Why I’m Turning Off Anonymous Comments

Because they’re worthless.

Now let’s back up a second. I am not, I should be very clear, referring to the content of anonymous comments–I have had a number of very insightful comments which happened not to be made by someone who gave their name. These comments are valuable and I’m glad to have received them.

And I have not been inundated by anon hate the way some blogs I follow have been, so it’s not really about that–although the possibility of that occurring is a factor in the decision, definitely.

No, the issue is twofold. First, anonymity is entirely unnecessary here. The only reason a person might need to be anonymous is if some kind of negative consequence were going to befall them either for what they say, or for being here at all. But I’m fairly confident that none of my commenters is living under an authoritarian regime likely to arrest, torture, or murder them for expressing an opinion on a blog, nor do I suspect that any of you are engaged in some kind of undercover operation or secret agents or otherwise subject to the sort of scrutiny that makes connecting to the Internet a risky endeavor–and if you are, what are you doing risking coming here? No, for anyone actually commenting here making a Google account on a fake name is surely protection enough, and if you’re really paranoid you can even do it through an anonymizing proxy of some sort.

And since none of you need an anonymous posting option, I’m under no obligation to provide it–and anonymity works against what I’m trying to accomplish with this blog.

I want, ultimately, to do three things with this blog. The first is to get my ideas and words out into the world. Having or not having anonymous comments makes no difference to this purpose.

The second is to provoke and participate in discussion. Anonymity makes this difficult, because I have no way of telling if multiple anonymous comments in a thread are by the same person or not.

The third is to create community, and anonymity makes this impossible. Anonymous commenters are a faceless, amorphous mass. Because I do not know which comments are by different people and which are by the same people, it is impossible to build a sense of who anyone is. Identities become impossible to discern, and without individual identities there can be no relationships and therefore no community.

And, frankly, I am disgusted by the culture of the Internet, and much of that disgust is provoked by the rampant abuse of anonymity as a shield from behind which cowards can bully and harass, express bigotry without exposing themselves to the social consequences, or maliciously and sadistically hurt others to make themselves feel big. Even putting aside trolls, it encourages a dehumanizing and depersonalizing sense of power and distance, a hyper-rationalist form of discourse in which having an identity is an exploitable personal flaw and expressing emotions is a signifier of weakness and inferiority.

That is not what I want my blog to be. I don’t want people to just make provocative statements, I want them to defend those statements with the passion that only comes when your reputation depends on it. I want continuity between discussions, so that something a person says in one thread can be brought up in a later one to ask them to explain an apparent contradiction or hypocrisy. I want people to own what they say, so that they put a little thought into it before they say it. And most of all, I want the opportunity to get to know the people I interact with here, which requires that they be people and not faceless ciphers.

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