This post is available over at Forbes blogs:
Social media has brought a sense of “realness” to the fakeness of online identities. People used to hide behind anonymity, and then we declared (with Mark Zuckerberg leading the way) that you couldn’t be taken seriously if you were hiding behind avatars and names like TechKitty5837. We embraced the idea that you need to attach your picture and real name to profiles and blogs.
Apparently we’re moving back to anonymity again.
Christopher “moot” Poole is reminding us why we might have wanted to avoid divulging everything to begin with: privacy. Frankly, there are some things that you want to search and say, but you don’t want them to come bite you three years down the road. I can see his point.
Personally, I believe that it’s a balance. Yes, if you want me to believe you are a credible authority, a face and a name are helpful. However, just because there is a drive to be real online, it doesn’t mean you need to be a jerk.
Realness, with a face or anonymous screen name, seems to invite people to be rude and condescending, picking fights just because they can. Unfortunately, I’ve seen this behavior transition out to the real world, mostly with women.
Perhaps it’s because women are likely to change themselves to be who someone else wants us to be. Elizabeth Gilbert had to take a year off eating, praying and loving in order to figure out she didn’t need to automatically turn into the version of herself her husband or boyfriend wanted.
How many times have you heard friends talking about “Mary” and how she’s just not the same now that she’s with “Dan”? Wearetherealdeal.com is constantly trying to educate women that you don’t have to follow what Hollywood says, including how our 8-year-old daughters don’t need push-up swimsuits (starting a little early Abercrombie, aren’t we?).
Face it, women change themselves. The rude behavior, however, has shocked me.
My best example is when it comes to networking. I’ve done a lot of networking in the past few years, especially with bloggers. It’s already obvious when certain bloggers are more comfortable online than in person, that’s expected. However, I’ve met more women who come out with claws as soon as I’ve said, “Hi, my name is Emily. It’s nice to meet you,” than I’d like to believe.
I have no idea why someone automatically starts challenging me and all my beliefs, maybe to get a rise out of me, but I get completely blown away by the hostility.
I could understand if I made a comment on a post they didn’t agree with, but I don’t read minds (or read through their eyes to know what one comment might be driving the hostility). If you aren’t going to tell me, just believe that I’ll “know what I did wrong,” I can’t help you. Trust me, that game rarely works on boyfriends, why would it work on someone you just met?
Sometimes, you need to fake an introduction. I don’t care if realness is part of the modern world, manners haven’t gone away either. If you find yourself in a situation where people need to get away from you as quickly as possible, take a moment to self-reflect. Did your realness (a.k.a. jerkiness) turn them off? Were you rude? Did you leave all social niceties at home? Being honest and having tact can go together. Trust me.
If you need some tips (or want to subtly share them with a friend), etiquette expert Diane Gottsman has a great post with ways to make great firsts impressions, and do well at a lot of other firsts. You may not need to dig out your mother’s copy of Emily Post, but remember polite society still exists today, whether you’re in person or anonymous.