Anonymous Sometimes

Published by realitybites in the blog realitybites's blog. Views: 1741

My can things change in two and a half years. With new information, our paradigms may shift.

In August 2011, I wrote a bog entry titled The Filter Bubble. It has been read by posters here and at least one person has used it as ammunition in an argument. In other words, thrown it back in my face, if I was ever critical of anonymous posting. Seemed that my little polemic had locked me into a position. So now, today, I am rectifying my position—reaffirming how I feel about anonymous posting in general but also clarifying a few details I left out of my first piece. Because I was not privy to certain nuances back then. First let me share what I originally stated.

Here is my thesis statement from that piece:

Those who call for anonymous posting to be disallowed and for more regulation of content posted to the Morrissey-solo main page and general forums are not only demanding censorship of free speech, they are advocating for a filter bubble to protect themselves, Morrissey, and the rest of us from information and opinions that don’t fit their world views. ​

The filter bubble and censorship that I described were in regards to Morrissey, not the lives, personal details, and characteristics of the posters themselves. I was not actively posting in the forums—especially not in Off-topic. I was writing from the position of a casual user, not an active one involved in the inter-dynamics of a community.

If Morrissey-Solo had a filter bubble, we would all be under the illusion that Morrissey was beyond reproach—that his remarks in the press were deemed acceptable and are mirrored by his entire online fan base. We would be under the impression that all his music was brilliant and that his band could do no wrong. We wouldn’t be privy to dissent. This isn’t just censorship of negative news and commentary, it is altering reality. And this alternate reality isn’t a good thing for any of us—including Morrissey himself.​

I believed then, and still do, that censorship of unpopular and/or controversial opinions results in group think and an inaccurate portrait of a fan base. Portrait, as in, what can be seen from the outside. What is visible to the public. What a causal visitor to the site would witness if glancing over the forums.

Only seeing compliments and news items that depict Morrissey and his music in a positive light would paint an inaccurate picture of his fan base. Morrissey’s fans are not completely comprised of docile bodies and sycophants. We are a diverse group with a wide variety of tastes, opinions, beliefs, and worldviews. We are not a homogenous group—though we sometimes like to think we are.​

And my closing statement:

Criticism is not just coming from trolls who wish to harm for harm’s sake. Many comments are made by long-term fans who are genuinely concerned about the direction Moz is taking his music and or his recent actions and statements. Criticism can be unsettling. But this can be good. It unsettles us—stirs up the sediment and knocks us out of our comfort zones.​

Why did I write this back then and what exactly did I mean? And Do I still feel this way?

I wrote this at a time when I was not a regular user of this site. I was a news reader, in other words. I was not a regular poster involved in the 'community.' I recognized fewer than five names—people who were posters from before 2006, such as Uncleskinny and Robby.

Then, somewhat regrettably in retrospect, I began posting here again—and a lot. I became a central part of this community. A regular. And there are a few dozen or more of us. We all have user names, individual personalities, histories, likes, preferences, opinions, world views. Some of us have blogs. Some of us are friends off site with one another as well.

This is where the rules of unfiltered anonymous posting can be problematic. One occasional insult posted anonymously is rarely harmful or significant to the community. But if a regular—one who is privy to the characters and dynamics of the community—abuses this privileged information and is allowed to systematically harass another poster, this is harassment and violates the TOS. This type of anonymous posting is harmful. It is not done by a lurker, or a fly-by-night poster who does not wish to join the community, or by a regular making an occasional post anonymously out of fear because s/he is saying something controversial, or a regular who is too lazy or unable to login. No, it is done with the intent to HARM, TROLL, and DISRUPT. And that is what is does—exactly. It disrupts the community in a negative way. It causes paranoia and mistrust among the members.

Some might say this is good. It prevents alliances from cementing and discourages group think. This may be good for an organization—this type of underhanded scheming and insulting and character assassination. But a more intimate type of a community, such as this one, functions more like a family—not some cold, people are just numbers, institution. These are living, breathing individuals with real feelings and real lives. People get hurt. People can hurt others in real, tangible ways.

Anonymous posting in intimate forms with regular users who act as a part of a community—a family—should be moderated. Don't call it censorship, call it mediation. We have parents, counselors, and mediators for these things in real life. We have moderators for these things on forums. Moderation is needed and welcomed on Solo.

Want anonymous posting without moderation? Then have an anonymous forum where everybody is anonymous—no registered users or avatars. That may work and be a great concept. I may try to check out one of these places and see what I make of it. Will report back with my opinion in this blog entry, if I do.

But it is too late here. Morrissey-Solo has registered members. It is not an anonymous forum. So it is half-assed at moderation and half-assed at free speech. It is trying to be all things and can't make up its mind. Sadly, it is in a state of crisis as a result.
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