If I Don’t Know Who You Are, I Can’t Evaluate What You Say

I’m still thinking a lot about the culture of anonymity of the old Web, and what it means for the collaborative nature of 2.0. Lots of smart people at GovLoop chimed in, some agreeing strongly with my rant against anonymous comments, some telling me I was off base. It’s an important issue, so I asked social media researcher Mark Drapeau a question on Twitter. Here’s the quick back and forth:
Adriel: Mark, if two people said the same thing, a high-schooler and a PhD, which one would you take more seriously?

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Profile Photo Emi Whittle

I’ll say it yet again…. pity the people who have to hear it from me all the time…. everything in life is a trade off. Anonymity might mean that some people who are too fearful otherwise but have really valuable things to say, might finally say them…. but yes, it means too that then the receivers don’t know anything about w h o said it, and therefore must take it solely on its own merits. However, me being one of the fearfuls, this is one of the first networking websites wherein I have ever used my real name… fearing what may come of that… and even here, being that I work for a contractor, I can’t really say everything I could ever want to say – my opinions are not always appropriate for this arena, which I consider more of my “professional” life than personal… although it cuts across a tiny bit of the personal. However, too, I think that the nature of this govloop arena is exponentially MORE beneficial when people do use their real names and professional demeanors because that is what this website is about – for most folks it has to do with utilizing their professional identities to enable greater change in the government. So, in conclusion, everything in life is a trade off….

Profile Photo GeekChick

Interesting back and forth in the comments that followed, between you and Ari H. It seems some people are missing your point. It’s not about what name/label you put on yourself; it’s about the way you behave. For some people, the screen name (I enjoyed the BigCheeks25 example) is just a name. Maybe they just like having a nickname, or maybe it provides them some level of comfort in the semi-work-related environment of GovLoop.

But for some people, not using their real name is license to be a jerk, weirdo, or other variety of rude person. That’s what bad about anonymity. As we’ve discussed before, does it matter if you know my real name or GeekChick? What’s important is that you know what I stand for, and that we have honest, open discussions about things.

I can relate to Emi’s comment about GovLoop blurring the lines between professional and personal. I feel the same way. Which is why, when I realized I could express things here that I wouldn’t necessarily say at work, I chose to go w/ a screen name. For me, it was partly about not having my personal opinions in any way associated with my position as a representative of my agency. Maybe such concern isn’t fully justified or necessary, but nonetheless it’s real.

My bottom line is that you can call yourself BigCheeks25 or whatever you choose, as long as you are respectful and honest and true. And we can even throw professional in there if you want too — though I think one should be free to express non-work-related opinions/thoughts here as well.