Choosing to remain anonymous, then being an ass March 3, 2003 10:37 AM   Subscribe

If you can't beat em, join em, eh? I have finally reached my tolerance threshold for people who choose—and are allowed—to be anonymous on this community site. If folks can remain anonymous and hurl invectives toward my wife (who is not even a MeFi member) then the time has come where I too must become anonymous.

I know it has been discussed before, but anonymity has no place in a community such as this. If people can't stand behind their own words then perhaps it is best if they hold their tongues?
posted by terrapin to Etiquette/Policy at 10:37 AM (59 comments total)

Wow. Looks like semmi needs a little vacation.
posted by PrinceValium at 10:45 AM on March 3, 2003


I dunno terrapin, while he started off being jerky you could have been a little nicer with him and not called him an asshole and a twat.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:49 AM on March 3, 2003


So, some body posts a link that most responders didn't like. That person takes it personally and gets defensive. In response, you inexplicably start calling the person names which escalates the thing until everybody's feelings are hurt.

Yeah, I can see where having my phone number and e-mail address would have avoided that.
posted by willnot at 10:51 AM on March 3, 2003


How 'bout just deleting a DOA thread and calling it a day?
posted by machaus at 10:52 AM on March 3, 2003


Anonymity certainly has its downsides, as demonstrated amply by some Mefites who take advantage of the freedom it provides. However, it is freedom, and should not be taken away lightly. Without being able to contribute anonymously, I would not contribute here. I am simply too paranoid about what my employer, or any potential future employer, or even my parents and friends might have to say if they know about the comments I had made and the life I lead online. The truth is I like my real life and my online life separate.

There are consequences for those that abuse that privilege. It the situation warrants it, email Matt, who, if he agrees that the problem is serious, should be more than willing to rectify the situation. The answer is not to remove anonymity, but to encourage self-policing and responsible community building. I can see perhaps requiring an email address on the user page, but there should be no reason that the address used cannot itself be anonymous. See my address, for example.

Finally, terrapin, I have to say that semmi was the more well-behaved Mefite in the particular thread you pointed to. Decorum is important whether you're anonymous or not.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 10:53 AM on March 3, 2003


not called him an asshole and a twat.
really. one or the other would have been sufficient.
posted by quonsar at 10:57 AM on March 3, 2003


Matt: I agree that I could have been more civil. That does not negate Semmi's sins though, nor the point of my post. I would have emailed him/her off the site, but since they are marked anonymous that makes it quite difficult to communicate directly.

I am not trying avoid my own error in this matter. I realise that I was wrong to take the bait, when Semmi posted his rude comments (after a poor FPP). I am simply using this situation to highlight an issue that has been bothering me for sometime: Anonymity.

If people can be anonymous even to other members it is practically an invitation to hash out issues on MeFi (even when they are off-topic), which in-turn produces the poor quality of discussion.
posted by terrapin at 10:58 AM on March 3, 2003


Terrapin, I can see why you are so upset...but it's just words on a screen. If I am correct then no one is anonymous to Matt, and if things get out of line he is the one to check with.

Having said that, it is incredibly aggravating not to be able to email someone to express sentiments that aren't particularly apropos of the thread in question. I could go for a requirement that everyone at least have a Hotmail account or something.
posted by konolia at 11:01 AM on March 3, 2003


Monju:

How does including an email from a free email provider threaten your offline self? Sure I can see if one had an email address that had their full name that could pose a problem, but mymefiusername@yahoo.com? Unless you use that same address on a CV how are you at risk? *shrug*
posted by terrapin at 11:03 AM on March 3, 2003


How does including an email from a free email provider threaten your offline self?

It doesn't. That was my point. I'm sorry if I wasn't more clear. I think, though, that we need to draw a distinction between anonymity and the povision of an email address. If all you are after is the email address, whether it's anonymous or not, then I am in full agreement.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 11:06 AM on March 3, 2003


looks to me like terrapin started it, initially tried to downplay the fallout with a smiley, stewed a little bit, and then came tattling here.

suggestion: don't cuss someone out and THEN complain when they give as good as they got.

I would have emailed him/her off the site, but since they are marked anonymous that makes it quite difficult to communicate directly.

i don't understand. are you saying you would have preferred to fill his voicemail with unprovoked expletives, harassed him in private, abused him over email, etc.? in my mind, you're making the case FOR anonymity, given the shitty tone you decided to take in the thread.

(this is a separate issue from semmi being a general prick in the referenced post.)
posted by donkeyschlong at 11:09 AM on March 3, 2003


terrapin:

If people can't stand behind their own words then perhaps it is best if they hold their tongues?

it is generally best to hold your tongue when people call you names on a public forum.

when people behave poorly, they are generally received poorly. we understand that we all have bad days, and are sometimes prickly. if, as a general rule, one is behaving boorishly then, as a general rule, one is looked down upon. it is really not worth your effort in defending yourself if someone makes snide remarks: the considerate are already on your side. i don't see how anonymity should be a necessary factor.

mathowie said:

I dunno terrapin, while he started off being jerky you could have been a little nicer with him and not called him an asshole and a twat.

also, that.
posted by moz at 11:12 AM on March 3, 2003


That's crazy talk. You're crazy, terrapin. Get out of the road. There's no way that particular episode of ludicrosity has anything to do with anonymous profiles.

That being said, emails in profiles are great for me at least, and I almost wish they were mandatory. At least five separate times I've had to email MeFi members to apologize for my remarks (and I've never even called anyone a twat... yet). On the other hand, the schlong is right: no one wants to get psychotic obscene emails from MeFi members all hopped up in their meth labs at 4 a.m.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 11:13 AM on March 3, 2003


it is incredibly aggravating not to be able to email someone to express sentiments that aren't particularly apropos of the thread in question.

Maybe that's exactly why some people like anonymity, no inappropriate contact, no scathing e-mails. You can't write something on the public forum, then don't write it. I guarantee if I got an e-mail calling me a twat from somebody on here as a rebuttal for something I said on here I'd immediately post it.

I could go for a requirement that everyone at least have a Hotmail account or something.

How about just no. If I'm not going to check the account anyway, what's the point of posting it for you to e-mail?
posted by Pollomacho at 11:28 AM on March 3, 2003


I am with monju_bosatsu on the anonymity issue - not all my clients would appreciate my political or social views, or some of the stranger links that I might post. Other people have other reasons, I'm sure.

terrapin, you were the first to raise the ante in that thread with very aggressive and insulting comments. Of course semmi was rude and boorish back - did you think you were going to get contrition or agreement after that? And how would being able to e-mail him have resolved anything if he had an anonymous e-mail addy?

He didn't insult your wife - he doesn't even know her. He didn't even insult you - he doesn't know you. He lashed out in reaction to your aggression, and you are taking it way too personally, imo.

The best way to show someone up if they are being an asshole? Let them speak for themselves and don't up the ante yourself. Be the grown up. Most MeFi readers would be smart enough to read between the lines.
posted by madamjujujive at 11:29 AM on March 3, 2003


Most of the assumptions being made about my reaction are false, but that's ok. I expected that. I am not whining because I was called names. I am complaining because the anonymous "member" attacked my wife in a thread. What that means to me, is that Semmi went to my Web site's URL, perused my site and then came back to attack her.

I take responsibility for my actions. Semmi was being an ass. I wanted to contact Semmi to ask them to stop being a condescending fuckwit, but because Semmi is anonymously participating in this community, I was unable to. I tried to be witty, and failed. Semmi attacked my wife, and I tried to laugh off the troll bait, but ended up simply pissing in the wind.

BTW, I also realise that simply having one's email address listed does not mean the person will check that address. But even if Semmi listed a hotmail account they never looked at, I would have been able to send them person an email. If they wanted to fire back in email, it would be their prerogative.

If the majority are cool with folks being able to spew whatever they want anonymously, that is cool. It isn't my sandbox, I just play in it :)

[On preview, I see I am in the majority here. Oh well, thanks for listening.]
posted by terrapin at 11:36 AM on March 3, 2003


Yeah. Leave the wife out of it. If she wanted to get peed on she'd be in the sandbox herself. The rest of us knew what we were getting into.
posted by konolia at 11:43 AM on March 3, 2003


as one of the people indirectly insulted in the post, i gotta say that semmi comes off as a bit more twatish in the whole scheme of things. sure, it's a close call. terrapin used some bad words and whatnot, but it doesn't seem to me that he started the fire. (well, he threw some gasoline on it, true.) okay, maybe semmi: 65% twat for starting it, terrapin: 35% twat for escalating.

i'm not too concerned if i can or can't write insult letters to someone's anonymous hotmail account, but i do think you should go into a post with a sense of respect for the people who are taking the time to read your link. if they don't like it, it's bad form to flame them.

on preview: terrapin, do you really think he was personally attacking your wife? i really doubt he was doing anything more than garden-variety trolling.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 11:46 AM on March 3, 2003


I guarantee if I got an e-mail calling me a twat from somebody on here as a rebuttal for something I said on here I'd immediately post it.

Then YOU'D be the one cluttering up the signal with noise. As for me I'd rather be called names on private email, which I could delete, than on a thread, where just anyone could read it-or for that matter google it if they had a mind.
posted by konolia at 11:47 AM on March 3, 2003


If the majority are cool with folks being able to spew whatever they want anonymously, that is cool.

First of all, you may have noticed that many offensive posts get cut by Matt when he does his edits for the day. Second, Matt has everyone's e-mail address, so if he sees a problem, or you have a problem and bring it to his attention, he can e-mail the offender. Third, I haven't seen this as a huge problem, sure, like every group of a little under 20,000, some of the people are jerks and say jerky things, fine, the other 19,000 will see and usually call them out (like for instance, you DID after all call the guy a twat!) its not anonymous in the sense that the thousands that come here are all going to say, "oh God its that fucking twat, Pollomacho again, what steaming pile has he left us this morning?" to themselves each time they see a jerk's name, just as if we were leaving our full name and phone number each time we wrote.

As for being on the majority or not, I don't give a damn, this is NOT a democracy and I am not going to succumb to someone calling me a coward, I don't want your e-mails and that is final, I won't post one until I am required to and then I will give you a fake one, so that's the end of the story. If you can't post it for the world to see, I don't want to find it in my inbox.

As for me I'd rather be called names on private email, which I could delete, than on a thread, where just anyone could read it-or for that matter google it if they had a mind.

I guess I'm just a little more vindictive, but as I said, if it couldn't be posted, its not worth receiving. What private information could possibly be sent as a rebuttal to a statement, I don't know you people. Likewise if its not worth posting in a thread then why say it in the first place?
posted by Pollomacho at 11:51 AM on March 3, 2003


but anonymity has no place in a community such as this.

Where'd that idea come from?

Unless I'm missing something or you went to a lot of effort, you've hardly joined the anonymous crowd. Searching for "Rick Scully" and "Wasthington" turns up someone astonishingly like you as the first match at Google.

Semmi was being an ass. I wanted to contact Semmi to ask them to stop being a condescending fuckwit, but because Semmi is anonymously participating in this community, I was unable to. I tried to be witty, and failed. Semmi attacked my wife, and I tried to laugh off the troll bait, but ended up simply pissing in the wind.

Let's review. To correct someone's improper action, you decided to act in an improper manner yourself(calling someone you don't know closely a cowardly fuckwit is your concept of witty/calming?). When your behavior then got thrown right back at you(quelle suprise!), you decided to laugh it off(and why not the first time?) then got pissy anyway and decided to change the subject, because the real point is that you started it. Semmi's anonymity is not likely what caused you to mouth off(you weren't even the one he was grousing at), unless you're claiming that his providing an e-mail address would have magically made you less offended by the post/insult, and therefore more civil.
Did I leave anything out?

As I read it, Semmi was cratchety, sure, and replied to Y6^3 inappropriately, but I see the initial invective being hurled by you. I must not bee seeing the smiley that indicates you were being witty.
posted by Su at 11:58 AM on March 3, 2003


so he's anonymous. what were you gonna do, look up his address and put toby keith's boot in his ass? let it go, brother!
posted by mcsweetie at 11:59 AM on March 3, 2003


I expected that. I am not whining because I was called names. I am complaining because the anonymous "member" attacked my wife in a thread.

You sound like me at 6 years old, when someone said that their dad could beat up my dad. Honestly, you need to buck-up a bit here, and not come whining because someone said something that wasn't so nice about your wife. This someone has never met you or your wife in person, so I don't understand why you're taking it so personally.

In my opinion, you also started the whole pissing contest to begin with, so you have no one but yourself to blame. If you can dish out invective, you should be prepared to take it.

And on another topic; I may or may not be alone here, but I hate it when people (members) e-mail me about specific metafilter threads. In my experience, those who e-mail people are usually not looking to get into a reasonable discussion, but rather are looking to get into an extended e-mail flame war. When this happens I usually play along for a few e-mails and then completely cut off communication with the other party.

I guess my point is, is that if I want to get away from Metafilter for whatever reason, I can just close IE and it's done. I'm somewhat annoyed when pieces of Metafilter threads (usually the really vicious ones) pop up in my inbox.

(My two cents)
posted by SweetJesus at 12:15 PM on March 3, 2003


You know who else doesn't want you to be anonymous online?

John Ashcroft.

Wow, that works as well as the old 'driving with Hitler' references these days.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:37 PM on March 3, 2003


I have finally reached my tolerance threshold for people who choose

it is of course neither very polite nor classy to look at a user's site in order to find fresh material for insults, and your wife's looks had nothing to do with the discussion. but really, as sweetjesus pointed out already, if you don't like insults just don't insult people -- they'll strike back
posted by matteo at 12:49 PM on March 3, 2003


All the metafilter email I have gotten so far has been questions about me, my web site, and to ask for links to something I mentioned in a thread. I don't mind that sort of mail.

As for this particular issue, I think that terrapin took it too personally. Comments about one's spouse, children, pets, or whatnot is almost always trolling flamebait designed to get a rise out of people. It looks like it was a successful bid in this case.
posted by xyzzy at 12:57 PM on March 3, 2003


I don't care who started it, you two apologize to each other right now or I'm turning this car around.
posted by Stan Chin at 1:00 PM on March 3, 2003


Can I start up a MeTa thread next time I change my user page?
posted by i_cola at 1:17 PM on March 3, 2003


I'm coming in late. Help me out? As I understand it:

terrapin calls semmi a twat, an asshole, and a fuckwit.

semmi says bad things back to terrapin.

terrapin takes it to MeTa, pointing out the conversation from the point after terrapin calls semmi a twat.

Help me out, because, Is this really going anywhere? Is there a point here, other than that there shouldn't be any of this kind of behavior in the first place AND IT DRAGS DOWN THE ENTIRE DAMNED SITE?
posted by Shane at 1:35 PM on March 3, 2003


Shane, no help needed. You hit the mark.
posted by ?! at 2:01 PM on March 3, 2003


"If people can't stand behind their own words...."

Best call out ever.

"Hey!!! This condescending, self-centered, fuckwit, twat, asshole is being rude to me. No fair!!!"
posted by y6y6y6 at 2:18 PM on March 3, 2003


The thing I hate about anonymity is that it emboldens people to behave more obnoxiously than they would otherwise. If there was a setting here to hide all posts from members who provide no public means of contact, I'd gladly use it to be free of abusive cowards like Semmi.
posted by rcade at 2:19 PM on March 3, 2003


The thing I hate about anonymity is that it emboldens people to behave more obnoxiously than they would otherwise.

I'm not convinced that's true at all. I think its some form of "common wisdom" that fosters the wish for a killfile, with no foundation in fact other than we want it to be true. MetaFilter is a public means of contact, for those who participate here. Anything beyond that is private to MetaFilter, and yet will end up dragged out as dirty laundry or confusing drivel (just like the Steve vs Keith/Foldy stuff has been, or half the stuff that comes from #mefi that leaves the rest of us confused).
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:39 PM on March 3, 2003


the metafilter invective compass
posted by quonsar at 2:46 PM on March 3, 2003


The thing I hate about anonymity is that it emboldens people to behave more obnoxiously than they would otherwise.

No, the fact no one's afraid of getting the shit kicked out of them or being embarassed face-to-face is what embiggens the smallest of men around here. It's an Internet-wide problem, so I don't think the mandatory display of email addresses will solve it.

That said, I am sympathetic (to rcade's complaint, not to terrapin's strawman: "Sure I took it from 0-60 for no good goddamn reason, but what about my wife?!" I have no idea if you have one. Furthermore, I don't care. However, if you're not willing to provide oral sex on demand, how much of a husband are you?): I think MetaFilter get-togethers would be far more popular if they involved grudge matches.
posted by yerfatma at 3:00 PM on March 3, 2003


just like the Steve vs Keith/Foldy stuff has been

And as far as my small part in that stuff goes (posting to tell Steve to lay off the Keiths of the world each time he calls Foldy out by real name), I'm knocking it off. I was trying to make a point about how irritating personal feuds were, but, um, it's pretty obvious that I was just being pretty irritating myself.

It also occurs to me that it might have looked like I'm a second account for Foldy, which is at least kind of amusing...
posted by COBRA! at 3:03 PM on March 3, 2003




The thing I hate about anonymity is that it emboldens people to behave more obnoxiously than they would otherwise.

Terrapin's new anonymous profile being a case in point.
Has this thread officially swallowed its tail yet?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 4:14 PM on March 3, 2003


Not being anonymous doesn't really help.

It certainly hasn't stopped me, for example...
posted by oissubke at 4:20 PM on March 3, 2003


Has this thread officially swallowed its tail yet?


Mmmmmmm, Oroboros. Tastes like heavenly chicken if you cook it right.

It certainly hasn't stopped me, for example...

More's the pity ...
posted by Wulfgar! at 4:27 PM on March 3, 2003


From XQUZYPHYR's handy copy-n'-paste comment catalog:

-You're a goddamned asshole, and even though I'm wrong this is what I think you meant by what you said, you hateful pathetic excuse for a poster. Now will you PLEASE stop responding and trying to explain yourself? It's so pathetic how you're trying to get the last word! Pussy.

-I've very upset that you're talking to me, a complete stranger on a message board, differently than you would to a close friend in person.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:28 PM on March 3, 2003


We need some Soma in here, stat!
posted by dg at 4:33 PM on March 3, 2003


It's so pathetic how you're trying to get the last word! Pussy.

Twat.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 4:38 PM on March 3, 2003


"The thing I hate about anonymity is that it emboldens people to behave more obnoxiously than they would otherwise. "

I think the "F!rst p0st!" trolls on Slashdot are a good example of this.
posted by mkelley at 4:58 PM on March 3, 2003


Speaking through a keyboard emboldens people. Anonymity has nothing to do with it. I've seen things explode out of control in e-mail between people who were in the same building.

If anything anonymity may encourage more honesty about potentially embarrassing topics, but I don't believe it has any effect on somebody being a troll or an ass.
posted by willnot at 7:09 PM on March 3, 2003


I can kick anyone's ass in here. I know Judo.
posted by Witty at 7:26 PM on March 3, 2003


that shell ain't as thick as it looks!
posted by angry modem at 8:23 PM on March 3, 2003


I know Judo.

Well I know karate. Voodoo too.
posted by homunculus at 10:27 PM on March 3, 2003


areThe thing I hate about anonymity is that it emboldens people to behave more obnoxiously than they would otherwise
The possibility that those who act this way are actually like that in real life is scary to comtemplate, but I suspect it may be the case.
posted by dg at 11:17 PM on March 3, 2003


Why did you alter your profile, terrapin? I wanna see that ugly wife. Damn it.
posted by ttrendel at 11:34 PM on March 3, 2003


She's actually sorta cute, if you're into that general type, and she's obviously in love with the guy if one can judge from the pictures. He should consider himself lucky and...well...and STFU.

Dude, here's the score: your wife loves you, your nemesis of the moment is a paperweight coward, and I haven't starting making vile & vituperative comments about Deadheads. Yet.

Not too shabby, right?
posted by adamgreenfield at 4:05 AM on March 4, 2003


i think we should put principles before personalties.
*shakes your hand and winks*
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:31 AM on March 4, 2003


Oh yeah? Well your mom is SO fat that...
posted by blue_beetle at 10:19 AM on March 4, 2003


mcsweetie: what were you gonna do, look up his address and put toby keith's boot in his ass?
Funnnn-eeee!
posted by jennyb at 12:04 PM on March 4, 2003


Every time I see one of these discussions it just makes me more glad that I'm relatively anonymous. I don't want Toby Keith's boot in my inbox, much less my behind.

By the way, how many of you use MeFi addresses to send compliments? I've done it twice for posters who I thought rocked entirely.
posted by namespan at 12:10 PM on March 4, 2003


I've gotten and sent compliments; I've also gotten and sent apologies for remarks that seemed inappropriate after the heat of the moment had cooled, leading to some interesting discussions. I've never flamed or gotten flamed. And I agree with those who've said anonymity isn't the problem; assholes will be assholes with or without valid addresses.
posted by languagehat at 2:02 PM on March 4, 2003


who's toby keith?
posted by PrinceValium at 2:16 PM on March 4, 2003


I've both sent compliments and really torn into people who took it to email first. Both are rare. Most emails were actually requests for information, which I fulfilled without fanfare.

I consider MetaFilter a public space, and try to act with that in mind. If you email me you're more likely to get whatever treatment you've earned, good or bad, without regard to the civility I expect to find in public discourse.
posted by NortonDC at 2:42 PM on March 4, 2003


I'm sorta confused as to why Terrapin feels the problem is semmi's anonymity. Would emailing semmi made it any more appropriate to call him a fuckwit? Or were you planning on going to his house and hitting him?

Generally, I think that MeFi would be a lot nicer if people stopped worrying about the quality of the posts. Almost every thread gets a 'Why did you post this?! You are stupid.' comment, immediately derailing any conversation that might have resulted. Weak FPP or not.

I think it'd be great if there was some sort of personal moderation/ranking system, a la slashdot, that folks like Terrapin could use to keep their version of the board all clean and sanitary. Myself, I like the trolls.
posted by maniactown at 3:00 PM on March 4, 2003


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