You probably know what I'm talking about. If you know me or read my blog, you know I write a column for the Daily Camera, our local newspaper here in Boulder. (Yes, we still have one!) The online version of the paper, like many, allows readers to comment.
But most of the commenters use fake names. Most of them specialize in the clever put-down, the snide remark, the single-issue rant. Many like to push right to the edge of what is socially acceptable. If they go over the edge, no big deal. When they get banned from the site they can just create a new login with a new fake name. But you always recognize them, because it is the same style, the same rant, the same misspellings.
If you don't use your real name, you can't be held responsible for what you say.
Recently, there was a story in the Camera about one of these unsocial types. It seems this nameless person had infiltrated a Facebook group page, using the name of one of the city council candidates, and had been making rude comments about other candidates and commenters.
Well, the perp was banned from the group and his account was removed from Facebook. You'd think the story would end there. It didn't.
The person who created the Facebook page entered a comment on the Camera online story. Anonymously. Satisfied that the problem had been resolved, because the impersonator had been removed. And urging people to join the group (but using their real names) to discuss local politics.
I was, of course, curious. I like to talk about local politics and I have a Facebook account, so I quickly became a fan of this group.
If you are familiar with Facebook, then you know that their usage policy requires every account to be associated with a real person and to use that real person's name. So it was surprising to me that several of the commenters were using obvious pseudonyms. In fact, the organizer of the group was using his pseudonym to make comments on the page as well. There was no clue as to who the organizer was.
The comments were generally negative insinuating comments about certain council members/candidates. These people were using social media to make anonymous attacks on public figures. They were telling people it was in the spirit of public debate, but obviously they had an agenda.
As a fan of the page, I had the ability to post comments as well, so I started asking questions. Questions like, "Who are you?". And, "What is your source?".
It was not very long before I got de-fanned from the group and my comments deleted. So much for this group being formed for open political debate!
On the Internet, nobody knows you are a dog. But they sure as hell can tell if you are a jerk!
(Anonymous comments are welcome here, but comments with real names are even more welcome.)