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: lauriegood@mac.com

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The search for relevance.

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!)


Laurie said...

Interestingly, one of the education bloggers I follow posted about anonymous comments just this morning:
More thought-provoking ideas, plus he's received some additional comments pro- and con- anonymity. It's definitely an interesting question.


Anonymous said...

I read that Blog post that put you down for tweeting on education issues. Someone else commented on that blog, quite correctly, the irony that the poster apparently follows your tweets, and then complains that you want to be relevant.

Clearly the first person has a viewpoint and is just waiting to attack. If they didn't think you were relevant, they wouldn't follow your tweets.

I think that you very well outlined the problems with anonymity. However, in addition to just shyness, I think that anonymity does provide a benefit in that you have to judge a persons ideas by what they write, not who they are.

If I had to have a middle ground, I would want a pseudonym associated with an ISP for a particular blog so that you could develop an understanding as to someones intentions/rationality over time. I suspect that this is not impossible to overcome, but would cut down on some of the boorish or other bad behavior I've seen on various blogs.

Laurie said...

I agree that anonymity takes away some context and potential prejudice, allowing posts to be judged on their own merit, rather than based on who said them. Then again, context is sometimes a good thing, helping us make sense of the world around us.

I have heard others talk about something like your middle ground concept. It would give partial context, allowing readers to see or sense consistency, etc. It also eliminates the wonder if all 25 "anonymous" posters on a blog might just be one or two people.

This is an interesting dilemma. I've said before that social media is in its wild west stage. I fully believe we will come through this stage and both the technology and users' expertise/facility will evolve into something useful and less prone to abuse/confusion...until we come up with the next revolution!

Thanks for posting!

Anonymous said...

I think you are right, it is an interesting dilemna. While I like anonymity in general, particularly for opinions and ideas, I must admit that it is troubling when it comes to "facts". Sometimes on certain blogs people present facts and others deny the facts are correct - knowing who the poster was might help me make a reasonable determination of what fact is likely true.