What You Say and Do When Anonymous

The Mark of Who You Are: What You Say and Do When Anonymous

Have you had the occasion to read the comments of readers on various news web sites? I’m a regular reader and sometimes contributor to the Houston Chronicle site (www.chron.com). I must admit, however, I have been seriously considering staying out of the comments sections. I’m in absolute amazement what is often put there as comments.

Here are a few things I’ve gathered from comments by people.

1. There is little belief in “innocent until proven guilty.” A news report talks about what someone is purported to say and do and those commenting are ready to convict.

2. Many commenting believe people should immediately be killed for something they are accused of. It doesn’t matter if someone that person is alleged to have murdered someone or stolen from someone.

3. There is an aversion to the facts. One person will post a link to a particular fact and others will say “thumbs down.” I don’t know if the “thumbs down” folks are saying they doubt the fact or if they disagree with it. Facts are facts. How people use them is another matter entirely.

4. Most people use generalizations: “all liberals,” “all conservatives,” etc.

5. There are many “shoot from the hip” responses. These appear to have little thought given to what is written.

6. Many people comment without reading the entire story. Now, I must admit, this may not be true. Sometimes more facts are added later in the day but the comments to the original story remain. It appears someone is commenting on one story when, in fact, they were commenting on an earlier story with less detail.

7. Many people show little desire or ability to examine a situation from various perspectives. By this I mean, many have difficulty in “walking in another’s shoes.” This usually happens when there is a tragic accident such as a mother backing over her child and killing her little one. Certain individuals immediately blame the mother without realizing, “There but the grace of God go I.” Mom is already blaming herself and will do so the rest of her life.

8. There are a lot of really mean people out there. These folks don’t care who they hurt by their words.

9. There is a stark division of beliefs with a great deal of black and white thinking. Many believe you are either conservative or liberal. These folks would probably be befuddled by someone like myself who has some beliefs which are considered liberal and others considered conservative.

10. There are a number of people who appear to believe that if you don’t agree with them then you don’t deserve anything but bad things.

11. A number of people believe that a cogent argument consists of name calling.

I could write more, but these are the major things I notice. Sometimes I attempt to respond to the comments with something rationale. There are other times, much to my chagrin, when I am tempted to respond in a hostile way that I would not respond if we were talking face to face.

Anonymity often brings out the baser qualities in humans.

I read an interview with a man who talked about his comments to news stories. He said he has been banned by the Houston Chronicle for his opinions. He would not allow his name to be published because he says things on-line he’d never say publicly. He said he might be fired for his comments.

I wonder why we humans do this. Do we hold so much anger within us that, in situations where no one knows who we are, we vomit it out upon everyone? Is there something about the power of words to hurt that we enjoy that power without realizing what effect it has on others?

I don’t have the answers. It would be a fascinating research study into human nature. Perhaps it’s all about power. I just don’t know.

I have learned that I, also, have the tendency to write things I would ordinarily not say. I haven’t been happy with that revelation about myself. I work to examine my thoughts and how I express them since I’ve become aware of that side of me.

I want to be an instrument for good rather than ill. Sometimes my human frailties interfere with that desire. I have to catch myself. When I do, I realize my reactions are due to my own wounds. I discover an area in need of healing and then use the tools I have to heal that area.

From the comments on various on-line sites, I would hazard to guess we are all in need of deep healing.