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Comments: Anonymous VS. Onymous
Anonymous versus onymous. That is the question.
Every so often, during the heat of the battle, a commenter will assert that comments should be onymous. Well, actually, what is usually said is that only “non-anonymous” commenters should be allowed to post. Or, as one anonymous commenter said, “Require user verification and end all anonymous posting. People should be accountable in real life for what they say.” No, I am not making it up – the quote is from an anonymous commenter. The presumption is that an onymous commenter will be more truthful and accurate, less antagonistic, more courteous, display better protocol; in short, be more responsible. A simple review of currently onymous commenters could dispell these myths.
I have commented both as an onymous and an anonymous commenter. Let’s take a look at my experience in both arenas.
Several years ago I had an onymous account. At the time I was posting to a variety of articles. However, I chose to use my name due to some specific articles; and, by doing so, made credible my knowledge regarding those articles. However, there were many other articles that I did not comment on due to their political nature or subject content. Commenting on them, at the time and with full disclosure of my name, would have been career suicide.
This January (having forgotten my old account information), I created an anonymous account. By far, it has been more fun to be anonymous. More importantly, it is much easier to post an opinion anonymously. An anonymous user has no risk of personal attacks and the possibility of personal consequences. Yes, I know, someone can make an ad hominem attack. Recently, a commenter said, “Tend to think you are just an un-educated HS dropout.” The comment is not only ignorant, it is irrelevant since the commenter does not know who I am. Moreover, my anonymity prevents the statement from being libel. In this case, anonymity protected both commenters.
Requiring commenters to use their “verified” real name would definitely change the forums. Overall, they would probably become more civil. It could cause a few to check their facts before commenting. Yet, that would not change the quality of comments by currently anonymous commenters who already check their facts. Nor, would it change the inaccuracy of currently verified commenters that do not check the facts.
It has been said that “Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking.” (H. Jackson Browne) “Character is doing the right thing when nobody is looking.” (J. C. Watts) I would urge the continuation of choosing between an anonymous or an onymous account. Moreover, I urge all commenters to display good character. Comment as if your character and name are on display; for, at the very least, you know who you are.