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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Come here and say that: do the anonymous deserve a response?

On the day we exercise our right to do the only thing that we really *need* to do anonymously, which is vote, I'm been thinking about how people on the web prefer to remain nameless when they're voicing the sentiments that are clearly closest to their hearts. This is rum if you think about it.

Many of the people who post comments in response to my humble mutterings in this place do so under assumed names. This doesn't bother me much, particularly since they're generally responding in the spirit of the blog. If I could visualise this spirit it would be a community of seals keeping a bright red beach ball in the air. But every now and then the door is opened to admit a gust of arctic air and a person with a grievance, not so much against the post or the poster as against someone or something that this post puts into their mind. And then you have to decide, do I respond openly to somebody who isn't being similarly open?

In the new issue of The Word there's an interview with Rob Manuel of the nerd community B3TAin which he mentions the fact that he is more inclined to let correspondents have their own way than engage in fruitless argument. He likens this process to dealing with his four-year-old in that the diplomatic thing to do is let them have their hollow victory. That's one way of dealing with it. Mark "Mr Geniality" Ellen always writes back to even the most splenetic emails and generally finds that people are instantly mollified by having any kind of response. A subscriber to a magazine is, however, in a privileged position. They've paid their money and are entitled to demand some satisfaction.

It's not the same "out there". When I read many of the "comments" on the web their authors seem to be reaching for a tone of indignation and spite that no actual human being in real life would ever allow themselves to use. Have you ever *read* the comments to even the most anodyne blogs on The Guardian? Aren't these people supposed to be the peacemakers? To judge by the tenor of their comments many of them seem to be sitting atop a volcano of undischarged emotional lava. Maybe they're less interested in getting an answer than just letting it all out. Maybe the act of saying something is more important than its likely effect on anyone else.

Maybe it's all a necessary counterweight to the increasing conformity of the Gap generation. When I go into the average working environment nowadays, particularly the ostensibly "creative" ones, the atmosphere is one of quiet professionalism and a certain conformity. There's no noise, no banter, no larger than life. I often wonder if a couple of feet below the brows furrowed with pleasant concentration their tappety-tappety fingers are sending forth monsters.