Once the world’s information was put into context, we looked beyond the keyboard, and collectively shifted to people. We focused on social context by asking questions like: Who are you? How are we connected? What is on your mind? What matters to you?
Making the Internet more social enabled people to share their real name, likeness, voice, and the things that they are connected to. Now we always have an understanding of who is talking, who and what they are connected to, what they are saying, and to whom; through understanding identity and social context we have achieved greater openness as a society.
Internet Entrepreneur; Co-Inventor, Facebook Platform and Facebook Connect
In “Context Is King“
Two of the last three posts on this blog got conversations going on steroids. In both instances the genesis of the overdrive is a commenter that appears under the username DarthMed. Surprisingly, DarthMed is the ONLY commenter in both conversations who didn’t offer a link to a website where we can understand a bit about his/her background and expertise. This is an immediate red flag in my world. Anonymous comments in blogs are IMO not acceptable. As Jaron Lanier writes in his latest book, “You are not a gadget”:
“Anonymous blog comments, vapid video pranks and lightweight mashups may seem trivial and harmless, but, as a whole, this widespread practice of fragmentary, impersonal communication has demeaned personal interaction.”
One of the points I make most often about ACOR success in promoting high level conversations is that we do not tolerate anonymous conversations. When you discuss issues that often have life and death implications you must use your real name. That is a pre-requisite for trust.
In the case of DarthMed, this anonymous avatar has made all kinds of strong statements, usually interspersed with numbers used as sledgehammers, making it appear that the comments are based on uncontrovertible facts. Just look at these 2 examples: “…the remaining 95% of “patients” out there are not motivated to become informed…”, “Why spend $10M setting up a online support group for 1,000 active patients around the country, when with that money we could fund 10,000 regional support groups (touching, say, 100,000 patients) where people could actually chat with each other, share drinks and actually exist in the same space.”
Yannick Medou DarthMed, come clean, please. Who are you and why do you have expertise to make these broad statements? I’d love to comment back on what you wrote but will only do so when you present yourself as a real human being. Until I know who you really are, you will just appear as a vaguely disguised Sarah Palin.
For what it’s worth, I don’t mind responsible, non-flaming anonymous comments.
For years one of Paul Levy’s best commenters has simply signed him/herself “nonlocal MD.” S/he is a well respected member of the community.
To me the issue is whether a person (a) is responsible and non-flaming, (b) is open and responsive to questioning, (c) contributes to the dialog rather than just messing things up and skedaddling.
I haven’t agreed with everything Darth has said but I think the conversation is much better for it. The comments have been provocative in a good way: thought-provoking.
No, I don’t think that the conversation is better when it starts with a strong statement like ‘…The remaining 95% of “patients” out there are not motivated to become informed” a statement made without any supporting evidence.
Yes, it generates an intense conversation but conversations about the healthcare system and the necessary changes to bring to the system must be based on well thought out and researched evidence or large number of anecdotal evidence points. I haven’t seen anything of that nature to support the varied DarthMed contentions.
I’m with you, Dave. While I’m not keen on anonymous commentators, I’ll respond when there’s an obvious attempt to engage in conversation. My personal policy on this has evolved thanks to working with and around groups where anonymity is essential to sustain effectiveness.
I ignore folks who are in it for the flame-bouency.
I agree with you, Gilles, and with Meredith and Dave, too!
I’m willing to tolerate the occasional anonymous comment, but the absolute worst behavior I have ever seen in blog post comments are from people who refuse to identify themselves.
I have not been following this particular person’s commentary, but from my past experience on The Health Care Blog, if bad behavior (non-constructive dialog) escalates, it is best to simply ignore that person. I’ve given anonymous people a chance, but there’s that one person in a million with whom it simply does not make sense to engage in dialog.
Perhaps one of the reasons anonymity is so embraced online is that because it has opened up the world of communication of so many who otherwise would not have had a voice.
I know from personal experience that if it weren’t for the option of anonymity online, hundreds — if not thousands — of people would not feel comfortable in sharing their own personal mental health conditions and experiences. Conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia that have long been stigmatized by others — and still are — can be embarrassing and difficult to talk about. There is still the sense that it is “my fault” for having it. Pseudonymity was one of the keys to opening up these conversations back in the early 1990s.
Perhaps that’s on purpose, as this country was founded on the ability for free people to speak their minds on important issues in an anonymous manner. The Internet — and its anonymity — is a valid extension of that freedom.
And it’s one we do not have any rules or prohibitions against on this blog.
I believe you are mixing apples and oranges here. This is not an online community for people in need to communicate about a hard topic, one where society has built stigmatization. On the contrary, this blog is a pulpit where people make public pronouncements meant to be read publicly by an audience as wide as possible.
Just as I am a very strong proponent of full transparency in the peer-review process, with all names made public, so I am a strong proponent of full transparency in this public conversation. I am particularly interested to know the level of expertise of “DarthMed” about the topics he/she discusses. I know you have built PyschCentral, you know I have built ACOR. We have a frame of reference about what each one says and react accordingly. You know nothing about DarthMed and AFAIC (s)he could be just a troll.
Saying that 95% of people don’t care about self-help is not neutral. It’s either an exaggeration or a fact. I need to know which one it is.
For what it’s worth, my 2c (based only on my own experience) is that a blog community is a place for discussions, and all I personally care about is whether someone is contributing to / enriching the discussions.
If someone’s contributing, I don’t care whether they identify themselves. If someone’s not, or if they’re rude or seem to like destructive things like starting arguments, I don’t care whether they identify themselves.
Bottom line, I like it when conversations expand and move forward. [shrug…]
This really is a fascinating conversation with no easy answers. I definitely see both sides. I have previously written about my own struggles with depression anonymously because of the very real stigma John points out.
There is yet another aspect of anonymity. Ever wonder why nurses are so quiet on health care debates? Did you know there is a ‘subculture’ of anonymous nurse blogs? Check out this NYT article.
Beyond these types of situations, I agree with Dave that the primary criteria for deciding how to deal with anonymous comments is to determine whether they are contributing to (or contaminating) the dialog.
We cannot control what happens, but we can choose how we respond to it. Sometimes that involves a shrug and walking away from the conversation.
Regarding nurse anonymity, there’s a *nasty* story in yesterday’s Times about a nurse who whistle-blew an incompetent doctor (repeated incidence of harm) and is now facing criminal prosecution. The details are chilling.
In Texas, no surprise, where the #1 rule often seems to be “those in power get to call whatever shots they want”…
My vision is a world where the priority is good care for people who need it.
Dude, that’s the same link I supplied in my comment! :0)
Hi, I’m new to this site and I think it’s great. Just wanted to add my two cents on this topic, as I’ve given it some thought regarding my own policy towards anonymous commenters. I started having a lot of them when I started writing about a quack chiropractor who said he had a cure for Fibromyalgia. So anyway, here’s my policy:
“Although I am frequently annoyed by complaints that are posted anonymously, I respect the presumptively protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution right to anonymous speech. (See “Is anonymous speech a right?” – http://chillingeffects.org/johndoe/faq.cgi#QID18, The Chilling Effects Clearinghouse.) Therefore I allow anonymous comments as long as they have, in my opinion, some intrinsic value.”
I just can’t imagine a world where people weren’t allowed to embrace anonymity in order to speak their mind without fear of recrimination or otherwise.
Sure, it’s nice to know who you’re speaking to, and what their motives may be. But it’s not necessary, because arguments should stand on their own intellectual and rational motives.
You learn in philosophy 101 and reasoning that there’s a reason there’s a set of logical fallacies, and that one of them is ad hominem attacks. An argument should be able to stand on its own, without knowing who’s making it. If it cannot, then the argument doesn’t have much of a foundation (and therefore, there’s little to fear).
I run an online community, it’s not about a stigmatizing topic, yet we encourage anonymity and usually contact new registrants to help them change their usernames if they want to do so.
The issue at hand here is credibility. Whether someone is anonymous or not, each person should be citing sources to back up any claims made.
Ten years on, I want to update the topic of nurse Anne Mitchell, who was being prosecuted for (appropriately) reporting the incompetence of Dr. Roland Arafiles.
Whistle-Blowing Nurse Is Acquitted in Texas https://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/07/us/07nurses.html
Wikipedia: Winkler County nurse whistleblower case
WOW look at the outcomes in the “Aftermath” section – neither of the nurses who filed the complaints could fine work again, but they won $750k in a civil suit, and the defenders of the offending doc all had consequences: the crooked county sheriff (friend of the doc), the prosecutor (who was also the doc’s personal attorney) was convicted and resigned from the bar to avoid criminal prosecution.
Dirty dirty – and oh, the perils of speaking up in a small town. (The two nurses who submitted the anonymous complaint were easily discovered due to the small number of possible candidates.)