It's about time someone is pushing back against all the vitriolic nonsense and baseless accusations people are willing to spew when they think no one will know who they are. Illinois lawmakers are considering a bill that would outlaw anonymous complaints against nursing homes.
I, Gary Tetz, am tired of anonymity being used as a weapon. I realize “Hey!Stupid!47” might disagree with that, and will probably post an insensitive tirade at the end of this article calling me an idiotic, kitten-hating, socialist, Canadian jerk. But it's a risk that I, Gary Tetz, am willing to take.
Anonymous interactions are ruining the world, making everything suspect. We see this in product reviews, in news story comment threads, in political discourse. That's one admirable thing about Donald Trump—at least he's willing to attach his gold-plated name to whatever hateful nonsense he happens to blurt.
Actually, now that I think about it, The Donald probably does have a secret online identity — something like “LoveAndTolerance4Ever” — under which he posts all his kindest, most compassionate and poetic thoughts, so as not to ruin his image.
It's an excellent exercise in soul-searching, to ponder what any of us would be willing to say about someone else if we didn't think we'd be recognized or unmasked. As the comic Louis C.K. has noted, we turn into different people in our cars, shouting horrible things at strangers that we would never dream of saying next to them in an elevator. (Here's the clip, which I share reluctantly because he uses some naughty language to make his very excellent point.)
Smarter folks than I have a name for this behavior — it's called the “online disinhibition effect,” and Psychology Today explains it: “Since [people] do not have to face the consequences for their anonymous actions, they feel free to let out an uninhibited version of themselves.” A New Yorker article cites research by a professor at the University of Houston that revealed 53% of anonymous commenters on a selection of newspaper articles was uncivil, as opposed to only 29% of non-anonymous commenters. That's why I was so surprised and moved by the sincere postings of thousands of people who watched this video of seniors talking about love — it was such a refreshing reprieve in what has become a wasteland of incivility.
There is certainly a time in a revenge-hungry society when anonymity is necessary for self-protection and the fight against injustice, but it seems we've taken it too far. Walking stick insects disguise themselves to avoid being eaten, not so they can safely say nasty things about the bird.
So now that the anonymous complainers have ruined things for everyone, I salute Illinois for trying to make us take personal responsibility for the words we use and the accusations we make. For those of us who need more support, I can put you in touch with an innovative 12-step program that has helped thousands of cruel and faceless cowards break this vicious habit. I'll never forget the first meeting I attended. “Hello, my name is Gary Tetz,” I stammered through my tears, “and I'm an anonyholic.”
Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold Medal winner in the 2014 Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program. He has amused, informed and sometimes befuddled long-term care readers worldwide since his debut with the former SNALF.com at the end of a previous century. He is a multimedia consultant for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.