What is it about the internet that has most people concealing their identity? On most online forums, mail lists, blogs, etc. you have no idea who’s talking. Compared to conventional soapboxes (letters to the editor, watercooler, public meetings, etc.), this is a big change.
I guess folks are concerned about identity theft to a degree. But it’s likely more a case of scale. It’s hard to be anonymous in a village of 1,000 inhabitants, but it’s easy to disappear into the crowd in New York City. And most of the internet is more like NYC than Mayberry.
Nasty anonymous online behavior appears to be increasing and is getting more attention in the mainstream media. The AP and Washington Post had recent stories.
It’s no wonder… anonymity can breed antisocial behavior. Like wearing a mask in a crowd… fun to blow off some steam at Mardi Gras or a Halloween bash… but a little bizarre to keep your face covered year-round at work, on campus, around town. I guess it works for Batman… but he has his own issues.
The neighborhood forums hosted by Front Porch Forum are limited to residents only. And each message includes the writer’s full name, street, and email address. No masquerade… just straight shooting from the person next door and around the corner. Boorish behavior is largely kept in check by the same system that’s been in place since the dawn of humankind… act like a jerk toward the people around you and pay the social price.