In Support of Real Names on YouTube

Just yesterday, YouTube asked me if I wanted to start displaying my real name on their website, rather than my username. Now, I knew YouTube had been purchased by Google, and I also knew Google has been gradually integrating all of its websites, connecting them for easy use on a single unified platform. All the same, I was surprised by this move, since it almost seems crazy for people to use their real names on YouTube, as if it was Facebook or Google+. However, I promptly answered the website's offer in the affirmative, and I agree that things should change. Now I'll explain why.

My support of real name use on the internet can be explained by a single phrase: civil discourse. I support the use of anonymity in many contexts, but in general I believe the use of real names can help prevent against nastiness at insane levels.

"The Prize" is what I've been watching lately
on YouTube. Note my face up in the corner -
my Google account, just like here on Blogger.
And YouTube is full of nastiness at insane levels. It has been for a long time, and on all different sorts of videos. I don't know really what has fostered this environment, but in my book, YouTube has just about the biggest community of ignorant trolls on the web. (Readers, feel free to point out somewhere worse.)

Now, I understand the "free speech" component of anonymity issues. People cherish the ability to be anonymous, and I really don't know if YouTube is going to force people to use real names any time soon at all - they may never. They may just get some people to switch over to using their real names if they choose - like me.

However, I don't think there's an inalienable right to be anonymous on any given website, and it's not really an issue of freedom of speech. I still think people should be able to say most anything they want online - I just think the content of what they say (or at least the politeness with which they say it) may improve amazingly if it's under their own name, rather than a pseudonymous username. Here's the bottom line: Many YouTube comments sections are stinking bogs of immaturity and even cruelty. One way to help solve this might be to ditch the pseudonyms and start using real names, just as other social networks do.

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