This is not a new phenomenon; there are articles and blog posts galore centered around people behaving in ways via electronic means that they probably wouldn’t in the flesh. It runs the gamut from “sexting” to leaving snarky, hurtful comments on blogs to verbal brawls on message boards to creating false personas with which to troll the internet. It’s a fact we can’t escape: it’s pretty damn easy to say just about anything from behind the cover of one’s electronic device. It can be dangerous for kids and disturbing for adults. Boundaries have been demolished, and sometimes the whole thing feels like a virtual free for all.
I’ve been party to plenty of this myself – message board and other mainly on-line relationships that fall apart very dramatically (I know we would never have said those things to each other face to face), offensive comments left on my blog (always anonymously). When you decide to become involved in online relationships (especially group relationships) or open yourself up publicly with a blog, you kind of have to be prepared for occasional ugliness. And while unpleasant comments left by “Anonymous” can be upsetting, you can at least write strangers off as whackadoodles. But then there’s this other situation: when somebody leaves a comment on your blog and hides behind attempted anonymity, but you, the blogger, are pretty darn sure you know who this person is, and the person you think it is is someone in your “real life,” and you then feel kind of pissed off that this person wasn’t just straightforward with you.
So, yeah, that’s the sitch I currently find myself in. Not that the comment in question was offensive, exactly. Self-serving and defensive, yes, but hey, I don’t write these things to please the masses or insist that everyone agree with me. I’m open to discussion! But hiding behind a semi-anonymous identity . . . well, it just strikes me as kind of chickenshit.
Why does this even bother me? Why is it festering? Because the person I suspect the commenter to be is someone I encounter face to face occasionally, and now there is this weird tension, and it’s like we’re both pretending that he/she didn’t leave said comment and that I don’t suspect that it’s him/her. Or, I could be completely wrong about the whole thing! Which also makes it weird, because all I have is my suspicion. Why don’t I just confront said person and say, “Hey! Was that you?” I don’t know why. I’m not sure there’s a point to doing so – it’s not like our relationship is that deep or meaningful that it’s imperative the air be cleared on this. And honestly, there’s a part of me that believes that if I did know for sure it was him/her, I’d be even more ticked off. So I should just let it go I guess. And maybe writing it all out here will help with that end. And it also probably makes me look like someone who expends way too much energy worrying over silly crap.
Anyway. Let’s all take a pledge, okay? A pledge to not ever say anything electronically that we wouldn’t say in person, and to not hide behind anonymity to give us balls we don’t really have.