I have no business writing this post this week (the last of the semester) in light of what’s due the next few days, but recent comments would seem to merit an effort. My thoughts here run along the lines of owning one’s influence, whether in the blogosphere, or just in life in general.
One of my professors is Dr. Michael Williams, a high school drop-out turned Marine turned Harvard Divinity School graduate (it’s a long story). One of the things I most appreciate about Dr. Williams is his emphasis on granting full disclosure in the midst of discourse – verbal or written, theological or personal – so there is no question as to where each party is coming from in the course of a discussion or debate. I couldn’t agree more with this principle.
One application for me personally is that I never fill out an evaluation (whether it be about a hotel, restaurant, or person) without signing my name and providing my contact information for future reference, even if the option for anonymity is given. Even if the feedback is not particularly positive, it’s important that my name is on it as having said so. Why? Because doing otherwise wouldn’t be owning my influence; it would just be target practice.
Whether in real life or (especially) on a blog, mean anonymity is the enemy of meaningful interaction. Why? Because anonymity tends to keep us from owning the influence of what we say to one another, which violates the whole concept of what a blog (or at least this one) is and should be used for. It also usually dulls our senses in recognizing that there is an actual human person behind the screen name trying to take in what we are saying. This isn’t an issue of blogger etiquette; this is an issue of human respect.
Despite the potential for increasing the world’s connectivity/relational quotient, it’s easy to hide behind technology and not take responsibility for who we are and how we relate to others using it. This is why cyber-community will never replace the Church; dealing with people in a Matthew 18 kind of way requires both parties to own their influence and relate personally, not anonymously. It also sets as the goal of conflict resolution real heart-felt reconciliation, not sterile debate for the sake of sterile debate.
Anonymity is only good when giving; it is not helpful when criticizing. Fuller disclosure (say, who we are and what drives our passion for what we’re trying to say) equals fuller discourse for the rest of us who might actually take time to read and contribute to the conversation.
I don’t moderate comments on Second Drafts, but I won’t allow a redundancy of cowardice, either. If anyone has something to say, you’re welcome to say it here, but give us the courtesy of knowing you a bit and where you’re coming from on an issue (or at least offering real answers if/when we have questions), particularly if you’re making statements that are more passionate opinions than documented facts.
We now return to our regularly scheduled program.