But you are not anonymous. Unsigned notes can often be tracked to their writers, through context, motive, or investigation. And online? Oh child, you should know that every computer has an address, and every computer that you connect to has that address. When the computer is big, like at a news site, there is little need or motive to track down those addresses even if the comments are inane. But for a small site, like this one, it is easy to know the location of every computer that visits and every person that comments. While there would generally be no need to look at this information in any depth, I can do so, as can pretty much anybody with a site and the motivation. So you may click a button to comment without a signature, but you are not actually anonymous. I know, crazy — but that’s the Internet.
As this distinction can be unclear to some or an invitation to others, I have turned off the anonymous comments on my site. Almost everyone who comments here has an account anyway, so it is a small sacrifice for me and done with the intention of maintaining better control over what may appear online.
Let me say that being anonymous has a power that should be used wisely. Being in crowds can make us feel anonymous because we are one of so many people that our individual actions aren’t being watched. This can be exhilarating as we shout at sports events or sing loudly at rock concerts. And it can show an ugly side as people shout insults at town halls or spout hateful messages on YouTube. Being anonymous can be freeing when you aren’t worried about being noticed, and yet worrying when you don’t notice that your freedom requires a responsibility to do the right thing. Or at least, not to do the wrong thing. Even if nobody knows it but you.
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