Why we may need to get rid of the anonymous option.
Maxine McDade ’17
As a college student, life can be stressful and there isn’t always someone to talk to. I know there are some things I would definitely rather not share with people. Sometimes sharing your deepest secrets and unknown desires doesn’t have to be a scary thing though. Speaking anonymously helps to obtain a certain freedom and safety one requires when speaking about something personal or embarrassing. The fear of being judged isn’t there, because who will know it’s you? While having a safe space to vent about the stresses of life and other various topics can be fantastic, it also creates a potentially harmful environment.
Apps such as Whisper, Secret, and Yik Yak have become extremely popular, especially among high school and college students, as well as adults. The apps created a space for people to vent or share stories anonymously. Ones they wouldn’t normally talk to anyone else about. Students will often bring up insecurities, personal thoughts, or ongoing problems in their life to vent and see if anyone else can relate to them. Many other people will respond in a supportive manner offering great advice to the original poster (OP) and creating a good environment for people to release their worries and concerns. But the opposite happens as well. People posting can abuse anonymity to post hate speech and threats.
Cyber bullying is a big problem currently with the Internet and the availability of being anonymous. The Seattle Times recently wrote an article on Yik Yak and the scrutiny it is under due to a recent hate-speech incident at Western Washington University. While there is a moderation system in place, it can’t always provide a one hundred percent safety guarantee.
The Seattle Times article says users will usually downvote comments off the app if they are found offensive to enough people. The problem then is, what do people find offensive or not agree with? Minority opinions may post something beneficial to others that the majority doesn’t agree with and it could be taken off the app simply because the majority doesn’t agree with it or want it on there.
The benefits of a safe space for students to vent and share stories without being judged is great, but when the option of anonymity is taken advantage of for negative uses we need to ask ourselves if being anonymous is really a good thing? Threats and hate-speech are not to be taken lightly and those who abuse anonymity need to pay the consequences for their actions.