These thoughts are partially inspired by some recent conversations with a few YAR writers, and folknotions’ post on the San Jose YAR meetup.
I’ve been thinking recently about the strange aspect of anonymity that makes this and other online communities distinct from print publications, face-to-face discussions, etc. In the past few years I’ve had on-and-off involvement in a few online Mennonite communities — some more anonymous than others (for instance, Yahoo group “MennoNet” was a frustrating waste of time). Ultimately, one of the aspects that frustrates me when taking part in these groups is the aspect of anonymity and lack of community — where I feel like writers aren’t willing to remain accountable to each other, take responsibility for what they write, and generally maintain a level of respect and decency. I certainly don’t think this is happening here (and I don’t mean to be targeting people with creative usernames here), but in other groups it often reaches a point where people seem to regress to name-calling and attacks, partially because they can hide behind their cryptic usernames. Again, I don’t see that happening here.
That being said, I’ve also found myself wanting to know more about my fellow writers here on YAR, beyond the regular posts on ethics/theology/ecclesiology. This happened briefly during the initial 6-person face-to-face YAR meetings in Goshen that sparked this group, and I assume also during the meeting in San Jose a few days ago. But as someone who wasn’t able to attend convention (mostly because of the outrageous prices — see PeterK’s post), I still feel a bit disconnected from most of the other writers on this blog (although I recognize that I do personally know many of you).
In a way, my initial reaction to folknotions’ post was that I feel left out (and rightly so), because I couldn’t attend the YAR meetup and get to know some of you better. It struck me that the report from that meetup remained entirely anonymous: “One YAR present said…” Who was at the YAR meetup? Who said what? Did anyone take pictures they could post? What was the age range of people there?
So what are the advantages of retaining this anonymity in our online community? Is it a safety concern, or a way to make some people more comfortable speaking up? What if all the writers were listed on a page, with pictures and short bios (perhaps the introductory post most people wrote)? Are these ridiculous ideas? Am I missing something obvious? Carl suggested that perhaps one advantage of anonymity is that posts can be judged more on their own merit, and not on our fixed stereotypes of the writer.
And maybe this is just an issue of personal curiosity and “sticking my nose in other people’s business,” but I crave less anonymity and more open information on who we are as real people, not online personas. I’m sure there are various opinions out there, and I’d love to hear some more thoughts on this.