Anonymity and Behaving Badly

Mar 27, 2007 by

There is currently a huge controversy raging in the blogosphere dealing with a prominent blogger named Kathy Sierra and the death threats she has received from anonymous comments to her blog Creating Passionate Users. If you want to read the details of the controversy you can go to Kathy’s blog or Robert Scoble or Doc Searls or any of the other mainstream bloggers. What I want to talk about is anonymity in general and the effect it has on peoples behavior. I seldom participate in online discussions or forums or leave comments because it has been my experience that someone will invariably respond with a personal attack or a slanderous, low brow, or just plain stupid and nasty response. I strongly suspect that this same person would not respond in this manner if the conversation was taking place face-to-face. The cover of anonymity often brings out the worst in some people. This bad behavior is not restricted to the Internet however. The same type of behavior can be seen in my daily commute to work. People who for the most part are probably decent and normal drive like they are on crack or want to settle a score with anyone and everyone on the highway. Speeding, tailgating, cutting people off, driving down the breakdown lanes to avoid traffic, failing to yield, and generally exhibiting horrendous behavior. Yet if you followed these people to work and watched them get out of their cars, they would look and act like your Aunt Mary or Uncle Bob.

I think it is the perceived anonymity of these drivers that leads to this behavior. I really wonder what is going on here. Will the real person please stand up. Are you really the nice Uncle Bob or Aunt Mary or are you Hannibal Lector? Or maybe you are bipolar or have multiple personalities? I tend to think that anonymity brings out the real person in some people in the same way that being drunk can sometimes reveal the real person. I know from personal experience that I sometimes will do or say something anonymously that I would never do or say in person. I guess there is a little behaving badly in all of us. It just appears that for some people the little is actually a lot. But speaking for myself when I behave badly anonymously I at least feel guilty and remorseful later. I don’t think that is the case for the psychos who posted the death threats in the comments of Kathy Sierra’s blog. I hope that they are found out and their anonymity is stripped away from them and they are exposed as the true cretins they are.

Related Posts

Share This

Leave a Reply