Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Ignore The Anonymous

Bloggers - how often do you get anonymous and abusive comments posted on your blogs? And to the rest of you - how many times have you read an article or blog post and found a nasty comment posted by "Anon"?

Those kinds of comments, I've learned, are called "trolls". Fitting really.
read about this on the New York times website, after the article (written by one of their own staff) was shared by Facebook.

It's an excellent piece (which reveals some truly horrendous stories) and it reminded me that I have wanted to write a blog post of my own on this subject, after witnessing these kinds of comments on some of my favourite, highly-respected blogs.

Trolls are easy to spot. As soon as you come across an aggressively rude, no-holds-barred comment, you can almost guarantee it will have been posted under a pseudonym or (imaginatively) "Anon". I'll read the comment, look to the poster name, and that's usually when I'll roll my eyes and think, "Ahhh of course. Loser."

It ticks me off, not because of what has been said, but because of the anonymity of it. The fact that the is person is hiding and taking no responsibility for what they've said.

It harks back to the age-old retort, "If you've got something to say, say it to my face."

It seems that when you can hide behind online anonymity, you can get away with being unsociably rude or just plain mean. There's that tantalizing freedom of being able to manipulate complete strangers, speak your harshest views and hurt people, without repercussions. Basically, you can be an asshole without people thinking you're an asshole in real life. You can have your bitchy cake and eat it too.

It's a shame, because anonymity is helpful in many ways, and it also allows people to share experiences, advice and stories which are helpful or positive, but which they may not have shared without that invisible armour. We need the option to remain anonymous because - to a huge extent - it allows us to protect ourselves... but it also protects the trolls. So "Anon" has now become the pen name for bullies who want to have their say but are too cowardly to admit to it.

The way I see it, if someone has such a strong opinion about something, then why won't they stand by that opinion? If you believe in something so much, why not claim ownership of your words? I'll tell you why - because these people are either cowards who are scared of repercussions, or they actually just don't have confidence in their own opinion.

Either way, it's the same reason: fear. Fear of people disagreeing with them. Fear of backlash. Fear of being disliked. Fear of being found out.

I have had people disagree with my views on this blog, but I'm delighted to say that, to date, everyone who has expressed their views has taken ownership of them, which gives me the opportunity to consider their points in a reasonable way. (I know I don't post often, but readers, I appreciate that!) At the end of the day I would much prefer someone to wholeheartedly disagree with my perspective and open up a debate than to attack my views from behind a pseudonym.

Not that I'd be bothered if they did. The simple truth is, anonymous comments don't deserve any acknowledgement, because they have no foundation. Nothing to support them. They're posted in fear, and there's nobody real there to back them up.

So if you come across a troll comment in future, just laugh and remember those words were posted by some gutless little person at their computer, who doesn't believe the words enough themselves to actually represent them.

And to the real people posting real comments out there, in agreement or otherwise - I salute you.