Independent Thinking Blog

The Problem with Anonymity

I’ve been trying to figure out what troubles me so much about fans in their home stadiums-arenas-ballparks screaming that a player is worthless (or worse) and reigning down boos. Maybe the athlete punted the ball badly, kicked an own-goal, or dropped a catch.

Cue the nastiness.

Really? That’s our response?

Sure, it’s boorish. And uncivilized. Worse though, it’s behavior most people would not engage in face-to-face. Otherwise our workplaces would be really dark spaces. Our commutes even more brutal. Our friendships frayed. Because bad days happen.

This happens a lot online.

There’s a lot of perceived anonymity with social media. Like booing in a stadium, it’s quick and easy–and the object of your wrath is often someone with whom you have no personal connection.

I’m not talking about calling out brands.

Feel free to rail at that grocery store, airline, or cable company all you want.

Businesses build strategies to manage the negativity. We create response protocols that identify whether to respond, when to respond, and who should take the lead. We define what channels to use and the best way to take a conversation offline.

People are not brands.

We shouldn’t need response protocols.

So why do so many people use perceived anonymity to write nasty things and post mean tweets?

Late night TV host Jimmy Kimmel has done a terrific series of celebrities reading mean tweets. They’re very well done, but they have a network-television + polished-big-star-reading-into-the-camera feel.

This does not.

Joe Nathan has had his share of bad days this year (and his share of boos reigning down on him). He’s called out his anonymous critics. And the other day he stood in front of his locker and read mean tweets.

It’s different up close, isn’t it?


Photo by Dev Null (Flickr).

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