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Keyboard Courage: Why People Will Say ANYTHING Online!


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 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?


  1. Amanda

    May 5, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    Yes I absolutely believe there is a lack of manners and courtesy online. I do not shy away from debates online….I am a very shy person in real life and I find it easier to “talk” on the Internet. That being said, I am always polite with my comments, I always take great care to point out that it is just my opinion, and I always leave my name or user handle.

  2. Irene

    May 5, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    Hmmm…I never thought about it like it was “keyboard courage” but more like “Keyboard cowardice”

    Rene, I think you are whispering in the eye of a hurricane. I have had this experience over the past 18 months of being a commentator online. ((I follow the Gosselin spin o rama and Kate-mates are a tough bunch) I took a step back a month or so ago and thought about this whole online community stuff and at the end of the week I decided that despite it all I would do it all again, with my name and being who I was raised to be…myself.

    As far as all the drive thru traffic that has come my way…all I can really say about it is I am still typing my thoughts with my name and somedays I think the drive bys must need medication to keep straight who they are for that day…I tried to figure out if there was a system to it Mon-grumpy, Tuesday-dopey….and so on. Ha!

    No really, I see people get bullied by adults all day long and in the end all I can say is. Great example to se to our youth. be who you are and say what you feel because those that mind don’t matter and those that matter don’t mind

    P.S. and if I ever get on anyone nerds just tell me…I am a big girl if you can’t do that then I probably wouldn’t wanna talk with you either.

  3. Irene

    May 5, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    p.s.s Dr Suess quote above in bold.

  4. Polly Kahl

    May 5, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    I moderate comments to keep the crazies out. All they do is stink up the place and they don’t even add anything intelligent to the conversation. Hard to understand what they are trying to accomplish, other than taking pleasure in putting others down. Pretty sad when you think about it, right?

  5. Gay Wakefield

    May 5, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    Unfortunately, there’s a real lack of manners and courtesy in general–not just online.

  6. Kendall

    May 5, 2011 at 11:56 pm

    Good article here. The cyber fortress of the internet gives courage to cowardly people suffering from a lack of class and common decency. I believe that most people see through the veil of cowardness.`

    People with anger and self-control issues will say anything because in Truth – They are weak. They use harmful words as an attempt to self-medicate the pain of NOT being happy with themselves. Unfortunately it gets done at the expense of others.

  7. Rachel

    May 6, 2011 at 6:49 am

    Besides being all the things you mention above Rene, (cowardly, disrespectful, etc) another thing that can make these comments so dangerous is the fact that the writer of the comment has no idea what baggage that person may be carrying around which could make them even more sensitive to the insult. Trish slammed my writing abilities and told me I’d be better off making cupcakes…which sounds harmless really, but how could she know that I’m already feeling like maybe I shouldn’t be a writer and wondering if I’m in the wrong career and feeling insecure about my abilities? Would that knowlege have made her less rude? Probably not. But just like the Phoebe Prince case illustrates (the teen who committed suicide after being bullied onlineand in texts), you never know how your comments are being stored in someone else’s mind. Healthy debates and differing opinions are one thing; but if you wouldn’t say it to that person’s face, you shouldn’t write it online. Even as an adult–when you know there are plenty of idiots out there–mean comments leave splinters. Thanks for the great post Rene! (And let me just say, you’re gorgeous from head to toe! and I’m including your ass in there even though I’ve never seen it.) 😉

  8. m.e. Johnson

    May 6, 2011 at 11:13 am

    Great topic. I’d say cowardice but also an underlying mean streak. People who write insulting/threatening letters even to a neighbor seldom sign their names.I think if they knew they wouldn’t be arrested, beat up, run out of town or fired. they would possibly act out.

    When I read a controversial article, I always read the threads. I feel I get a good read on how many gorillas have escaped the zoo. You want vitriol? Read the threads following any political article.

    All of you writers above me; really good points.

  9. Rene Syler

    May 6, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    @m.e. : When I read a controversial article, I always read the threads. I feel I get a good read on how many gorillas have escaped the zoo. HI-LARIOUS!

  10. David Chiles

    May 15, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    Keyboard courage is for cowards because they do not have the decency and respect to say anything nice or constructive. It’s bad netiquette.

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Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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