I tried explaining the idea of an “online reputation” to my one-on-one professor here in China. She understood the concept but felt it very odd that people would want to be known by their real name online. She told me that Chinese are all about “anonymous” postings using any number of screen names. QQ, the popular Chinese instant messaging client, just logged its 270 millionth user, covering 85% of internet users in China. Most QQ users have multiple accounts with multiple avatars to have optional identities. Chinese internet postings on message boards are also largely anonymous to the average user (the Chinese gov’t has got tabs on everyone, though). But it is anonymousness of postings help foster that sense of group mentality that the Chinese are known for. They can debate and come out the end with “this is what we believe as a group.” In America, you’d rarely debate something online and come to a conclusion as a group because we aim to support individuality.
In light of recent Middlebury College discussions on the anonymity of Middlebury Confessional, a site dedicated to voicing the inner-secrets of students, I certainly needed to revisit the idea of being anonymous online. Supporters say that anonymity gives people an outlet to voice problems and ideas that wouldn’t be accepted in our politically correct culture. On the other hand, I have always been of the mind that public posts and opinions are the best because it forces accountability.
But recently, I have realized that this blog has become increasingly self-censored. I am uber-aware of the “record” it creates online. Future employers will scour these posts for hints of anything good, bad, or ugly. A friend recently told me that he did not dare keep a blog while in China because of the unknown side-effects with governments both American and Chinese. I’ll never get a job with State Dept. now that I’ve blogged my way to doom.
But the truth is I don’t want to self-censor anymore. It’s ridiculous how many posts I don’t write. Maybe it’s better if I blog anonymously, attack and retreat into the safety of the dark. I remember those days in middle school, send an anonymous email as a way of dealing with problems.
It may work for the Chinese to do the anonymous thing, but I still maintain it doesn’t work for me.