Online anonymity provides a blanket of comfort to millions of users on the internet. Whether it’s an online message board, social media, or the comment section of any published article; they come in bunches, donning their anonymity armor, equipped with a keyboard and mouse.
As it has been shown throughout the majority of the season, #IslesTwitter is a very real and at times, a very hostile place. Most recently, the talks of Thomas Vanek staying, leaving, or being dealt have caused both sides of the argument to have their say, and in some cases, begin the lashing of anyone with opposing views. For a more broad, continual topic: Garth Snow and Charles Wang.
Many people don’t agree with their decisions, yet others see the good in what they have done for the team. Fans are more than entitled to their opinions, but one side isn’t necessarily more right or wrong than the other. Support your side, provide the facts, and listen/respect to the other side of the coin. It may even open your eyes to something you didn’t realize earlier, whether you like it or not.
However, in every debate, the anonymous account seems to find its way into the discussion. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with not wanting to reveal your identity to groups of strangers online. Whether it’s a matter or not wanting to be known as a certain personality or hiding your online activity from your bosses throughout the day, there’s a certain level of understanding associated with your given choice.
What is wrong with being a number, rather than a face and a name online (in this case, social media – specifically Twitter) is the lack of accountability and respect to and for your fellow peers. Of course, this is not true in all cases. However, it has reared it’s ugly head on arguably the most active social media platform. The art of a skilled, thoughtful conversation or simple debate has been lost. Name calling, lack of factual evidence/support, and finger-pointing is easy when your name is hidden behind a generic avatar and phony handle.
In an article published on a blog for the Missouri based company Monsanto, author Amalia perfectly describes how the information age and anonymity have destroyed the birth of new ideas and civilized debate. She states:
Vigorous but polite disagreement is critical to the formation of new ideas. When our views are challenged, we have to either support our ideas with evidence or find new ways of thinking. In a civilized society, this give-and-take leads us to better ways of conducting ourselves personally, professionally, and politically.
However, when you attack your opponent ad hominem the debate shuts down and the opportunity to develop new ideas is lost.
When it comes to debate in the past, we were reasonably good at it, with some notable exceptions. It’s hard to descend too deeply into name calling and personal attacks when you are looking your opponent in the eye, or, as in the case of pen and paper debates, when you must sign your own name (and possibly include a return address!).
Personal attacks and inaccurate facts will make any conversation or debate come to a screeching halt. In many cases, a “less is more” approach can do wonders on supporting an opinion or topic.
Admitting you’re wrong goes against basic human instinct. From the time humans first walked this earth, there has been a competitive nature ingrained in our DNA. No one wants to lose an argument, but it happens and is an inevitable part of life. Although defeat is never an easy pill to swallow, we also don’t have to shut another’s opinion just to support our own.
As Amalia mentioned, civil discussions help grow the formation of new ideas. We can contribute rather than belittle; construct rather than destroy; and support rather than criticize. If you chose the anonymous route or not, it’s time to take responsibility and accountability for our accounts. We’re all fans of the same team, the growing divide of ideas has only increased with the popularity and availability of these great social outlets, but it can shrink by restoring civil discussion and respect for one another.