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Honesty and Respect on the Internet

March 18, 2009

Taking a break from documentation of my work, I wanted to talk a little bit about some of the thoughts that came to mind while reading an article over at design observer.  I’d recommend taking a look at it, there are lots of interesting perspectives and arguments both for and against using pseudonyms for publishing on the internet.  I respect other opinions and encourage you to post them, but I’m going to talk about my reaction to some of these thoughts and ideas.

The internet is flooded in comments about useless arguments, the result of boredom, anonymity, and lack of respect.  It’s interesting how differently people can act behind a digital front.  When browsing sites like YouTube and, you come across an ocean of useless discussion – comments about personal feelings towards authors, arguments, unrelated bits of apparent stream of consciousness, and so on.  Discussion may regard the video or publication at first, but it then almost always goes off on some tangent that has nothing to do with the original publication.  With these types of discussions becoming the norm, I often feel dissuaded from responding to what I saw/read, or even reading any ongoing discussion that should be thoughtful and engaging about the topic.

Steven Heller’s post got me thinking a lot about something that I often overlook and accept as commonplace.  I don’t think useless posts and comments have to pollute the web, in fact I think they can be replaced by engaging, informative conversations that can take place quickly, and in a professional manner online.  Digital social life is transitioning, and I think to help it come full circle, we should embrace using our real names online.  As mentioned by Heller, some professions can take advantage of this alter-ego personality, but for designers and artists it can make perfect sense.  Using your real name online is honest – it shows that you can take responsibility for what you’re saying.  With this responsibility comes respect.  People can listen to you and believe that what you’re saying is really what you’re saying.  The spontaneity brought on by anonymity becomes overwhelming, and simply using an honest name can really make a change.

There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to watch a compelling video that engages me in thinking and then post some of my thoughts, maybe I can get a response from someone who had similar (or completely different thoughts), thus spawning a conversation.  This discussion doesn’t have to result in name-calling and thoughtless joke-telling, it can connect with other viewers who maybe watch that same video and decide to read further into discussions people are having about the content of the video.  The video then has an opportunity to flourish and grow, caused by an influx of a huge thoughtful discussion that may have resulting creative input to the original content.  The content of the video evolves, and new discussions are formed.  This type of collective organization can be used as a catalyst for evolution of ideas, and with the speed of the internet, ideas and content can be transformed in record speed.

Perhaps an analogy isn’t the best way of describing the situation, but the bottom line remains clear – honesty and respect shouldn’t stop when you sit down at your computer and begin tapping away at the keyboard, it should be with us online and off.

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 18, 2009 8:22 pm

    On a side note: I noted that on they now made the names that show up on comments first name, last initial as opposed to the pseudonym handle they sign up with.. Interesting idea – I like it, although it received grumbles from the masses in comments I skimmed over

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