A universal truth about the Internet: a lot of discussion boards are powered by anonymous commenters. Another truth: more often than not, those comments are typically, though not always, incredibly offensive but not necessarily constructive which effectively makes He Who Posts It, an asshole. And while I have found that the most humbling and therefore educational moments have come in the wake of comments that have all but torn me apart, The New Yorker maintains a different stance on the trajectory of The Anonymous Commenter.
A story titled the “Psychology of Online Comments” ran yesterday on the New Yorker site, weighing the pros and cons of he and she who make up the infamous, defamed, impossible-to-get-away-from Anonymous Commenter.
Pros? That anonymity encourages participation and discussion. Cons? And I quote, “on the Internet, nobody knows you’re not a dog.”
There are some incredibly interesting points canvassed in the story, like that disabling discussion forums on sites might just move the conversation to a different forum (thus inferring, they won’t be stopped — but is that a bad thing?) or that it might hinder the reading experience. What I found most compelling, though, was a point about the way in which discussion boards on forums like Disqus operate, allowing commenters to vote up and down comments. According to The New Yorker, this makes discerning the dogs from the humans easier but then again, why couldn’t a bunch of dogs actualize one another with a mere click upward?