Thursday, January 20, 2011

I Come, Anon!

Little Mystery - Todd Thibaud (mp3)

Bob doesn’t like anonymous commenters. They are the green eggs and ham of his existence. He prefers people with names. People like troutking, gooftyakemyhand, Thom Anon, Daisy, cinderkeys, BeckEye.

I find Bob’s prejudices in this matter to be entirely weird.

Of the people whose pseudonyms I’ve listed above -- loyal or semi-loyal readers one and all -- Bob only knows three of them well. He knows little or nothing of the other three. Nothing, that is, except a made-up name that re-emerges with new comments.

Do they have spouses or children? What are their career interests or personal aspirations? Are they religious? Do they own firearms? Have they ever stalked someone on Facebook? Bob doesn’t know. And, more importantly, Bob doesn’t really care.*

Which is precisely why I don’t quite understand why he gets so annoyed with anonymous comments like the one he received following his Damning-With-Faint-Damnation write-up about the Avett Brothers.

The Anonymous In Question (I hereby name him “TAIQ”) wrote a sincere response to Bob’s negative slant on the Avett Brothers. He (she?) wasn’t trolling. He wasn’t insulting Bob. He was just begging to differ and sharing his own degree of interest in and passion for the band in question. I would think -- and perhaps Bob will correct me -- that the kinds of comments TAIQ offered are precisely the kind of honest counterpoints for which one might hope to receive from the outside world when writing an opinion piece on a blog.

What if TAIQ named himself “TAIQ”? Or Jimmy, or Papa Smurf, or Dick Cheney’s Pet Giraffe? This somehow would have comforted Bob. At least, that’s the impression one can rightly get from Bob’s frequently put-off replies to people who simply choose to keep the name “Anonymous.”

One of my favorite movie moments of the last 20 years -- and one of the most powerful American literature moments of the last century -- is the scene where John Proctor screams and beseeches the mortal judges of his fate to leave him his name in the film adaptation of “The Crucible.” (Skip to the 3:15 mark to see the clip. Every single time I watch it, I get very misty.)

If we all had to post our names -- our real, full, completely identifiable names -- on all the doors to all the places we visit or pass by, both in the real world and online, perhaps we would be more respectful of our own decision-making. We might better honor our names and our souls if we were required to own up in toto to all our words and deeds.

But then, how to defend that the entire foundation of Bottom of the Glass is built on anonymity? From day one, Bob and I determined we could not, with sufficient comfort and confidence, write our honest and blunt opinions about things unless we keep our identities all but private. That’s right; this entire blog is written by two mostly-anonymous people who choose to reveal only what they wish to reveal about themselves.

Were our full names on BOTG, the entire tone and personality of this endeavor would shift. It would become safer, stiffer, and more vanilla than a venti Starbucks latte. Instead, having just the slightest veneer of identity protection frees us up to be a version of ourselves that need not care about our paycheck security, our colleague security, our church security, whatever.

It is not a lie, our semi-anonymity, anymore than Clark Kent is a lie. It is a reminder that we all create personae to fit specific crowds and times. (If you have somehow fooled yourself into thinking you are immune from this peccadillo, sleep well with your self-delusion.)

To TAIQ and others out there in our Anonymous Universe: all we’d really like -- but don’t by any means demand -- is some basic, simple, and yes ultimately still-anonymous way of identifying you that separates you ever so slightly from all those other anonymous people we don’t know.

We both sincerely hope you’ll have been intrigued or annoyed enough to return and share in future conversations!

* - This lack of care does not speak ill of Bob. It is the natural inclination of almost all of us to not care about the life details of people with whom we have no actual expected interactions in the near or far future. It’s tough enough for most of us to care about the life details of people we actually care about and work or live with, much less those we hardly know.


BeckEye said...

I don't really like anonymous commenters either, mainly because the majority of them choose to be anonymous so they can leave an insulting or obnoxious comment without having to worry about anyone calling them on it. While it's true that the Web offers everyone a certain amount of anonymity, if I leave someone a comment, it's linked to my user name, which can be traced back to my blog, so I can't run from a comment. If someone wants to hunt me down and give me a piece of their mind, they can.

Obviously, there are nice, normal commenters out there who just don't want to sign up for anything and, hence, they comment anonymously. Some will sign the comment with their name. But I don't get why someone (on Blogger, anyway) would leave an anonymous comment when they're given the option to pick ANY name without creating an account. And names, whether they're real or not, just make us feel better about dealing with people. If I met someone in "real life" who wouldn't tell me his/her real name, I'd be a little put off!

Daisy said...

I do think it is funny that someone trying to fly under the radar by calling themselves anonymous has granted so much attention. I completely agree with Billy that exposing
your true identity limits your ability to speak openly. Irrational though it may be there is a difference between a personae and simply anonymous. There is a familiarity and a continuity. When an anonymous comment is made it could be the same commenter from last week or a new person altogether. I don't know any of the other regular posters on this blog, but I feel like I do because I spend time with them (or at least their words) day after day and that gives me a sense of community and makes me feel like I am a part of the BOTG family. One big happy unidentifiable family.

Bob said...

Anonymous is not an identity. It could be anyone. On a single blogpost, it could be any number of anyones. Troutking is an identity, is always Troutking. Daisy is always Daisy. Beckeye is always Beckeye. Etc.

Whether or not we know these people personally, over time or through the links to their own blogs, we get a sense of who they are.

But is the Anonymous who loves the Avetts the same Anonymous who says you (Billy) don't know "fuck-all" about women? Is it the same Anonymous (me) who sometimes posts anonymously just try to get a conversation started? Heck, even I don't know.

troutking said...

Remember on Seinfeld when Elaine suggested to George's boyhood "friend" and Mayor Dinkins advisor Lloyd Braun that everyone in NYC should wear name tags so everyone would know everyone's name and it would be a friendly place and he suggested it to the Mayor and then everyone laughed at the idea and Dinkins lost the election to Giuliani because of the name-tag idea and the no-fat frozen yogurt scandal and then Giuliani couldn't stop talking about 9/11 and ran a horrible campaign for the Republican presidential nomination? I'm just sayin'.

Amy | She Wears Many Hats said...

At least leave a number ... Anonymous1, Anonymous2 ... kinda like Thing 1 and Thing 2. Sorta.

Or why not Sue? Sue is a nice enough name.

FatTire said...

I read this post and wondered...Did you consider your anonymity whilst posing for such an accurate portrait of the two of you...which is now so predominantly displayed on BOTG (and likely in countless Senior Weekly magazines across the good ol' US of A)?

Billy said...

@Amy - Thanks for coming back! I daresay even adding a number, which would take the slightest modicum of self-conscious decision-making, would add some level of comfort to the experience.

@FatTire - I'm the younger dapper-looking chap on the right. Bob's that old happy fart. He's really short. But we both have impeccable taste in blazers and brews. (Well, this is how we will look in about 25 years, good Lord willin'.)

cinderkeys said...

An identifier is nice. I like knowing whether the Anonymous who posted to my blog today was the same Anonymous who posted two weeks ago.

But then, I'm so happy to get any comments on my blog that I'm not going to give anyone a hard time over it. And my Anons tend to be people with chronic diseases that other people have laughed at. I don't begrudge them their desire not to be identified.

Daisy said...

Am I the only one disappointed that TAIQ has not reemerged?

Thom Anon said...

According to Yale, Anon was a woman.


Bob said...

Since I'm feeling ironic today, I do find it kind of funny that the very "Anonymous" for whom Billy crafted this entire post stiffed him, didn't comment on it, and probably didn't even read it. While we prattle on about the pros and cons of anonymity.

Thom Anon said...

Prattle for yourself, Bob.