Letter From the Editor 

There has been much discussion lately in journalism circles about the pros and cons of allowing anonymous comments on newspaper websites. Proponents for eliminating anonymity say it will improve the level of civic discourse, because people are much less likely to post libelous, obscene, or irresponsible statements if they have to use their real names.

click to enlarge anonymous.jpg

That's probably true. "Muskrat" is much less likely to call "Boogerhead" a "stupid, racist, dillweed" if he has to post under his real name of Warren G. Flanderson. That's because Boogerhead, aka Percy Leon Smithers, may look up Warren's address and shoot his tires out. Or worse.

There is little doubt that fear of bodily harm will make people more careful with their words. Of course, there's also the very real possibility that two non-anonymous people will exchange insults on a website, then challenge each other to a fight in the real world, with tragic consequences. That's not something we want any part of at memphisflyer.com.

Still, I find it admirable when people post under their own names. It's like walking into the saloon unarmed. It's badass. Which is why I do it on the Flyer website. I'm a badass. Not really. Like most people, I post under a pseudonym on other sites. I post as myself on memphisflyer.com, because I think it would be unethical of me to do otherwise on our own site.

That said, I don't believe posting anonymously is necessarily a bad thing. I get many weird, scary, unbelievable anonymous communications from people that I wouldn't get if they used their real identities. I think this is helpful. It reminds me that really twisted, angry people exist out there. I like being forewarned.

But I also like the fact that people can create noms du web that allow them to express themselves without restraint. They may be at work and posting under their real name could jeopardize their job. Or they may just enjoy creating a web persona. Whatever. There are many reasons people may prefer to remain anonymous online. And that's okay by me. If they cross the line into uncivilized behavior, we can just block them from participating.

In a web conversation, ideas are the important thing, not identities. Better to communicate anonymously than to fume alone in the dark, I say. And should we ever meet in the real world, feel free to introduce yourself. Or not.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment



News Blog

Meet the New Blue Suede Brigade

Fly On The Wall Blog

How Much News is on the News: A Guns & Bunnies Web Extra

Intermission Impossible

August Wilson's Metaphysical "Gem of the Ocean" Opens at The Hattiloo

Politics Beat Blog

Two Bites from the Thursday Night Smorgasbord

News Blog

Photo Contest Focuses on Memphis Bikes

News Blog

Live at the Garden guests prepare to party

News Blog

Bike Lanes and Plazas to Pop Up Downtown

Intermission Impossible

Nuremberg Revisited: An Indie Theater Company Does its Homework


More by Bruce VanWyngarden

Readers also liked…

  • A Letter to the Memphis City Council

    The council gets an “F” for its performance on the Greensward decision.
    • Mar 10, 2016
  • Detention Deficit

    Exactly seven years ago this week, I wrote a column decrying a proposal by city engineers to turn the Overton Park Greensward into an 18-foot-deep "detention basin" designed to stop flooding in Midtown. The engineers claimed we'd hardly notice the football-field-sized bowl. "Except," I wrote then, "when it rains hard, at which time, users of Overton Park would probably notice a large, 18-foot-deep lake in the Greensward. Or afterward, a large, muddy, trash-filled depression."

    • Mar 10, 2016
  • All the News That’s Fake

    • Dec 22, 2016
© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation