Blogs and public forums can be a great way to communicate ideas, experiences, and opinions ideas in a public sphere. It also serves as a great way to encourage public/democratic deliberation. How often do we consider our perceptions of people who post comments to blogs, discussion boards, or online news sites? How likely are we to assume that the comments posted reflect the poster’s personality? Could there be external forces that prompt someone to post a comment in a public online forum? These are all questions that are good to weigh into the discerning of a blog or forum post online and the responses it may elicit.
In consideration of people that post and comment to blogs, discussion boards, or online news sites, there are various types of people who participate. They span the gambit of sex, race, experiences, lifestyles, and much more. For example, the person posting about their admiration of pets can be a middle-aged, small town school teacher in Iowa. A teenager from inner city New York can talk about their experiences with pets, affirming of challenging the original post. It is likely in the broader topics where we can see this variance in responses and people engaged in the conversation. More specified topics (like child birth tips, fantasy football, etc.) typically have a similar pool of people commenting on them.
My assumption that everyone is sharing their true thoughts about the subject posted are based largely on the following: the subject, who is posting/has posted, and the knowledge of the person doing the posting. The subject alone can cause people to not post their true feelings. For example, people will not be as likely to post their views on a more personal subject like their sexual experiences. People generally save those discussions for intimacy for people that they trust completely, not random strangers. Moreover, who is posting/has posted on the subject already matters to whether or not people will be forthcoming with the truth because people want to feel like they belong; that sense of belonging is part of our hierarchy of needs described by Abraham Maslow (American psychologist that determined what is needed for a healthy, full life).
If a group of like minded folks have already posted, not too many people will be comfortable “going against the grain” and present counter arguments for fear of having the group turn against them due to posting a contrary viewpoint. That goes for people who are knowledgeable on the subject as well as those that are not as well versed on what is being discussed. The more knowledge that someone has, in regards to the subject presented, will allow them to feel more comfortable making an online post with an opposing perspective. The more knowledgeable person will not have as hard of a time articulating their point of view and supporting their claim. A person not as informed, however, may present information to the discussion that isn’t completely true or may have more trouble expressing their opinion to those already in agreement.
These are not even taking into consideration the external factors that may come about when working through online posting such as the Practitioner’s Dilemma. If the online forum allows anonymity, people are more forthcoming with information because it cannot be traced back to them. Thus, the fear of judgment is removed. That is why people are more willing to express the rawness of how they feel on Yik Yak (social media site for anonymous message boards) rather than Facebook (where there is a profile picture, biographical information, and even friends). Another external factor can be the makeup of the group that is posting. If the issue forum is about women and birthing tips, the person who doesn’t care for having children will be less likely to give their full thoughts on the matter. In conclusion, there are many things that help shape our perspective on different issues, topics, and subjects. I don’t think that an online post is or should be assumed to be the true thoughts of the poster. It is so easy to craft any message that someone chooses for an online message board, but the truth is much oftentimes much harder to articulate. We can all craft whatever we think is acceptable to say when it is convenient, but it is when we have differing ideologies that we find it to truly say what is on our minds. Sure, you can post something online anonymously, but shouldn’t we all have the same boldness when our name appears under our actual thoughts as well? I think so.
Sanders, Katie. “Honesty and Truth: A Practitioner’s Dilemma.” Progressions. Public Relations Student Society of America, 12 Mar. 2013. Web. 10 Oct. 2016.