As many of you may know, while I always redact the identifying information of people who send me private messages, I’ve often posted public discussions on social media without censoring the names of participants. This was never an attempt to “shame” people who disagree with me, and in fact I applied that policy equally to “debate posts” as well as “featured comments” and other regular features on my Facebook page, but I don’t control the actions of others. And because of abuse I’ve personally witnessed, I’ve decided to start removing all name data from my posts.
Renewing the Focus.
Many people on Facebook and elsewhere are perfectly capable of being respectful even when names are present, but my hope is that this policy change will mean other readers will be able to focus on the content and not on levying personal attacks and judgments.
I’ve often stated that I prefer the emphasis be on arguments being presented, but I also don’t believe in censoring comments of those who might have a different approach. As a result, some people have insulted discussants and (in rare instances) even sent them personal and threatening messages. I want to put a stop to that.
If you think you need additional advice on respectfully discussing hot-button issues like religion and skepticism, feel free to check out my essay on the topic published by the Friendly Atheist.
This is a Good Thing.
I am happy about this new direction because I think, in the long run, it will help keep people from being attacked or abused. Oftentimes these people are guilty of nothing more than having a different viewpoint and expressing it, but the “us vs. them” mentality in all of us can overcome the desire for rational dialogue.
By removing the names from my posts, fans and readers won’t have a choice. They won’t be able to visit my interlocutors’ pages or send them messages or insult their looks: they will have to focus on debunking their arguments.
I’ve already taken the first step by removing all debate posts that include the full names of people other than me. Over time, I will be reposting some of the most popular discussions with the name information removed because of the importance of the ideas themselves.
I want to thank everyone who has suggested this move in the past. It took me a few years to make the change, but that’s because I thought my intentions were what was important. I assumed that it was enough to post occasional reminders to treat other page members with respect. I believed posting public comments publicly and posting private comments privately was the “right” thing to do. I was wrong.
Thank you all for your continued support and I hope we can all work together to renew the focus on arguments and evidence.