Anonymity breeds courage, mean-spirited comments

Words are powerful things. They can unite enemies, inspire the young and spread joy. They can also breed enemies, frighten the young and spur chaos and hate.

Some use words as tools; others use them as weapons.

Where do you fall?

During this election season, it seems words are being used to confuse the issues, argue the trivial and air other’s dirty laundry. Accusations fly and feelings are hurt.

In these days where social interaction involves fingers on a keyboard rather than face-to-face conversation, it’s easier than ever to be mean-spirited. All you need is a username and a password.

The Herald’s comments section is a prime example.

When readers sign up for usernames to comment on the Herald website, they agree to certain terms, which can be boiled down to five words: I promise to play nice.

This week, however, some broke that promise. Without going into specifics, a line of conversation delved into the questionable, then jumped right into the inappropriate. The offending comments, flagged by readers, were removed.

This is a simple case of several people sniping at one another while drawing a dangerous kind of courage from using a keyboard to communicate. It’s akin to spray painting an insult on the side of building or on an overpass.

The upside to allowing reader comments on stories is that it allows instant and continuous interaction with our readers. This, we love. The downside is some prefer usernames over their real names, allowing anonymity and removing accountability.

Imagine what kind of world this would be if no one was held accountable for their actions or words.

If your belief in something is so ingrained in your being that you want to share it with the world via the Internet, it lends a lot more credence if you sign your real name to it.

Without accountability, there is nothing.

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