When people talk about the reasons for uncivil behavior on the internet, anonymity is often mentioned as a culprit. If no one knows who you are, the theory goes, you’re less likely to censor yourself. And it certainly is ridiculously easy to find people posting under pseudonyms and tearing each other apart. (Just check out the comment section of most newspapers.)
Given that, if I didn’t know much about Facebook, I think my assumption would have been that it would be a place where people were less snarky to each other than in most online communities. Because unless you’re breaking the rules and using a fake name, there is no anonymity. You’re posting as yourself, which might make you feel more accountable for what you say.
And yet, I’m not sure that Facebook is all that much more civil than blogging, even though large numbers of people use pseudonyms on the blogs. You can still find name-calling, personal attacks, and spectacular fights. The lack of anonymity doesn’t make as much of a difference as I would have thought it would.
I can think of a few reasons why this might be the case. For one thing, it’s still the internet, and people post about controversial subjects that they might be more hesitant to bring up in live conversations. Another factor perhaps is that (at least if you’re participating in a private Facebook group, or you have your wall limited to friends) it’s less public, which might make it feel safer to speak in a less censored manner. And if I’m comparing Facebook to the bloggernacle specifically, it’s probably worth noting that most bloggernacle blogs are moderated (at least to some extent.)
This isn’t meant as a criticism of Facebook (I’m a total addict). And I’m in no position to throw stones–when the bloggernacle FB group first got started, it wasn’t long before I found myself in a 500+ comment thread about feminism which involved plenty of snark. But I am interested: if you post about controversial issues on your personal FB page, or participate in FB groups, do you feel that you are more or less likely to censor yourself than if you post on a blog? Are you more comfortable in one venue than another? Do you find that you participate in different ways in the different settings?
- 12 April 2012