SBM Blog is grateful for a large readership that frequently lets us know that our efforts are appreciated. But you seldom let us know what you think via our comment section. We are envious of blogs like Volokh Conspiracy that attract vibrant commentary, but worry about what we might be dealing with if the floodgates open. Is it possible to have an online comment policy that both promotes a sense of community and keeps the crazies out? "The Psychology of Online Comments" in the New Yorker suggests it probably isn't, especially if commenters are allowed to comment anonymously:
One of the most common critiques of online comments cites a disconnect between the commenter’s identity and what he is saying, a phenomenon that the psychologist John Suler memorably termed the “online disinhibition effect.” The theory is that the moment you shed your identity the usual constraints on your behavior go, too—or, to rearticulate the 1993 Peter Steiner cartoon, on the Internet, nobody knows you’re not a dog. When Arthur Santana, a communications professor at the University of Houston, analyzed nine hundred randomly chosen user comments on articles about immigration, half from newspapers that allowed anonymous postings, such as the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle, and half from ones that didn’t, including USA Today and the Wall Street Journal, he discovered that anonymity made a perceptible difference: a full fifty-three per cent of anonymous commenters were uncivil, as opposed to twenty-nine per cent of registered, non-anonymous commenters.
Anybody surprised? Comment below.