Like a lot of people, I have an alter ego on the internet. I have another blog and a whole other identity which is sorta-secret. Recently on that blog, I posted about an issue that tends to rouse people’s passions. Not surprisingly, I got a slew of anonymous comments that were self-righteous, unfriendly, and downright annoying. I decided I didn’t want the drama, so I blocked a few people from posting. When that didn’t do the trick, I even deleted a few comments.
It was hard to do. I felt uneasy about deleting comments, because I believe in dialog. That said, none of those comments felt like dialog, especially the one from a particularly persistent stalker, who called me an “not a big believer in free speech” and a “fascist,” after I blocked her. You see why it felt a bit odd deleting that comment?
As my finger hovered over the mouse button, about to click “Yes, I’m sure I want to delete this comment,” I came to an important realization about my role in promoting free speech on the internet. I don’t have one. I’m not a government entity. I don’t own a news organization. I don’t host a public forum. I am one lone person with a very personal blog.
When I deleted those comments, I wasn’t silencing the people who made them. The internet is a big place and free blogs abound. The people I blocked were free to go elsewhere, start their own blogs, and post anything they liked, including accusations of my alter ego being a Nazi.
Rather than silencing them, I asked them to leave my party. Because a personal blog is just that: a party you throw at your own house. You invite people and hopefully everyone gets along and has fun. If somebody shows up who can’t play nice, well, you’re within your rights to ask them to leave. Sometimes people you didn’t invite show up. You certainly have a right to ask them to leave.
People have opined that if my blog is open-access, I shouldn’t pick and choose who I let comment, but I’m sticking with my house metaphor. The door to my actual house is visible from the street. Anyone who walks by can ring the doorbell. I don’t have to let them in. It’s my house. I decide who comes in. Same thing on my blog. Act like a jerk and I won’t make the mistake of inviting you over again.
It all reminds me of an incident in the park earlier this spring. As I walked to work, I passed two squirrels fornicating near the tennis courts. I stared at them, a little amazed that they were just doing it out there in the open. The male squirrel stared back at me, continuing to hump his partner, as though to say, “What you looking at? This my living room.”