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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Anonymity and Its Power

Taylor Berry

Taylor Berry

Anonymity has provided people with the ability to voice their opinions without fear of judgement. Whether it is agreeing with a popular opinion or taking a less popular side of a controversial topic, the anonymity of being behind a screen can allow for voices that are typically silenced in a room full of people to be heard. However, as we all know, for every positive thing there is a potential negative that can occur.

The negative aspect of anonymity on the internet is the fact that it can breed a destructive environment, which in turn, can cause more harm than good. Allowing for people to hide behind screens allows for internet trolls to flourish and cause pain that they may or may not be aware of. With the evolution of technology, there has become a lack of genuine conversation. Yes, people have the right to say whatever whenever, but if a person doesn’t see the effects of his/her actions they will not understand the consequences that occur with this great power of speech. Another factor to the anonymity of the internet is the fact that via the online world, it is easy for people to slip into another persona that they wouldn’t typically take on. The lack of sensitivity and the ability to freely share ideas without thought can lead to events similar to the Yik Yak incident a few years ago. The way I like to look at internet anonymity is in two ways.

  1. Internet trolls are just as dangerous as people with road rage. We have all heard the stories, some have experienced it, and a few have been the culprit of these acts. Now no one is perfect and driving can be stressful at times but when a person is aware that he/she may become the next twitter/ insta meme for their reactions leads for people to reconsider if they are going to go off on another. The intimacy of driving and being able to see the other driver is what prevents most people from exploding on the person that cuts them off in traffic. However, the hazing that occurs behind a screen is as detrimental because people can use their free speech to create a division rather than the initial purpose to bring people together.

  2. Second, before you type something behind the screen, ask yourself if it is something your Mom or Grandma would approve of.

Obviously, there is a thin line between using the  internet as a tool vs. a weapon. Depending on the values of the people using it, there can be more harm than good behind the anonymity of the internet due to the fact that, it can be a protective shield that decreases a person's empathy towards others. Yet, I still believe that in order to protect free speech, anonymity on the internet should not be outlawed. Rather, through the continual education of people, I believe that we can strive toward gaining a better understanding of the power of an individual's speech and how to practice anonymity in a smart, productive and most importantly, safe manner.

Nov 14, 2017

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