Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Friday, August 23, 2013

(Not So) Dear Anonymous: The Trouble With Anonymity

I almost always publish them, even when they are unkind to me. On occasion I respond to them, but not always. I often struggle with whether or not to publish the ones left as “anonymous”, although I always do in the end unless they are designed to wound me, or, even worse, others. “They” are the comments left on my blog posts, and to be honest I think about them more often that I probably should.

Recently when I blogged about the burning of the rainbow flag at the Pride event in Fort McMurray someone left these two comments, which both troubled me and saddened me:
Typical Fort McMurray. I for one am born and raised. Is anyone really surprised? If you are then you didn't grow up here. I grew up around some of the most homophobic people in Canada right in Fort McMurray.

Chances are my last comment won't be approved because people here continually try to promote Fort McMurray for being 'the best place to live' in Canada. Not the case. Probably one of the worst actually. The fact that people try and hide everything with rainbows and unicorns is very misleading and wrong. People should be able to speak their mind without other McMurrayites continously getting defensive. Makes me sick. This incident makes me sick. I'm totally ashamed of Fort McMurray.

This burning resentment towards one’s hometown, left as an anonymous comment on a blog post, revealed a great deal about someone who seems to have had an unpleasant experience growing up here, and that saddens me as no one should feel this way about their hometown. Did it make me want to rise up in defense of my community? Yes, but not because I feel I hold the “true story” of life here, as I acknowledge that the experiences of others will differ. I feel I must share my story of life here, though, one vastly different from the experience detailed above, and the story of the Intrepid Junior Blogger who says it does not reflect her experience so far, either. For the most part, though, the comments did two things: they made me sad for the author, and they made me wonder (and ask) what the author did or has done to change a community they thought so lacking. You see if you are part of a community, and you think there is something wrong with it, then you have a responsibility to try to change it. To note the inadequacies but do nothing to change them seems to me to be a failing as great as whatever inadequacy has been noted. This community is ours, and therefore it is ours to change, too – and make better for the future.
I found the comment about those defending and promoting Fort McMurray particularly intriguing, because it truly is reflective of one’s experience here. I promote and defend Fort McMurray because it has been good to me and for me, and has been a place of opportunity and potential. It has, in no small way, changed my life because of the people who call this place this home, and so their experiences have influenced mine and how I feel about this place. How hard it must be, though, to feel as the anonymous commenter does, and how hard it must be if they continue to live here (and I would suggest that anyone who does feel this way truly needs to find a place where they can be happy, because life is too short to be miserable and no amount of money would pay me enough to endure misery). It is hard, too, because the choice to post these comments anonymously ends any possibility of reaching out to them and trying to find some common ground about this community. There is a finality in that anonymity, a lack of name meaning a lack of trust on all sides of the equation. The door to dialogue is slammed firmly shut, with a distinct advantage to anonymous as they know where I am, but I have no idea which face hides such unhappiness and pain.

And I must be honest. I struggle with allowing such comments to be posted on the blog anonymously. I suppose it is because I believe we should stand behind the things we say, and accept whatever the consequences happen to be. I think this is especially true when comments are left that are unkind towards me or others, because it is far too easy to take potshots hidden behind a mask of anonymity with no repercussions. I always feel a bit like I am allowing them to get away with this kind of behaviour in allowing them to comment in an anonymous way on a blog I control, and yet I am deeply reluctant to censor the comments unless they are truly filled with hatred, or, worse, threats (and yes, this has happened). I continue to publish these comments, and in some way I suppose it is because I am also a big fan of shining bright lights in dark corners to see what comes skittering out, and I think maybe I need to publish some of them to reveal to others the depth of some people’s unkindness, practiced when they can hide and not fear any sort of recourse. In the past even the worst school yard bully had to show themselves, but today they can hide behind fake names and anonymous posts, which saddens me even further as it allows the darkest parts of our human nature to surface.
This blog contains the story of my life here. It may not be the life experienced by the anonymous commenter I mention above, but it is told with honesty and sincerity - and with my name and face attached. When I began this blog I did so simply to share my story of life here, and on occasion it takes on a life of its own as the dialogue it sparks causes others to reveal their own pain, or anger, or experience - or hatred. Those comments left on the blog always say far more about the person who left them than they do about me, whether they are words of kindness or hate, words of support or rejection, words of happiness or sorrow - or words without a name attached, left hanging in the air and abandoned by the one who left them. And perhaps that is exactly it - I wonder if perhaps the anonymous words are ones that should be disregarded, because they are left by those who don't seem to believe them enough to claim them.

I claim the words in this blog. They are mine. And I will accept the consequences, no matter what they are, because I believe in them. I will not be one of the anonymous.

1 comment:

  1. Firm believer in ... Life is what you make of it! You can only try to change the world...but you can change yourself.