This comment came by email from a reader named Scott Wolf today…
Hi there, I wanted to know if you have thought about requiring posters to have real names (or let posters see who is really posting).
I’ve actually thought about it a lot. And so have many of the other Village 14 bloggers and readers. And I was thinking about it yesterday when I read Ty Burr’s column “Offering some comments on commenting” in Sunday’s Boston Globe. You should read the whole thing, but here’s an excerpt…
….I and many of my colleagues don’t consider the Globe commenterati — those posters who regularly express themselves on multiple articles — to be representative of the average reader. Rather, they’re representative of a specific subtype of reader, one who wants or needs to be heard. They may be compelled by a genuine interest in discussion or a desire to share thoughts or knowledge — or sometimes resentment, loneliness, a need to amuse the troops, or sheer boredom. In the worst-case scenarios, they can seek to overwhelm the conversation and drive more moderate voices away.
…and this a little later:
The real issue is anonymity …anonymity in the context of digital speech — in every variety of social media, as 25 years of the Internet have taught us — enables a great deal of ugliness and bullying. It can let loose the demons of the id, because it’s people being held to account for the things they say that allows us to live together peaceably and civilization to even function. Yet there’s a double-bind here: Identifying oneself online, especially in the case of women commenters, could potentially open the door to harassment in real life. There’s no easy answer.
Anonymous comments, as Burr points out, can have value when someone who might otherwise feel marginalized or attacked or can’t comment for work or other reasons. We also have some extraordinary participants here who choose to be anonymous; Fignewtonville being my favorite example. You may have yours.
But it seems — and this is certainly true on Village 14 — there are some mean anonymous participants here who would never write the things they write if they were using their real name.
And it’s likely going to get worse as we head into our fall city elections — a time when tensions and commenting here always gets heated — and with several development projects and zoning now before the city council.
Is it time for Village 14 to switch to real name comments only? I’m on the fence. But I’m looking forward to hearing from you, with or without your real name.