Is anonymity a good thing?

Recent events amongst friends has prompted me to think about the concept of being "anonymous." Since the inception of the internet, one of it's biggest consumer selling points has been the ability to participate without a name. Chat rooms and email aliases were the begining - but now we are progressing onto blogs.

In thinking about the POSITIVE attributes of anonymity online - I can truthfully only think of a few:
  • Combat shady marketers from gathering your name and other personal info without permission
  • Minor "piece of mind" that a belief or thought today does not become a documented regret in the future.
In terms of NEGATIVE attributes, there seem to be a bit more powerful points that tip the scale for me:
  • Promotes over-aggresive expression without consequences
  • Promotes mis-representation (think old man in teen chat room)
  • Birth of SPAM (Consider the recent post in Seth Godin's blog (a marketing guru who writes books, etc).
All in all - I'm pretty against anonymity online. If you believe in something - stand by it. Do not give cowards a mechanism to hide.


Anonymous said...

You points are valid, but I think your conclusion is a little bit too sweeping. I post anonymously on my blog not because of cowardice, or as a mechanism to hide, but rather so that I don't get fired from my job for some of the things that I say. In order to express myself completely, I need the protection of anonymity so as to ensure that I can maintain my livelihood. In this respect, anonymity is like a warm blanket. In many respects, anonymity has led to the derogation of our society, true. But for me via my blog, anonymity has provided me with the means and ability to express myself while avoiding the risk of losing my job.

BG said...

I guess the better question is why would you get fired from your job for expressing yourself freely. You don't have to be a lawyer to know the first amendment allows for "Freedom of Speech."

Scared of work people knowing the "real you" sounds like a coward to me. (Not saying I blame you - just calling a (David) Spade a (Kate) Spade.

Anonymous said...

But apparently you DO have to be a lawyer to know that the law which allows for free speech--the 1st amendment--only applies to the government, and not to private companies. In other words, while it is illegal for the government to impede upon a citizen's right to expression, a corporation is not so bound. A corporation which employs its employee's "at will"--probably close to 100% of companies (I'm an "at will" employee, you're an "at will employee)--can fire employees for whatever reason, or no reason at all. You can say "hello" the wrong way, and they can fire you, without repercussion, save for a wrongful termination suit. The point is, there is no freedom of speech when it comes to the private sector. It is essentially expressly disallowed. My company, like yours, has the right to limit my expression, as well as the right to terminate me should I choose to ignore those limitations. Perhaps my company is more likely than others to enforce their right to terminate me because of the field I am in, but that's the truth of it. The 1st amendment doesn't apply to anyone else but the government, which means that everyone else CAN restrict your right to speech.

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