Yesterday morning, I was drinking some coffee and perusing my daily-read blogs when I came across this entry at The Indulgence of Self, followed by this one, both of which were based on a comment made on this one. Basically, an anonymous commentor* took it upon him- or herself to tear K. a new one, for no readily apparent reason. The post to which the comment replied had nothing to do with this anonymous person, it was merely a teaser about a meme K. would soon be doing.
The sheer viciousness and the unevenness of the situation took me offguard. Without even considering the time difference, I picked up the phone and called K. and we had a lovely time bitching about anonymity on the Internet.
This is what I don't get. K. absolutely will tell you what she thinks about you--and about anything else, really--but that is what I've always appreciated about her. She does not pussyfoot around. You know exactly where you stand with her. She is honest, perhaps sometimes to a fault, but she is really--for lack of a better word--real.
Let's be frank, here. Writers as a general sort can be pretty pretentious, self-involved, and even, you know, somewhat flighty. And I can say this confidently, because (1) I have known many writers and (2) I AM one and have been known to display all of those characteristics at various point, though hopefully never all at the same time.
So, what if K. did call it how she saw it? At least she was doing it openly, with her face and name attached, standing behind her opinion, and allowing for room to be challenged back.
This, then, is my problem with anonymous commentors.
In seven sentences, K.'s commentor called her a drunk, announced she was full of shit, and laid the sarcasm on pretty thick. So, okay, clearly there is an opinion, but there is no one standing behind it.
I had a similar brush with anonymity back in May. I had written a post about an acquaintance of mine who had had a big debut in New York, wherein I was very conflicted about the situation: I begrudged this person none of their success but, rather, wondered why he didn't thank certain people who had assisted his training. A certain anonymous commentor decided to "school" me on certain "facts" of the man in question. When I responded, clarifying my meaning and indicating that I certainly begrudged the man none of his success, I invited the commentor to respond further to me, personally, but to please "have the courage to identify" him- or herself. The commentor took this as me calling him or her a coward, and further accused me of having a double standard for asking him/her to reveal his/her identity but letting another Anonymous stay anonymous. (I hadn't asked the other Anonymous to reveal him/herself because [a] s/he weren't getting into a skirmish with me and [b] I already knew who s/he was.)
At the time I absolutely was not viewing or calling Anonymous a coward, but in retrospect now I would.
I'm sorry, but it is cowardly. If you feel so strongly moved by a certain subject matter (whether happily, angrily, or something in between) that you have to comment, how can you not stand by your strong emotions and words? How can you not want to own what you are feeling? I mean, unless your life or your bodily integrity will somehow be endangered or compromised, I cannot understand the impulse to contribute to a conversation without being willing to stand behind your opinion.
If you aren't willing to sign your name to what you're saying, maybe you shouldn't be saying it.
My own situation was resolved as follows. I responded quickly to the commentor, backing down in a fashion by writing: "Touche, "Anonymous."I have no interest in an Internet war. Those get awfully sticky awfully fast. If you wanted to continue the conversation, I merely wanted to know who I was talking to. I was not calling you a coward. However, in the interests of all honesty, I didn't "call out" the first Anonymous because I knew who it was. I, in fact, had to ask that the person repost their comment because the first draft of it was too harsh on [redacted], and I have no desire to become hate central. M."
And surprise, surprise . . . Anonymous had nothing else to say to me and stayed anonymous.
Because of the fallout, I to this day somewhat regret having posted about it at all, except that I, like K., find it important to be honest about my feelings. Sometimes this involves being honest about those feelings to a fault or being brassily loud about being honest, without having all the information about a situation. I considered erasing the post because I didn't want to deal with more fallout and because this one tiny post was hardly the main content of my blog. But honestly what was so wrong with that first post? I spent over an hour drafting it, trying to make sure it was a careful expression of my feelings on a subject rather than an ad hominem attack on my acquaintance. I tried to make the post pose a question that begged an answer, rather than one that proclaimed my opinion. And I invited comments, because heck I don't have all the information, by any means, and I welcome others who are more knowledgeable to share their stories and information with me.
I don't know if it was the nature of the post (questioning someone successful rather than taking the easy route of praising them) or whether its just the nature of the Internet. Whether anonymous or not, I find that people on the Internet are willing to be not just honest with each other but at times downright vicious. Part of it is the fact that tone is difficult to convey and read via Internet/text/e-mails, a technological advance and communicational breakdown. Part of it is the nature of the quick click-and-send, which makes us hasty with our judgments and actions. And part of it is the missing sense of consequence following a conflict that is due to the anonimity of ALL of the Internet, what with the necessary protection of identity and our clever "screen names" and so forth. We can make rash judgments and then turn off our computers, as if "done" with the situation, not holding ourselves responsible for the repercussions of our actions.
* Commentor is not recognized by Merriam-Webster's 11th edition. But commentator connotes something a little different, so commentor it is. Deal, bitches. I'm in the field of fiction. This is what we do. We make stuff up.