Years ago when I was a local news anchor, I used to dread Thursday morning. See, that was the day the receptionist would transcribe and post all the voicemail messages from viewers.
The comments would be about anything you could possibly think of; ranging from a compliment on a suit or that you had hair out of place to the bizarre ones who claimed to know that you were speaking to them and only them! I never fully understood the reason behind posting these comments and once, after being raked over the coals by a viewer, a senior anchor put it all into perspective. He told me, “Look, kid, opinions are like assholes; everyone has one and we don’t necessarily want to hear about yours.” It was funny because it was true; everyone DOES have an opinion (and an a**hole) and if you’re gonna play in the big, wide world that is the Internet, you’d better be prepared to take a few shots.
Those years in local news prepared me well for what to expect in what I’m doing now. It takes guts to put yourself out there; to write about your life, your opinions, your personal philosophy and the things you stand for. I’m not patting myself on the back, merely stating fact.
However, the fragmentation of media means you can build a following of like-minded individuals but along with them will be those who violently disagree. Honestly, that part doesn’t bother me; I make it a point to ask for healthy and respectful debate. But it’s the anonymous commenters, the ones who exhibit a lack of internet etiquette that is especially distasteful to me. Earlier in the week a complete stranger Tweeted that I had a fat ass! And you may have seen the potshots aimed at our own Rachel Vidoni recently. We’re not alone here at Good Enough Mother – anyone in the online finds themselves the target of similar comments.
I find it quite frustrating – and here are five reasons why!
* IT’S COWARDLY: This of course, goes without saying. Why, if you believe strongly in something, wouldn’t you stand behind it by leaving your name? Of course, someone could make up a name, as was pointed out recently but that speaks to a whole different issue.
* YOUR OPINIONS CAN’T BE CHALLENGED: I have strong opinions and people who follow me know that. But they also know I never claimed to have all the answers and as such, I’m open to debate. Anonymous comments are like hit and runs; all that’s left behind is twisted metal, smoke and carnage.
* IT’S A MISSED OPPORTUNITY: Respectful debate, with healthy give and take, is an opportunity to educate. But when someone leaves comments under assumed names (as was the case here) they’re missing a chance to communicate, share and have everyone be better for it. It’s a shame and doesn’t move the discussion forward.
*ANONYMITY BREEDS DISRESPECT: Back to the posted phone comments at the TV station for a minute. The ones that were the most evil and cruel were by those who didn’t leave their name. Nothing was off limits; your hair, your eye shadow, the fact that you’ve gained a bit of weight. Even the things about your appearance you had no control over were fair game. Being anonymous allows people to leave their home training at the door. They say whatever they want and not for sake of debate. They’re trying to draw blood by being hateful and hurtful. It’s unnecessary, shows a lack of manners and is gross.
* IT SPEAKS VOLUMES ABOUT YOUR CHARACTER: I don’t need to add anything to this do I? What kind of person throws a stone and then hides their hand behind their back? A coward, that’s who.
I guess the reason this is so annoying to me, especially here at goodenoughmother.com is that we try to foster an environment where diversity of opinion is not just tolerated but welcome. I put myself out there several times a day and frankly wouldn’t want everyone to agree with me. After all, what fun would that be?
But what about you? How do you feel about “keyboard courage” and internet etiquette in general? Do you think there’s a real lack of manners and courtesy online?