I just want to know you're real

Posted by Ryan Jerz on Monday May 14, 2007.

I’ve come to a realization about myself. I’m a walking (or typing, as it may be) contradiction. With as much time as I devote to the online world, and as much time as I devote to all matters of the distribution of information through online means, I can not fully embrace the way the online world operates.

I know I’m fixated on this one subject, but I think that’s only because I do operate as an evangelist in the circles I run and this topic comes up again and again and again. It’s anonymity1. I know it’s like beating a dead horse with me and this topic, but like I said, it keeps coming up every time I try to spell out the virtues of reading blogs and participating in them to my friends or people I come across in a business setting.

If I talk to someone about blogs, it’s usually because they ask me or the topic is very relevant to the setting. The people asking me have either read this one or one of the many others that cover the area (side note: local is totally the way to go; everyone reads the local stuff) (also, I’ve moved to semicolons instead of the dashes, if it’s the right move, so correct me if it’s not). They appreciate the information but too many of them don’t participate at all. Why? Because, at least this is what they tell me, they don’t trust the stuff they’re reading entirely because anyone can say anything with impunity. That’s somewhat of a contradiction in itself, but it’s what they say. So even if the people talking to me are contradicting themselves (which is totally a viable option; we all do it) what it says to me is that bloggers are working hard to do what they do, but overall the trust factor isn’t there and that hurts everyone — not just bloggers.

Anonymity isn’t the entire focus here, though. I really want to get into how I can’t be at peace with talking to people strictly through impersonal anonymous communication. I’ve recently begun exchanging emails with someone about my neighborhood. I have no idea who this person is but this person claims to want to “work together” to do some things around the part of town in which we both live. I have no problem doing the things, if time doesn’t become a factor, but I can’t bring myself to do anything in collaboration with someone who I’ve never met or whose name I don’t even know. It’s a huge problem for me. By all accounts, this person wants to do a lot of things that I want to do, but I can’t even bring myself to trust the motives this person may or may not have. It’s entirely possible I’m being manipulated by someone out to pick a bone with a neighbor, the city, or me. Without any accountability, this person can hit and run and I don’t want to be a part of that.

So, can a person like me who spends way too much time online and telling friends how great online life is be at peace with himself when I don’t fully embrace the way things seem to “be” online? Like I’ve said before, I want this to work and it can’t work without the conversation. The conversation can’t be viable unless a large cross-section of people are taking part. And, it seems, a large cross-section isn’t possible until either the population comes to accept anonymity or the anonymous ones realize they’re not helping it happen. I just want to know who everyone is and maybe sit down to discuss things over a beer once in a while.

1 I am in no way calling anyone out. I am, however, pointing out that in order to make this whole experiment work, everyone should be on this basic page. If we can’t be, then why waste all the time?

Ryan JerzRyan Jerz is an all-around good guy who wants people to eventually refer to him as "that dude who climbs mountains."

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