As technology advances, the way we communicate changes. Since the introduction of our online offering, the number of letters received on a weekly basis – either via snail mail or email – has rapidly decreased to the point that our printed opinion pages have had to incorporate online comments.
As it becomes easier to break news online, it also becomes easier for members of the public to share their views – be it by means of the comment function or a social-media platform – quick, easy, no postage needed.
But a common critique of online comments is anonymity. Here at Lowveld Media, our very own journos, who as a rule make use of bylines when writing stories, are often the ones in the firing line.
Why? Because on the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.
The use of pseudonyms or the publishing of anonymous letters are nothing new, and in fact encourage participation, but also, and unfortunately, uncivility.
This theory more than often rears its head on news websites: the moment you shed your identity, the usual constraints on your behaviour go too. As more and more people land in hot water for things they say online, what you say anonymously and what you are willing to put your name on, have become two very different things. This phenomenon has been labelled the “online disinhibition effect” (Google it!).
We as a newspaper do sometimes make mistakes, but are usually held accountable for what we publish by the press ombuds- man or the law, and have to face the consequences and wrath of our readers.
So this column serves as an invite to our readers to make use of this comment function – compliment us, share your views, show solidarity, stimulate debate, send us tip-offs, criticise and even insult us. But whatever you say, take responsibility for it, just as we do. And do not phone us afterwards and request we take your comment down or remove the name that you entered because you regret what you said.