Tag Archives: Internet

Would Using Real Names Make the Internet Friendlier?

Anonymity on the Internet seems to be quite a large factor in the troll’s game. Essentially, the ability to be anonymous can free us up to express some things we would never openly express in public.

From the basal bigoted ideas we harbor, yet tell no one about, to the insecurities we’ve learned to collect throughout our time in society and on planet earth, trolling seems to be a stream for a number of these personal prejudices to come to the surface without our identity being known.

This quote from How to be Moral on the Internet has been bouncing around in my mind over the last 24 hours.

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Photo by Stefan Krause, license CC-BY-NC-ND.

Would the Internet be a friendlier place if everyone used his or her real name?

Would you say and do the same things online if you knew that your boss, parents, neighbours or friends might be reading over your shoulder?

From what I’ve seen strongly encouraging the use of real names online would weed out most trolls. There are people in this world who find gristly pleasure in anonymous Internet battles. I don’t understand their thought processes but this seems to be something that happens to every website, chat group and message board that has ever existed!

While the vast majority of my readers are thoughtful and respectful occasionally I have had to edit the comment section on certain posts to weed out less savoury replies. So far it has not been frequent enough for me to disallow anonymous comments or moderate any readers but the experiences of some of my friends on their sites have been much more conflicted.

Not everyone is comfortable using their true identity online, though. I know people who have created a pseudonym for commenting on blogs and message boards and participating in social media that remains stable for a long period of time. Some of these individuals eventually reveal their real name to trusted friends. Others don’t. All of them maintain dignified, kind personas, though, and would not benefit from social pressure to reveal who they really are to the world.

Even with the use of real identities there will always be aggressive individuals in a place as unregulated as the Internet. After all, We haven’t even figured out how to stop them in real life yet!

The Internet is not a Four-Letter Word

Over the last year or so some of the most popular search terms for this blog have been related to whether or not the Internet is good for our social skills.

I’ve had an online presence since the spring of 1999 and ever since then have heard the same arguments against spending time online trotted out regularly. Today I’ll be pushing back against the assumptions behind them. The arguments are in bold and my comments immediately follow.

The Internet is dangerous. Actually, most cases of rape, child abuse and certain types of murder are committed by someone the victim knows. Anyone can lie about their identity, past or intentions. Of course we should be cautious around people we don’t know well but meeting online doesn’t make “John” dangerous any more than meeting “Sally” at a friend’s party (or being related to her) makes her a trustworthy babysitter.

Internet relationships don’t foster genuine connections! Tell that to my husband. 😉 Longtime readers already know this but we first met on a message board many years ago. I didn’t know what he looked like until we met in person but I loved the man I’d gotten to know through email and phone calls. Yes,  one should be cautious in the beginning while you figure out if the other person is whom they claim to be but this is true of any relationship.

The Internet is destroying our social skills. I’ve never seen evidence of this. There have always been (and will always be) rude and polite people in this world. No technology can change human nature.

The Internet undermines local relationships. To be honest I do think access to the Internet has changed how often some people spend time with neighbours and acquaintances. Twenty years ago one’s social circle was almost always limited to people who lived nearby: coworkers, neighbours, friends of friends. If you shared common interests and a similar outlook on life this worked out well but it was also incredibly isolating for anyone who deviated from the norm. It’s much easier to pine for the good old days if you’ve never had to worry about being ostracized or discriminated against.