Anonymity & Identity

My Friends,

   Been doing a lot of facebook debating as of late.  I mean its one thing to write a blog and hope someone reads it, but if you comment on someone’s post I find it is more engaging; people are more willing to discuss things that they brought up in the first place by posting them.  I would like to think it is always a mutually respectful discussion, but sometimes things are misunderstood, or points aren’t made or someone gets frustrated, or someone makes a joke without putting LOL at the end and things devolve rather quickly.  This is an unfortunate limitation of text-based discussions.  
   Now, between the ongoing discussion I have been having with a friend of mine for over 3 weeks (it started when I implied stated outright that Obama and all other president’s were ineffectual), and the more recent thread I started on the FB group “Veterans Against Occupy Wall Street,” (I tried asking them why they were so against OWS and they accused me of trolling and then deleted the thread) I have spent quite a bit of time as of late elucidating on the ills of society as I see them.  What I didn’t take into account initially was that these comments posted on facebook would be visible to my friends.  People started making references to these discussions (positive and negative) and just today my friend posted this…
…on my wall, along with some choice words about how people viewed me.  Insofar as I let myself get caught up in arguments, he is right.  Arguments, even in person are about being right => winning.  However I maintain that there is still merit to discussions, or mutually respectful discourse.  And the great thing about facebook and other social media is that your rationalism or stupidity is there for everyone to see.  It forces you to choose your words a little more carefully because you never know who might be reading their news-feed and see that you were trolling some memorial page for a kid who died from leukemia.
If you troll this kid’s memorial page you are scum!! … never mind why I’m laughing

   I remember one time someone posted a link to a group for sexual abuse survivors.  I think it was called “Sexual Abuse Survivors.”  I saw this thread started by this middle-aged overweight female sexual abuse survivor and saw her attention-whoring about how she was a sexual-abuse survivor.  I made it clear in no uncertain terms that by posting all this about herself on an open forum she was making a great sacrificial lolcow out of herself, and that some troll could easily come and milk her for her delicious lulz.  
Lulz: Where’s Your Mustache?
My warning was interpreted as a troll and it became a bad scene real quick.  I aborted and when I returned to my home-page I saw that the news feed showed like five different posts about how I posted on the sexual abuse survivors group. 
   Bricks were shat.  I didn’t want people to think I was a sexual abuse survivor looking for support, but I especially didn’t want them thinking I was trolling the group.  And that’s probably how it would have looked too; after all I didn’t have to go there and point out their attention-whoring ways.  In fact, my advice was unsolicited and so I kind of looked like a jerk.  This incident made me very cognizant about which arguments were worth getting into on facebook, or at least made me realize that I could change the settings which notified people about where I was posting.  In that regard it helped me to see that if someone is sufficiently pathetic, you can always be in the wrong if you get caught pointing out how pathetic they are acting.  So don’t get caught.
   Then, at some point in time, I discovered 4chan.  Its simply a bunch of different image boards, the most popular one being the /b/ or “random” board which has no rules about posting except that you can’t post illegal things (child porn, how to get child porn, etc…) or else you get banned.  The great thing about 4chan is that posting is done primarily anonymously (although so-called “namefags” can elect to fill out the name field) so the rules you might adhere to on facebook go out the window.  No sexual abuse survivor or leukemia baby is safe.  No pun intended.
   In spite of what you may be thinking, this is actually a good thing.  Not the leukemia trolling specifically but the consequence-free anonymity which enables it.  Sure you can see the ugly side of people but barriers are also torn down.  I guarantee I have been more honest on 4chan on average than I  am in daily life because I know it will never be pinned on me.  The bullshit goes out the window and you see that people, although they have a definite sadistic streak for those who have it coming, are really deeply feeling and fucking hilarious when they don’t have to worry about people poking fun at them personally.  Sure someone may tell you to GTFO or call you a fag, but they’re not calling you a fag, they’re calling anonymous a fag, so they are calling themselves a fag(s).
   Now one April fool’s day a few years back, 4chan’s administrator added a new field to the the established submission field.  It was called “Facebook Connect” and it had a little box to check that would post your 4chan submission (pic & comment) on facebook.  The lulziest part was that the box was checked by default, so if people didn’t notice it was there, then whatever invective, vitriol, faggotry, goatse, heart-warming or noble thing they were posting on 4chan, got posted to their facebook wall.  
   Shit was hilarious.  All of a sudden threads popped up with people submitting screen-caps of their FB profiles with the offensive post displayed, talking about how all of their friends now knew what a racist, sexist, Islamophobe they were and how their lives were ruined.  Thankfully, the admin took it down but it hammered home the point about how your anonymous life and your internets persona but be kept separate and distinct.
   Now you might think, “Good, it taught those guys a lesson.  There shouldn’t be anonymity.  Then people will just behave poorly with impunity.”  I think you would be wrong in this line of thinking; anonymity is the one way we can get away from the pressures of maintaining an internet persona.  You don’t have to post a picture of yourself flexing your muscles, or partying with friends or dressed up nice with the right lighting because no one cares, no one is judging.  Its actually kind of a relief.  
   But its not one or the other: Just as anonymity allows a certain freedom of expression, the accountability which comes with a posting on FB or Twitter is also important because it teaches people what is acceptable in the context of internetting.  For example, anonymity may allow you to express creativity and vulnerability, but it won’t teach you to rebut a differing opinion with anything more than “OP is a fag!,” or “GTFO faggot!”  Likewise, you may learn what is socially acceptable on social networking sites but I find they don’t afford much inspiration or lulz.
  We want an identity but we want anonymity as well.  There is nothing pretentious about the former and nothing cowardly about the latter.  And since I continue to post actively as both myself and anonymous, I have to remember to keep my fb discussions civil or risk becoming a Special Olympics gold-medalist.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo
   
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