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Joshua Jamerson, senior editor at The Post, writes a weekly column for Wednesday's newspaper.

'Unseen' allows for non-constructive comments to fester on Ferguson

In Ohio University’s section of the anonymous social network, those who support the grand jury decision avoid a real dialogue on Ferguson. 

In between the images of women using their hands to cover their breasts in anonymously-posted Unseen photos, you’ll find a lot of commentary on the protests in Ferguson and the reaction it sparked at Ohio University.

Monday, when a grand jury determined there was no cause to indict the white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, OU students and Athens residents occupied Baker University Center.

“All y’all in baker are ignorant. Facts > skin color”

“Remember the white people rioting and burning down their own city after OJ’s acquittal? Yeah, me neither.”

“To the people who think the Athens cops shouldn’t carry fire arms, you are wrong. This will only create an unsafe campus. Think about what would happen if some messed up kid started shooting up the campus. Who’s going to protect us? Are you going to sit in Baker and protest until he stops? Think before you say stupid s--t.”

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We know people find bravery on social media, where the lack of face-to-face interactions often allows for a lack of accountability. Add in the fact that all posts are anonymous on Unseen, and you’ve got an environment in which these sorts of unproductive comments thrive.

The format of these communiqués will probably never allow for a serious dialogue that could lead to finding common ground. But the fact that so many commenters exist on Unseen means there is likely a sizable group of people back in Athens who disagree with the very visible group of Bobcats who stand with Mike Brown.

Both sets of voices should be taken seriously — but if you disagree with the grand jury’s decision, why not follow the lead of the Baker protestors and put your name to your opinion? Why not come out of the shadows and air out your concerns just as those who came to Baker on Monday did?

Your voices can best be heard when you care to be bold enough to say them in a public, non-anonymous form.

With regard to furthering a conversation, the actual anonymous postings shouldn’t be taken seriously. Comments with no name attached — and from people who are not willing to speak in person — are largely not useful for this conversation. The Ferguson protesters in Baker are putting their faces and names to their comments, and they are speaking out against the grand jury’s decision and Mike Brown’s death in public settings.

The Unseen commenters, no matter how they feel about the grand jury’s decision, should come forward if they want any legitimacy attached to what I’m sure are very passionate feelings they have.

The Baker protesters, for their part, should continue to be accepting of other opinions, and if they’re serious about sparking a dialogue that furthers their cause, make attempts to reach out to Unseen commenters. Meet your detractors where they are.

How about this for an Unseen posting:

“I stand with Mike Brown. I believe the grand jury got it wrong. I see a lot of you on Unseen think I’m silly for feeling this way. Let’s talk it out instead of talking past each other. My email:"

Meet up for coffee. Meet in a classroom and have a debate. Skype. Something.

Notice that, overwhelmingly, the comments on Unseen that bash the opposition to the grand jury’s decision are met with praise. At the same time, the protestors from Baker are consistently on the same page.

The current dynamic will never completely work, because true progress cannot be made when both sides are preaching to their own choirs.

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