Internet anonymity is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it allows people to say things they normally wouldn't feel comfortable saying under the harsh lights of, well, real life. On the other hand, it allows people to be dicks. Meanness simply for the sake of being mean and being able to get away with it scot-free. (And I speak from "receiving end" experience here!) But, hey, guess what? YouTube is fed up with all this ad hominem nonsense, and they're trying to put an end to it. They want people to use their real names on their site! They want anonymous commenters to show themselves! Muahahahahah!
Probably one of the nastiest places anonymous comments live, YouTube now asks its users for their actual, real-life names. The names that human beings in the real world call them. The names on their driver's license or utility bills. The way it works is users can now use their Google+ profile -- or simply their real name -- on the site to get "more options for how videos are seen and discovered on YouTube." However, it (passive-aggressively?) acknowledges that "using your full name isn’t for everyone."
Now, here's the kicker. When you go to enter a new comment on YouTube, a window pops up that shows you what your current user name looks like, and what your Google+ name would look like, were you to use it. If you want to stick with the former, YouTube flat-out asks you why, and gives you six options to choose from. YouTube basically wants you to admit you're being a jerk! (Kind of.)
Despite the fact that I've been called some pretty mean things online -- anonymously -- I actually am torn on this. Like I said, even though some people use the privacy the Internet provides recklessly, others use it thoughtfully. Some people just aren't comfortable speaking up and expressing how they feel out of fear of getting judged, made fun of, etc. So they hide behind a screen name. And that's okay. What's not okay is calling someone a "talentless moron" for posting a homemade video on YouTube. Would you say that to their face? I doubt it.
I really don't ever see a day where Internet anonymity is completely gone -- and I'm not sure I'd ever even want to see that day -- but it sure would be nice if YouTube exposed the actual names of the "trolls" on their site. Anonymity is one thing. Meanness is another.
Do you think YouTube should make their users show who they are?
Image via Adikos/Flickr