The past couple of weeks have been spent studying and thinking about society and the Internet. I’ve never really understood until this past year, the sociological impacts it has on establishing and maintaining norms within our culture.
The majority of my contemplation has been directed towards trust and honesty in digital communities such as discussion boards, blogs, and social networks. How do we really know who we’re communicating with or who are we are friend requesting when participating in discussions online?
One particular topic of interest is the technique of anonymous posting that some people employ in an attempt to hide their identity. There have been some instances where in the past when people’s privacy and reputation were invaded or harmed.
A good number of these attacks were started by dishonest comments on blog or shaming someone for asocial behavior by spreading their private photos or information. Many of the agitators spreading this dishonest or private information were doing so anonymously for one reason or another.
There are a number reasons why someone would feel the need to be anonymous in the Internet forum. In Daniel J. Solove’s book, The Future of Reputation he points out that some may feel the need to hide information about themselves that may do harm to their reputation or some just have need to disturb societal norms in an attempt to be rebellious or harm others.
When those that use the Internet anonymously expect the same courtesy and privacy as anyone else, which I agree with. Any private information about a person in theirs and should be spread only by themselves if they chose to do so. Yet the way an online society operates there will be those that be suspicious of anonymous users.
The Clutetrain Manifesto’s fourth thesis states that the online public voice is honest, pure, and natural. When one works within a community anonymously they can lose their credibility because they are in a way, being dishonest by not disclosing their true identity. Other users may be more likely to assume that unidentified users are hiding within the community for one reason or another.
I believe that the public voice will eventually eradicate anonymous online users. The unknown users will soon be ignored, as most will feel there voice has no validity. I simply avoid anonymous posts. I assume the aforementioned notions and tend not to find those users trustworthy. If someone has something to say and they want to be heard and trusted then nameless users will have to reveal their basic identity.
In the “real” world one can be known within a society while maintaining their secrets or private information. The same can be true in an online community. If users are honest and pure in their comments and behavior online, others will be more likely and willing to hear their voice.
When all are known and familiar within an online community, much like in a small village there will be more trust and confidence within it as those who attempt to disturb the norm will be shamed and reminded of the way of things.