing with me, but a few times I’ve caught people trying to post less-than-positive comments who have logged in with fake email addresses.

Cyber-bullying, clearly, is not cool under any circumstances. And in this new 2.0 world of transparency and communication and engaging in dialogue, I’d hope that it’s okay to say clearly when you don’t agree with someone. As long as it’s done in a respectful way.

One of the major resistances that I hear from people that I work with who are just getting into social media is that they are afraid that people will flame them if they put themselves out there. And that’s a very real fear. But I’ve been blogging for three years, now, and I find that, when controversy happens in the blogosphere, as it inevitably does, there is always someone there to take your side.

Now, get out there and comment responsibly.

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Rebecca Coleman

Social Media Marketing Strategist, Blogger, Author, Teacher, Trainer. Passionate foodie, mom to Michael, fueled by Americanos. I love my bike. Soon-to-be cookbook author. Localvore with a wanderlust.

Comments 4

  1. Just noise in postings, in my opinion, is almost always destructive noise and when it appears once it stays forever.

    And, just because the AC gets ‘modded down’ this does not stop the inconsiderate and ruthless damage by an AC. So what if they go and hide, that’s what cowards do!

    My conclusion: allowing anonymous comments is actually dangerous and it should be banned.

    Any kind of bullying is just NOT ON! This must stop NOW!

    It is tragic, for any person who suffers from what ever affliction and is bullied as well. Look at the outcome for Jenna, her Mom Pam and her family, sad; just so, so, sad and not a necessary outcome.

    Returning to a “civil discourse” should become the “norm” not the “ab-norm”, in my opinion.

    This story makes my stomach turn over and breaks my heart.

    In tears,

    Susan

  2. You know what, I used to be fine with ‘anonymous’. When I started blogging I thought any discourse was good discourse, and it was all fuel for the fire. 4 years later I can’t think of anything positive any anonymous commenter has added to any conversation I’ve been a part of on-line.

    Here’s my thing now: I look at inviting viewers into my blog post like I’m inviting them into a round table discussion group. If you walk into that room with a bag over your head you can turn around and walk back out. I am only interested in having adult discussions with people who have the courage of their convictions.

  3. And then Seth chimes in… (http://sethgodin.typepad.com)

    “The bully-victim cycle

    A bully acts up in a meeting or in an online forum. He gets called on it and chastised for his behavior.

    The bully then calls out the person who cited their behavior in the first place. He twists their words, casts blame and becomes an aggrieved victim.

    Often, members of the tribe then respond by backing off, by making amends, by giving the bully another chance.

    And soon the cycle continues.

    Brands do this, bosses do it and so do passers-by. Being a bully is a choice, and falling for this cycle, permitting it to continue, is a mistake.”

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