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Challenge: let's have a healthy debate without the cloak of anonymity

Original post made by Danielle Laursen on Nov 20, 2013

In my opinion, one of the most dangerous sites that preteens/teens are on now is ask.fm because anyone can post anonymous questions. So far, it has allegedly contributed to at least 4 teens committing suicide from cyber-bullying. I have read unbelievably shocking posts on a number of PA teen pages. Everyone that I talk to about this seems horrified as we all seem to see it as a recipe for disaster - allowing kids to post anonymous questions in a public forum to each other - no way!

While we all seem to recognize this when it comes to our kids, why do we allow it on here? As I read the many comments posted on this site, I believe that the anonymous commenting feature emboldens adults to behave in ways that they likely would not if their name was attached to their comments. Let's set an example for our children. Let's challenge ourselves to use your own names and write comments on this site that we are proud to have our name attached to. We can still have interesting exchanges but do so in a respectful way without the shield of anonymity. Debate is healthy and wonderful and enriching, but it should not be personal and accusatory. This site should not always be filled with "[portion removed]" notations because a moderator has to remove offensive comments. We are grown ups and should be able to act - and discourse - accordingly.

Comments (4)

Posted by That's Entertainment, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 20, 2013 at 9:30 pm

Danielle, for me this is entertainment, not public debate. And certainly it is intented to be an example to your, my, or anybody's, kids. When my kids look over my shoulder to read posts here, I tell them "yep, I'm contributing my views to the wacko-sphere." Sometimes I have more serious views than others, but I don't expect that the other posters will adjust to suit my mood on a particular topic.

You seem easily shocked by what you see online. Maybe there is a more moderated community that would suit you better? I'm not suggesting you leave or change your views, but I don't think ask.fm or PAOnline posters are going to change their approach because someone was "horrified."


Posted by j doe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2013 at 9:45 pm

There are many good reasons for people to remain anonymous.

They may have an opinion on a controversial issue that differs from their social circle. They may wish to share a personal story without embarrassing their kids or having it come up every time someone googles their name for the next 20 years. They may not wish to be attacked personally by those on the far end of the wacko-sphere. Nothing seems to make people madder than being shown they are wrong. They may wish for their opinions in one sphere to be taken for what they are, rather than because of who they are. They may not want their opinions on one topic to be judged by their opinions in another. They may not want their political or social opinions to be the subject of water cooler gossip. Many of us guard our information online and would not feel free to express open opinions without the anonymity.



Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 21, 2013 at 12:04 am

> As I read the many comments posted on this site, I believe that the anonymous commenting feature emboldens adults to behave in ways that they likely would not if their name was attached to their comments.

I'd have to disagree with that. Some people, and it seems to me like more and more are really rude, obnoxious and arrogant. There are people here who I presume are using their real names that do not care what they say or how it affects others or the discussion. Anonymity is a good thing, a necessary thing.

The one time when anonymity is a must is talking about someone else. A while back someone's grandfather made a really nasty scandalous comment about his granddaughter, named by name, called lazy and basically good for nothing. The editors did not even catch this or do anything about it until I flagged it and raved about it for a while, and still they left the post in when it really had nothing to do with the subject.

There is entirely too much negativity that can happen, a public comment in a Town Square forum is basically political speech, and it should be out there for people to consider and talk about, but not for them to associate people good or bad with the ideas. This is the marketplace of ideas and no one should be forced to have to identify themselves, though it is a shame that so many people are uncivil.

I wonder where this started ... from people watching TV passively and yelling at it, or seeing this behavior modeled in the movies and getting laughs and approval?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2013 at 8:09 am

There is a big fallacy that anonymity and impolite, rude comments are the general mode. Unfortunately, if you read any of the facebook comments for any of the news stations, you will find plenty of rude and impolite comments from people who are not afraid to use their real name and photograph.

Just because I choose to remain anonymous, it does not mean I am not posting a thoughtful, respectful comment. Polite people can remain polite whether or not their identity is disclosed.

In this country, we have anonymous voting in our elections. The reason for this is that voters can vote without fear of retribution for the way they vote. Their vote is their honest opinion without comebacks.

Anonymous posting in Town Square is the same principle.


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