The things that are happening out in the world are immense and terrifying. There is no question. And I find myself scrolling through article after article trying to find someone with some sort of explanation that makes a little more sense of what seems so very non-sensical.
But, my scrolling also sent my brain off on a remarkable tangent today – a tangent that actually brought me back around to a topic that I’ve wanted to discuss for a bit now.
My news feed this morning was full of so many terrible photos. Men in hoods. Men in masks. Women in both as well. Anonymous, hidden faces.
My face, my identity, and especially my name is something that is important to me. I have spent my life thus far ensuring that my name is something I am proud of. My work, my decisions, my actions all reflect upon me and my name and therefore each requires thought, concern, and reflection.
Meg Ryan plays a character in the movie, You’ve Got Mail, named Kathleen Kelly. At one point. she gets annoyed at the Tom Hanks character for introducing himself as “just Joe”, and says, “As if you were one of those stupid 22-year old girls with no last name? ‘Hi, I’m Kimberly!’ ‘Hi, I’m Janice!’ Don’t they know your supposed to have a last name? It’s like they’re an entire generation of cocktail waitresses.”
It annoyed me at first, being defensive of both 22 year old girls and cocktail waitresses. But, the sentiment is very, very true – your name is an important part of you.
Which is where my brain wound back into those terrible photos.
We do have an entire generation, perhaps not of cocktail waitresses, but of anonymous faces. Today, with all this technology at our fingertips and all these freedoms at our disposal, you have an entire generation who has become used to speaking, acting, posting, commenting, criticizing, and even publicly acting anonymously.
What is scary, is it feels like that means a whole generation of people who don’t think that their actions, their work, their words, and their decisions are affecting others, and, more importantly, nor that each of those components are affecting them and their growth as people, as humans.
In a very personal example, one of the comments that broke my spirit in the midst of a tough stretch last year was an anonymous posting on yelp by a woman. She wrote, “the chef obviously doesn’t care anymore” and then went on to tick off her complaints with her meal. She had a bad meal, I get that. If she had come back to my window, or asked to speak to me, I would have tried to fix it. It might not have changed the outcome, but, at the very least, later I would have said, yep, that was a bad meal. I know that “Mrs. Blank (whoever she was)” tried to work with us, but things just weren’t right. Her words, her actions, would all have points of reference and in our interaction – context. She would be her. I would be me. We would be two humans, with names and faces, trying to solve a problem.
But in the end, it was easier to choose an anonymous forum to air her grievances. Taking no responsibility for the bite of her words, nor seeking a resolution – just looking to air some trash. If she had had to write her name on it, the question is, would she have posted? If she had to look at me as a person and identify herself and talk to me, person to person, would she have continued?
This mornings array of terrible photos included a link to a story that one of the young men, age 22 ironically, who was photographed carrying a torch was upset that his name was now being attached to this event in the press. He went anonymously and was now not prepared to take responsibility for his words and actions. He was, like her, not seeking a resolution to any problem.
If he had to wear a name tag, or had known he would have to share his name for his quote in the paper, the question is, would he have shown up?
As George Bernard Shaw once said, “Life isn’t about finding yourself, Life is about creating yourself.”
Our names, our actions, our comments, our postings, our work, and our decisions are all part of that – they are how we create the person that we want to be. If we are hiding behind anonymity than what does that leave us with?
I’m hopeful that somewhere along the way our names will start to mean something to us once again. Because above all else, our names help to humanize us. And perhaps that will help us to think, just take one moment more to think, about whether we want that action, that post, or that thought attached to our name for all eternity.
I’ll keep you posted. Andrea J. Carbine