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AGAINST ANONYMITY

Hogan

2009-01-30 19:31:55

Opinions

An open-letter to everybody on this site:

This just my opinion, but I think that if anyone wants to submit writing to this (or any) site, they should be required, or heavily encouraged, to also submit at least some autobiographical information. (And no, the "biography in six words" thing doesn't count.)

For one, it lets people know roughly who you are and where you're coming from - figuratively and literally. It lets us know what your general attitudes and influences are, and it lets us know where you are physically in space and what you do with yourself generally.

And I think that's important to know. Not because it helps us pigeon-hole each other, marking off where our biases are and how merely "subjective" our writing is, but because knowing about each other's biases is precisely what helps us be more objective, since by putting our biases and subjectivities out there for all to see we, ironically enough, get those biases out of the way. Left unsaid, those hidden biases are actually more likely to get in the way of other people's reading of your material (it gets in the way for me, anyway).

Second, there's a temptation to hide behind anonymity. If you're not putting yourself fully out there - yet still want to have people read your stuff - you might be tempted to settle for half-assed pieces because, after all, who will know it was "you"?

The internet already has enough anonymous people posting unthinking comments (not to mention poorly written sentences that lack grammar and a concern for spelling) and using phoney and unfunny code names. Hiding behind the anonymity of the internet can be like phoning someone up and breathing creepily into the receiver. The distance and facelessness of modern technology lets us do it, and we shouldn't give in.

Don't get me wrong, people can do whatever they like - including creepy phone pranks - but if we're at all serious about what I take this site to be intended for - community, communication - then the anonymity has to go. A community of writers is not a community if its members are invisible to each other. If you want to put your writing out there, you should put yourself out there, too.

Alamir created this site (if I can put words in his mouth) as an alternative to Facebook. More specifically, as a Facebook based more on writing than party photos and links to mindless videos (if you don't like those words I just put in you mouth, Alamir, you can spit them out). On sites like Facebook and MySpace users create elaborate identities for themselves: identities that are gross exaggerations of their real selves: at best, carefully selected, probably inaccurate versions of their everyday identities.

There's something about the internet that lets us, and perhaps even makes us, want to create our own shiny, perfect persona, free from the fetters of unflattering reality. If Andy Warhol was right about anything, it was that in the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes. Well, the future is here, and it's "social networking" sites like Facebook and MySpace that let even the most untalented nobody craft a celebrity-like image for themselves.

But I digress.

And I repeat: To all those currently registered on the site, make yourselves known. Show yourself. Let us see you, not just your anonymous writing. Nobody writes from inside a vacuum, but without the context of who you actually are in real life, you are indeed writing from inside a vacuum, and your readers are deprived of much-needed context.

Perhaps the best refutation to my opinion is this: Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

Well, I for one want to know who's behind that curtain. If I take the time to read your writing, I think I'm entitled to know who the hell you are. And if you have enough confidence to stand behind your own writing - openly putting something of yourself out there for us to see - then you shouldn't have to stand behind the curtain.

So, in this spirit, I'm going to end every one of my articles with a biographical note, and I encourage others to do the same.

Come on everybody, fill in your bio-info. Tell us who you are. Step out from behind the curtain.


Matt Hogan is Vancouver-based writer studying humanities at Simon Fraser University, and plans to become a teacher, no matter how much that prospect horrifies others. He is against internet anonymity.
Comments

Alamir

Alamir

2009-01-30 19:58:22

Interesting post. I think this is the first self-referential article I've seen on WordArc.

I agree with your views in that it's more interesting to at least get some basic biographical information on writers. I'll link to this article in WordArc's blog. As you stated, it's people's choice on whether to keep their anonymity but I do encourage for people to stand behind their works. The primary reason is for the same one I hold for the newspaper I work for. If someone is going to put their own name on their work then the writing will be stronger. Unless you're "Deep Throat" or your actual life is in danger, putting your name on something is a strong suggestion that you stand by the fact, logic or ideas you've put forth. However, this also doesn't limit someone from playing devil's advocate, it just puts the writer in a position of admitting when playing that role.

Also, to reiterate our Terms of Agreement, we do not collect any data on people nor sell it to third parties. I think this alone makes WordArc more safe than a lot of other websites people willingly give information to. Because many websites, outside of WordArc, do collect data and/or sell the information. Only the basic data provided to WordArc to be displayed in member profiles is viewable by the public.

Good idea, Hogan.

Alamir

Alamir

2009-02-03 20:44:05




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