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The Mystery of Anonymous Comments

Has anyone got a theory for why so many visitors to blogs feel the urge to tell you all the ways in which you are wrong, dumb, suck etc, but don’t feel enough conviction to have their name associated with their opinions?

It seems strange to me that someone would want to give another the benefit of their wisdom but not take credit for it. If I was the creator of such enlightened and pithy commentary as “you suck, leave the ‘sphere asswad” I am sure I would not only want full credit but to have it registered in case of plagiarism.

Of course not all comments are as intelligently crafted as that example. Some even are posted in quite agreeable language with only a minimum of cussing. Even so many people do not want to use their own names. It’s almost like they want you to know how they feel but do not really care for your reply.

I can understand someone posting anonymously if there is a chance their comments could get them into some sort of trouble, but otherwise …

Do you ever post anonymously and if so, why?

Author: Chris Garrett

Chris Garrett is a content marketing and blogging coach and co-author of the Problogger Book with Darren Rowse.

35 thoughts on “The Mystery of Anonymous Comments

  1. The idea of Ristiseiska is to build a rectangular grid of cards on the table, according to specific rules. At the start, the entire deck is dealt out among the players. The person holding the seven of clubs must begin, and play proceeds clockwise from there.

  2. On September 11, 2001 four off-course & out-of-contact airliners flew all over the Eastern U.S. for hours without being intercepted, challenged, pursued, nor even continuously observed by our trillion-dollar intelligence/defense systems! One such airliner allegedly slammed through the Pentagon long after the first jet had crashed into the World Trade Center. The Bush regime told us Osama bin-Forgotten (hiding in an Afghani cave) & his 19 lackeys with box-cutters accomplished all this in defeating us. Case closed–or is it???

    Many believe that Bush/Cheney allowed 9/11 to occur on purpose!!!

  3. Yes but the flip side of this is that if someone at the site doesn’t
    agree with your comments, they could block your IP address. This
    is fascism and I see it slowly coming upon America! People have the
    right to be anonymous on the Internet, if they want to. If someone’s
    in a situation where they need to speak freely but are scared of
    retribution, the Internet is supposed to be a safe place!

  4. LS: Have you done a comprehensive study of all 900 million Internet users? If so, you should publish your findings.

  5. I think that if you are going to say something, you should be strong enough to put your name to it, but that’s just my opinion. Some people are intellectually weak and don’t really know what they are saying, so they choose the “anonymous” option. They are probably either trying to hide who they are or afraid that they are wrong. Many of these people turn out to be losers, uneducated, inbred, etc…… You know the type.

  6. Internet is all about going public. That’s the rule! Our social communities are starting to change and learning on respect and reading what each person believes is relevant. That is actually the success in blogging. I get to give my opinion on any topic I consider myself interested or knowledgeable. It gives me the opportunity to expand from my local community circle and find people who are willing to share something with me. Its funny how many persons are able to express themselves better by blogging than on a face to face environment. May be it is the feeling that judgment is not part of the game or if someone posts an offending message it can always be skipped.
    Whatever! I can only smile at the possibilities the Internet has brought to our generation!

  7. As an Unreal Tournament fan, I find that very entertaining. Applying it to the scope of the conversation (even if not serious), when you add the ingredient of competetive play into the mix, it’s sure more likely to encourage that sort of behavior and there’s more of a direct interaction that can cause players to fuel each other.

  8. Young people and immature people often have an itch to express themselves. That’s why junior designers always design for their peers (to make an impression and win prizes) and always forget their audience.
    Same with comments. They want to “get it out” – so they comment. It’s not because they want to communicate. They want to express. It’s part of their growing up, and learning to know themselves.
    Anonymity is lack of guts. When you’re insecure – you prefer to stay “cloaked”.
    So Immaturity (youth), insecurity and the need to explore your own identity – that is the reason for anonymous comments.
    They are quite harmless, and they help these people grow up.

    Just my 2c

  9. My take? Many individuals just don’t want to take the time to either 1) Log on to comment, or 2) Register, check their email, get their password, go back and log on to comment.
    And if they already *had* registered but clear their cookies (to keep anonymous) the site won’t remember them the next time they visit.

    Readers in the heat of the moment just want to type their half-witted rants and move on.

  10. haha… just the other day I was talking to my boss about this very thing. We’re doing some SEO work on a new project.

    Anyway… I started laughing because I told my boss that for my first email address I used [email protected] because I was afraid of the ‘internet’ knowing who I was! And now I am trying to do SEO/branding just to make sure I am the only SERP.

    It goes back to what everyone has been saying, Anonymous doesn’t really exist anymore. That said, I sometimes use a ‘masked name’ if I am asking a really really stupid question {joke}what does ‘SE’ stand for?{/joke}

  11. If the point of the poster is to not want direct contact, but converse on the blog, it serves its point to post anonymously. I don’t know how many free emails I’ve gone through that I don’t even check anymore because of spam. I just gave up. And it should not be a requirement to post a message on a blog.

    By Diane’s account, pseudonyms are not even good enough because you’re not “putting your name to it.” It has nothing about “Standing up for what you say.” That’s just not realistic. I’ll gladly stand up for what I say, and time allowing, I’ll come back and read replies and defend my stance on the medium I chose to respond on. What if I don’t reply to your email, are you going to show up at my door?

    If we all took a black and white approach we would never post comments if we 1) don’t want to be identified, or 2) don’t trust the site 100% or 3) don’t want to be politically correct. We would just keep our comments to ourselves. I’m glad no one appointed Diane Internet dictator.

    Clearly people use the Internet differently and are from all around the world, so if anything a good measure of benefit of the doubt should be given (again, keeping it in the perspective of reasonable conversation, not a random flamer or troll in which case your seasoned Internet user jadedness is warranted). Harping on anonymous posters is like harping on spelling and grammar…often you’ll find out the person isn’t even from an English speaking country.

  12. Most of those reasons, while probably valid, do not explain why people don’t use aliases and free email accounts so at least they can continue the conversation. This tells me that they just want to hit and run, actual discussion is not what they are after. I am fine with not using real names for many of the reasons suggested. Sometimes you do not want to reply on your blog you want a quiet side conversation, completely anonymous comments leave you no choice.

  13. If you have something to say, but aren’t willing to put your name to it, then you shouldn’t say it. Period. If it is something that will get you fired then maybe you need to be working somewhere else. Get some balls, anonymous people, and stand up for what you say!

  14. Funny that you pose such a question on a site that doesn’t allow anonymous comments. So you’ll likely get a mostly one-sided and self-fullfilling response.

    It’s idiotic to throw everyone into the same category of hiding behind internet anonymity like I see/hear so often. I have posted anonymously plenty of times though for various reasons. Here are some valid reasons (not all which apply to me):

    Don’t trust that the site is secure with your info: will your email be exposed to others or harvesters? will others be PMing you or harassing you over your comment?
    Bottom line: Want to make sure the conversation stays on the thread, not in your email or more personally (if you were really an ass about it). Most people trust that a site owner who can see the IPs will respect that privacy but not that non techie bloggers know a damn thing about keeping your email private.

    Potential conflicts of interest in posting (despite possible genuine expression of your opinion).

    Expression of views that could be tied to you negatively in the future regarding controversial topics (religion, politics, etc) or even regular conversation..

    Don’t want your employer to know you’re commentting on blogs during work hours, especially if coworkers frequent the same sites as you. (NOTE: This is my lunch time!!! 🙂

    Don’t want people you know to identify you as the source of comments (if they frequent the same sites as you) for whatever reason.

    You’re just breaking your lurking status once or twice but don’t want to be identifiable on the board/site. (on that topic – damn those lurkers who think their toughts but don’t post them!!! damn them all to hell!)

    It’s funny how all these articles are floating around about how so and so was googled and this peice of dirt came up and yet people villianize anonymous posters. Should you really be responsible for every little thing you said (online), even taken out of context (SE result blurbs), for your entire life? As anyone who’s used email for a long time knows, there’s a LOT that can be taken out of context in text without one knowing the writer or all of the back-story to a conversation. The question is why would you NOT post anonymously or under a psuedonym? You must be self employed or live in the offline world 🙂

    In most cases I hear the words of anonymous posters put down or devalued, it’s little more than someone else getting up on their high horse to point out a reason what they said is more important than My Anonymous and what Mr. Anonymous said has no value (just because he can’t stand behind his words). This of course precludes trolls and flames – I’m talking reasonable conversation/discussion here, and I still see the same effect on anonymous posters often.

    Think about it next time you flame one or simply ignore a comment because it’s obviously anonymous. How many of the “identified” posters do you really know anyway?

  15. It’s like wearing a mask. You may feel more free to express yourself if you make a comment anonymously.

    This topic touches on a smiliar subject that I’m worried about: the proliferation of “fake identity” comments on the Web. It’s easy enough to pretend you’re someone else, and unless the blog owner does some IP homework, you can often get away with it. I’ve never done it and never had it done to me, but I’ve seen others experience this and it’s not fun.

  16. There’s this weird separation between the Internet and the physical world. I associate with and surround myself with certain types of people and things whose presence I am happy to be with. I like things of beauty, class, integrity, compassion, peace, intelligence, humor, etc etc etc. I can handle what I’ve created and can be responsible for what I can control.

    On the Internet, I’m not offered that choice.

    The ugly poster who posts vile comments anonymously can remain in their fantasy world where its okay to be disgusting and self righteous. I have no desire to hand them the keys to my castle and have every right to make that choice for myself, and still be a blogger.

    And I don’t think I’ve ever posted comments anonymously, to answer your question I’ve inserted my foot into my mouth plenty of times…and claimed it.

  17. Though I do not post comments anonmyously, there has been a growing trend of anonymous comments that I have seen at my blog < href=http://ohad-news.blogspot.com>Ohad’s Internet News.
    I also have no idea why someone who wants to offer his opinion on one of my posts would not identify himself at least by an alias

  18. Many of them just refuse to let anyone know who they are. This is even if the subject is completely mild. I even had people from IRC asking me to censor out their nicknames from whenever I post a funny chat transcript to my blog or I quote somebody.

  19. Yeah people think proxies are foolproof when in fact many respect the HTTP_X_FORWARDED_FOR value so actually reveal the users actual IP, it’s also possible sometimes to grab it from HTTP_CACHE_CONTROL

  20. Actually b5media just reminded me of what happened recently. Someone was leaving comments on my site which were nothing to do with the topic, quite aggressive and very graphic in nature, they were also pretending to be someone else from another site.

    I took their IP, traced it and found it belonged to a Proxy cluster in the States. A quick lookup brought me the contact details and an email resulted in a response within a few hours.

    They in turn traced the IP on their end, matching it to the site visit, time and date, and have found the culprit.

    You are right, they should realise nothing is anonymous. Even through a proxy.

  21. Oh I hate the arrogance of the Internet, I wrote a nice piece on my personal blog about the whole topic. In my first year of blogging I was accused of so many things it was ridiculous.

    For example being called a racist for suggesting that maybe Chris Rock shouldn’t host the Oscars because he doesn’t hold the gravitas of the event…oh it gets mad out there.

    Internet “conversations” lack the physical element of human contact, particularly seeing and hearing, so you miss subtle reactions and responses which can cause misunderstandings and confusion. It’s this distance from the human contact that allows the psyche of these socially inept people to let go of their normal social restrictions and be so aggressive. They know there is going to be no retribution for their actions so they can go wild.

    Oh, I always use my name when leaving comments…unless I’ve signed up for a service under my website name!

  22. One of the things I find amusing is the amount of regular readers who comment anonymously who don’t seem to realise that their comments leave an IP address (and therefore identify themselves to the blogger).

    I regularly spot who people really are when they leave ‘nasty’ comments.

  23. Well… I use a pen name on my blog – so I guess that’s kind of annonymous! As for general comments, I think you hit the nail on the head with the idea that they don’t care for a reply. Either they don’t want to hear something in return, or they are so blinkered in their view that you could have a rational, well meant argument and it could go ignored by these people…

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