A friend alerted me to a post on another blog that referenced something I tweeted. The person commented, apparently about my blogging or tweeting, that I am “desperately trying to stay relevant.” And then they said it was “sad.”
My first thought was, Isn’t that what we all want? To be relevant? To matter? Whether it’s feeling like we are valued by the people in our lives, or by vast numbers of strangers in our community, our state, our nation or the planet, I’d say the quest to feel like one matters is one of the primary pursuits of mankind. My excellent high school English teacher, Louis Hill, would have said it was part of the “hooman condition.” (For some reason that’s always how he pronounced it…hoooooman condition.)
People all over the world are participating regularly in online communities, from Facebook and Twitter to blogs, message boards, and various other social media. What’s driving this explosion of communication and creativity? A big part is the search for relevance…the quest to belong…the need to matter. People who, prior to this digital revolution, felt disenfranchised and disconnected from each other, from their government, and from their future, now have a chance to join in the conversation. To participate in the debate. To share their unique perspective and opinions, even if it’s as simple as clicking “Like.”
In Ridgewood, the reach for relevance can be seen in some of our local blogs as well as online news sources like the Ridgewood Patch or NorthJersey.com. Patch and North Jersey are legitimate news sources, with the addition of a comment capability, which is where local residents can find their connection, their relevance. Local blogs, like my own, are pet projects (NOT news sources), with posts reflecting our personal opinions, our individual interests. In the comments section of our blogs is where you can see certain residents grab for their share of relevance. But is there a catch?
I wonder…How much are we participating, how much do we matter, if we only participate anonymously? If we don’t use our name or any other recognizable identifier, are our comments relevant? Are we relevant? Is there a difference? Does anonymous posting only allow us to feel relevant?
I certainly understand that some people are naturally comfortable speaking up publicly and others may be shy. I also know that the “cloak of invisibility” gives some people license to A) say things they don’t actually believe, for the fun of “stirring the pot;” B) say things that are socially or politically “incorrect;” C) use hate speech, bully others and just generally be mean in ways they never would to someone’s face; D) lie. Basically, all these behaviors stem from the lack of accountability that comes with anonymous posting.
And herein lies the monkey wrench. Can we be relevant and avoid accountability? Or when we communicate anonymously, are we simply being relevant-ish? What do you think?
(And, really, I’m not calling you out and demanding only named comments (not yet haha). I’m just thinking out loud and exploring a concept. If you have a thought on this topic, please feel free to comment, by name or by nom de plume or by anonymous…I know that old habits die hard!)
Welcome to Laurie Goodman's blog. I use this space to share news and opinions about education and schools in Ridgewood, the state of New Jersey and the nation, in addition to other issues I'm personally interested in. I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or opinions, too, by posting comments on any blog entry. Please observe basic courtesy -- keep your comments focused on issues, no personal attacks or bullying, please. Contact me directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org