The benefits of web anonymity

The web can be problematic, but it can also be a great boon.

I posted a week ago about the problems with web anonymity . In a nutshell, people say things on the web under the cloak of real or imagined anonymity that they'd never say to someone's face. At least, not if they hoped to have friends for long.

Well, tonight I experienced one of the joys of web anonymity. I'm not a super-social person: I get on a plane and pray the person next to me doesn't want to talk. If he/she does, I glower at them until they think better of it. In this way, I'm sure I miss out on meeting lots of great people.

The web, however, lowers barriers to conversations that I (and others) would never have. Intriguingly, one of the people I chastised for making negative comments (though his comment really wasn't all that bad) apologized in the comments section of my blog. More intriguingly, a friend of his, Bethany, went a step further and IM'd an apology to me tonight. She proved to be a sweet, generous person, and any lingering ire I might have felt toward Brad dissipated.

What are the odds of that happening offline? You'd never be able to apologize to the person that you cut off in traffic because you're almost certainly never going to see them again. Online, everyone is a stranger...but also a potential friend.

The web, in short, perhaps gives vent to our less desirable traits, but it also affords an avenue to demonstrate the nobler side of our natures, which I believe prevails with most people.

So, thank you, Brad, and thank you, Bethany, for taking the time to demonstrate the other side of the web.

P.S. Brad, it will take you many years to deserve Bethany. You're clearly much better than my blog post painted you, for Bethany to choose you.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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