16 July, 2012

Anonymity: when to say enough

It's been a while(almost two decades) since the Internet came to be an integral part in our lives and recently, a lot of concerns appeared about the privacy you get/have the right to, when online(Carrier IQ, Google, Facebook).

But this is not the actual subject of this post. It's all about the choice of using your real name and details online, instead of using various aliases. Everybody knows it's a common practice for teenagers to use an alias when posting/chatting over the internet, and lately it seems to have been a common thing for adults to act worried about this.

From one point of view,  I see anonymity as an useful tool in the development of their character. The "power" to make your opinion heard with almost no responsibility is a good test of character. Sure, there will be the occasional idiot who swears and brings nothing constructive to the discussion, but for people that have more inhibitions, who are introverts or who are just afraid of being judged: it will help bring their true opinions about cultural, political or social events and ideas.
It's easier to make a personal statement when there is no chance of "ad hominem" attacks ( I am currently planning an article about logical fallacies, so I'll explain it better there). 

I've witnessed lots of introvert people evolving nicely behind aliases, that hid their identity in the online world ( forums, blogs, etc), and I genuinely think they would've had a lot of problems later in life, fitting in the society or functioning as a normal, social, human being.

Of course, this has to be coupled with proper human interaction as the excess in anything in never good. Anonymity will only take you so far, for the rest of the road you need to go out and talk with friends (even friends from the online world, because it will be easier to connect with them when you know their interests and opinions), go interact, drink, party, etc.

Also, as you grow older, for example: after you're 20 years old, you should start owning up to your actions, opinions and ideas. You need to learn how to be responsible and show that you're willing to support the consequences of your words and actions.

This is why I'm not against employers checking the online activity (forums, blogs, Facebook, etc) of prospective employees. It a great judge of character, what you write when there are no apparent consequences. Sure, you may have been a dumb, naive kid, 5 years ago, but if you've shown no improvement since then, why would someone want to hire you?

You have to grow up, and you also have to start acting like one when in public, because no matter what you may think, your image is important, the "YOU" that other people see is sometimes more important than your diplomas. 

In the end, I leave you with a funny clip from "The Big Bang Theory". There are no advices that I can give you that will apply in every single situation, but the main idea is that anonymity is an useful tool, up to a point. After that, grow up and act up.

PS: for our Romanian readers this is a very good article about what to do after you get past your anonymity phase.


  1. Anonimitatea pe internet nu are nimic de-a face cu nivelul de maturitate al unui anume individ.

    E o judecata cel mult de suprafata cam tot ce ai scris mai sus. Si cred ca cel mai simplu mod de a argumenta asta e a te ruga sa-ti imaginezi o lume fara anonimitate. O lume in care tot ce faci e public. Numele tau, IP-ul tau, adresa ta.

  2. Are, destul de multe legaturi cu maturitatea unei persoane. O persoana matura n-ar trebui sa aiba moduri de exprimare diferite atunci cand un articol, comentariu, etc, este anonim. Dar daca compari comentariile de la acelasi tip de articol de pe site-urile a 2 ziare oarecare, dintre care unul are OpenID, si altul are Comments with Facebook o sa vezi o mica/mare diferenta intre registrul de vorbire pe cele 2 site-uri.
    Si din partea mea, chiar nu m-ar deranja ca tot ce fac sa fie public. Dar asta doar intr-o utopie sociala si politica, unde nu sunt folosite informatiile astea intr-un mod malitios impotriva ta.

    PS: o mica rugaminte, cand comentezi de acum incolo, as vrea daca se poate sa scrii in engleza, pentru ca peste jumate dintre vizitatori nu sunt romani.

  3. But you see, thats exactly the problem. It will ALWAYS be used against you. It always has been and it always will.

    Anonymity for the sake of just not knowing who it is that you're speaking with serves no greater purpose, but anonymity is probably the greatest tool for maintaining liberty, in a sense.

    Look at Wikileaks, look at all these bullshit bills that they're trying to pass, to suppress your anonymity, to make it as hard as possible for someone to protect themselves from whatever harm may come upon them if they reveal something that hurts the current establishment.

    They always vilified the anonymity movement, making them look like they have something bad to hide. But thats not the issue. It doesnt matter what you have to hide. The great majority should not have to be affected due to the fear of secrets being kept by the minority. If I like to look at gay porn, I should be able to look at gay fucking porn without the fear that somehow I'm monitored and that it will get out and suffer the consequences. And all that wrapped in the excuse that somehow, its all in my best interest.

    A greater plastic example can be made by extrapolating anonymity from the online medium to day to day activities. What would be like if everyone's homes would be riddled with video cameras, all state centralized, all in the name of transparency. And not accepting to be videotaped automatically branding you as suspicious. "If we see what everyone is doing, all the time, there's no way Ahbul can make that bomb in the basement".

    Its a dangerous path. A dystopian path.

  4. I subscribe to your opinion, although I wouldn't necessarily take it to the extreme. However, I do agree that using your real name (or at least pointing to it) is the first step to taking responsibility for your actions.

    Although I've actually had to publicly suffer because of this, I still support it.

    An older article of mine, on this topic (this piece is also a bit extreme, since I was fairly angry at that point): http://www.krossfire.ro/nu-suntem-politicieni/

  5. I'm not one to suggest extremes unless you live in an utopia. I'm merely suggesting here that we need to take ownership of our ideas and opinions.

    This was my biggest pet peeve(if you can call it that way) ever since I started interacting in online communities. I really do like to know that someone is open-minded enough to allow replies to their opinions.

    It's an easy way to filter them from the people that you shouldn't bother to reply to.

    But in the end, regardless if anonymous or not, there are still idiots around that only spout bullshit from their virtual mouth.

    PS: I do remember reading your article a while ago, but it was just about when I deleted my old blog, so it didn't mean that much to me then. But reading it now, I do see a similitude between "Eternal September" for Usenet and the rise of RDS for the "online Romania". So we pretty much have to deal with it however we can: swearing back at them, like zoso, banning their IPs, shaming them (pretty hard to accomplish though), etc.