Online: Be Yourself not Anonymous

I don’t know about you, but when I see a comment by “Anonymous” I automatically discount its worth. If you don’t value your time and words enough to put your name to them then why bother? Online: Be yourself not anonymous is what I’ve always believed, until I began thinking in earnest about marketing.

Accountability

I believe to achieve online equanimity, one’s words need the check of accountability provided by owning up to your actual identity. While this is true in theory, does it hold up when viewed under the lens of marketing scrutiny. Whether you’re selling a product or yourself – for what is our online community but one big concession stand – does anonymity hurt or help sales?

Authentic, But At What Cost?

What began as a reflection on the troubling vileness of comments left by incognito voices, has morphed into a marketing inquiry. If you’ve read any of my political posts you’ll have noticed I don’t shy away from expressing my opinion. I aim to be authentic, but at what cost?

Possibly, my true self may offend readers, does that mean I am sacrificing a potential sale? As I seek to publish, should I be more mindful of how my personal views influence the buying power of the public. Should I rescript my views whenever I blog, tweet or post to be more palatable?

Consider this—isn’t it equally important to be yourself when you are your own brand and sole proprietor of your business? Should you be an edited, fictitious, more marketable you? How much of yourself can you reveal before you risk repelling clients, customers, or readers with your personal views or politics? What about when those views have nothing to do with your product or business?

Boycott, Protest, and Media Blitzes

We’ve seen what can happen to a company that supports political candidates or issues that don’t comply with the social mores of its customer base. Calls for a boycott, protest, or media blitz are broadcast, and make headlines, but what results from these? Is it, any publicity is good publicity? Or are these actions detrimental enough to the bottom line to influence a business’s polices?

Should companies acquiesce to the demands of its patron’s or stand strong in its convictions? Does it depend on what stance, or policy the company is imposing? Are they speaking for themselves or the company? Do their politics affect their employees directly or restrict their employees autonomy? 

How deep do you dig into a company’s missions statement before you buy their product or services?

What Do My Values Say About Me As a Customer?

I admire how some companies have handled these uproars. Much to their credit, JCPenney stood firm in its support of choosing Ellen Degeneres, an openly gay woman, as its spokesperson despite some hater’s protests. And Target’s protection of a transgender persons’s right to choose their own identity and bathroom usage was admirable. I promptly made purchases at both establishments in solidarity.

However, I have often shied away from buying anything at Target because of its refusal to implement policy protecting women from a pharmacist personal views and judgement. Here is where I think the line is as to whether a company or individual can impose its values and morals on another.

A pharmacist, because of their intimate knowledge of your medical decision (by way of a prescription) is obligated to maintain your privacy. When they refuse to fill a prescription that goes against their own morals, they are crossing the line into patient/doctor confidentiality. An intrusion that is becoming more and more common as politicians seek to legislate controls over how and what women do to their bodies.

Then there is the other side of the spectrum. When Chick-Fil-A funded anti-gay groups I boycotted them. When Hobby Lobby purporting to hold it’s anti-abortion, anti-contraception ideals as sacred religious rights to the point of taking it to the Supreme Court, but were in fact, heavily invested in those products through their company financial holdings, and made a lot money doing it, I vowed never to shop there. Theirs was an astounding hypocrisy, yet not shocking given how white corporate America behaves these days.

Clearly, my values say a lot about me as a customer and, influence my purchasing decisions. I can’t expect others to not be influenced by what they value when deciding whether or not to do business with me or anyone else. 

A company that tries to rule over your personal life and demands conformity to their standard is one I’d try not to do business with. I think it is wrong for a company’s values to supersede employees or a customer’s rights. It’s that line of infringement that is the litmus test.

Does expressing my political views impinge on another’s rights? No. They might not agree, or like what I say, but I have no power over their ability to make value judgement of their own. They aren’t restricted by my views. Despite my fight to stop the sale of assault weapons, I would not bar a Republican, anti-abortionist, NRA card holder from buying my books because they have different values from I. 

How Much Virtue is Too Much Virtue?

Do you as a consumer consider a company or individuals politics, values, or religion before making a purchase? Do you have a list of companies you won’t do business with because of their carbon foot print or quality of life standards for workers? Do you make a purchase anyway if your wants or needs of a product countermand your convictions against the companies policies?

Does a company like Chick-fil-A, whose religious agenda is clearly and proudly part of their companies purpose statement— “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us.” —risk losing customers that don’t support their views? Or do people just not care when it comes to filling their bellies?

I will never eat at Chick-fil-A. Not because of their religious affiliation, I support them holding to their faith and values, and find many of their charitable initiative admirable, the exception is when they infringing on the rights of others. And since their company donations support anti-same-sex marriage endeavors, they have crossed the line.

How much virtue is too much virtue is in the eye of the beholder. Decide what you value, read widely about the companies you frequent and shop accordingly. How deep your research goes, and whether or not you strictly adhere to these self-imposed guidelines is on your conscious, not mine. 

 Being A Writer Means You are a Business

What does this mean for me, a blogger, sole proprietor, a writer who one day hopes to sell a few novels? Or you, the account exec who secretly writes a popular romance series of novels, or the middle school teacher who is a skilled erotica poet and earns half her salary in affiliated links?

It means you are a business and responsible for the bottom line. How closely you aline your business with your personal morals is another decision you have to make as an entrepreneur.

A secret identity to sell your wares in some instances is commonsense. A secret identity to be ugly, repressive, and argumentative is not. Hiding your identity to promote an agenda that is counter to your public face is subterfuge.

Be Yourself Not Anonymous

I started this post because I wondered, does transparency makes for better discussions? My want of openness is not a call for any person’s voice to be muted but rather a plea for clarity, civility and consciousness.

Being yourself online is hard, but if it can cure what infects the comment sections all over the internet, wouldn’t it be worth it? While (evidently) it may not keep me you from embarrassing myself yourself, I believe it does more to keep one honest and reflective than hiding behind the mask of anonymity.

Anonymity’s danger is it give one a false sense of entitlement to say whatever one wants. Aside from the few instances when this is a necessity to protect yourself from harm, it seems to me that we’d be better off without the ability to hide from ourselves or others.

Like the rules we set for our children when teaching them personal responsibility online “Never say online what you wouldn’t say to someones face or their mother.” That’s what I taught my children, and I’m determined to adhere to this maxim myself. Even as a business entity, I feel a responsibility to be open about who I am and what I believe.

I am Always Me

I can’t say I’ve never commented online under another name, but I have never done so to be dishonest. I am always me, and I believe it keeps me from saying much of what needn’t be said, out loud, to anyone. Though I do not shy away from expressing my opinion, I’m learning to temper it with an understanding of how it reflects on me.

That’s why I promise to always be me online. When I find my message or responses becoming vitriolic I know I need to step back and let my anger abate. If the message is still something I need to express, if the anger is justified and makes sense after I’ve cooled, then I’m prepared to stand behind my words, but I intend to be responsible for what I say and I hope you’ll hold me accountable for it too.

Freedom of speech is not freedom from accountability. You should have to own up to what you say, write or preach. whether you are an individual or a corporation.

P.S. I update and rework this post off and on as I reevaluate and need to clarify what I’m thinking. Many news items since I began have felt like prescient warning of the impact imposing ones values on others have. 

Given the results of Donald Sterling’s deservedly quick and complete ousting from NBA (just the beginning of a spate of business leaders being held accountable for their racist, and/or sexist remarks and behavior),  an the Hobby Lobby court case, the insistence that everyone conform to personal values not their own is a tough sell even when you share some of those values. 

The one guideline I keep coming back to is, how and when you stand up for what you believe in should be determined not just by your personal moral compass but whether or not it restricts others from following their own. 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Hi, Lynne! ~

    I find the ideas expressed in this post very refreshing!

    Besides posting online comments ‘anonymously’, another thing I’ve seen people do is post something and then remove their post after others have responded to it, thus leaving a ‘hole’ in the continuity of a discussion thread. I find this aggravating! As you say, if you are going to say something then, for Heaven’s sake, have the spine to stand by your words!

    One thing I can promise you is that I will always be me, online or in person! Maybe this is the start of an awesome friendship 😉

    • Lynne Favreau says:

      Thank you Linda. Yes, that is an aggravation also. Retract if you must but say so don’t delete it.
      One can never have too many friends!

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