Real Names Don't Make for Better Commenters, but Pseudonyms Do

New data from the commenting platform, Disqus, finds people who don't use their real names generate more positive feedback from their peers.

shutterstock_74178097-body.jpg

The reason people are so mean to each other on the Internet is because the hide behind a cloak of anonymity or pseudonyms, right?

qualitysignals.jpgNot quite, at least according to new data from the commenting platform Disqus, used on many news and analysis sites including this one. According to their data, across sites that use Disqus, comments left by people with pseudonyms receive more likes and replies (positive "quality signals," in the graph at right) than those left both by people using only their real names and those who are completely anonymous. Pseudonymous visitors also make the bulk of comments -- 61 percent, compared with 35 percent that are anonymous and just 4 percent left by people using their real names.

Pseudonyms occupy an odd space in the debate about whether Internet comment systems could be improved by pushing everyone to reveal their identities. The thinking goes that if people are held accountable for their comments, commenting will improve. But on the other hand, people want to preserve the special ability to comment anonymously -- and therefor more honestly -- that comes so naturally online. Pseudonyms are kind of a cross between the two: You can say what you want without fear of retribution (a la anonymity) but you also want to cultivate a persona, and, typically, you don't want it to be hated. The result? Better comments.


Images: 1. discpicture/Shutterstock; 2. Disqus.

Presented by

Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

Saving the Bees

Honeybees contribute more than $15 billion to the U.S. economy. A short documentary considers how desperate beekeepers are trying to keep their hives alive.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Technology

Just In