HE DOESN’T KNOW HOW MUCH I LOVE HIM

I would be happy to endorse the movement to allow and encourage persistent pseudonyms in online forums if so many of the proponents of this measure were not using pseudonyms as a dogwhistle for vicious anonymous commenting. Until advocates of the use of pseudonyms on sites like Google Plus come out with clear statements that anonymous comments are harmful by definition and in practice and have no part in their advocacy of persistent pseudonyms, I will assume these advocates have a hidden agenda or just haven’t thought through the details enough.

When advocates press for pseudonyms online, what I believe they aren’t telling us is they also want unlimited anonymity online.

I say this because so many of the proponents of pseudonymous profiles online are also, when you get down to it, proponents of unfettered anonymous commenting – and, I suspect, have left scathing anonymous comments themselves. These are elite technology commentators, not political prisoners sequestered in repressive régimes. They’re also hypocrites.

I am quite unmoved by the arguments that people have “legitimate” reasons to use pseudonyms on Google Plus, including being in the closet or membership in ostensible marginalized groups. Closet gays and those on the edges of society do not use Google Plus. They have no reason to do so and Google has no reason to cater to them. Being online isn’t even remotely a necessity in the 21st century; being online in exactly your preferred manner – on all systems, without variation – is neither a necessity nor a right.

Of course technology columnists and early adopters would scramble to join Google Plus, but that is a bias that should not be projected onto the gay teens and poor nonwhites Danah Boyd studies. It is arrogant to imagine that the tech industry’s herd mentality should be applied to the rest of the world. Technologists always want to stick up for the little guy’s right to do exactly what technologists do.

Come back and fact-check my ass if I’m wrong, but I predict Google Plus’s membership will remain dominated by techies and nerds until, like Orkut, it withers or, like Wave, it gets shitcanned. “The next Facebook” it ain’t.

It is the height of hubris to assume that, since all your tech friends scurried up the gangplank onto the Google Plus ocean liner, a host of other groups you claim to give a shit about will inevitably do the same, and their right to be known by a pseudonym is one you will defend to the death. Can’t you do something that would really help those you claim to defend – even if it hurts, like adopting a homeless gay teenager or donating a couple of grand to a real-world charity every year till the end of the decade?

It’s so much easier to concern-troll for the right of the Little People to avoid using their real names in a forum people just like you are all on.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2011.08.25 16:15. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
https://blog.fawny.org/2011/08/25/cowardsplus/

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