Thursday, November 5, 2015
Anonymity in social media
How Does Anonymity Effect Social Media?
Recently, Twitter gave its users the ability to post polls through tweets, the results of which, are completely anonymous. This leaves us asking, does the anonymous nature of this polling system lead to different or even skewed results? Anonymity can have several positive and negative effects to polling. For example, voters can take solace in the fact that their responses will not be known, thus they are more inclined to be honest. The most glaring negative effect, though, is the anonymity gives voters, or anyone on social media, the sense that they can say anything, no matter how harmful it may be.
There is a name for the side effects of anonymity over social media, its called The Online Disinhibition Effect, which is a loosening, or abandonment, of normal social restrictions or inhibitions that would have been present in normal face to face interaction. This is what gives anonymous users all of their power, they are not in any way limited by normal social constructs. The problem with this anonymity, is the lack of any meaningful consequences. The worst thing that can happen to an cyberbully is to have their account shut down, and who's to say they can't just make another one after? There are always positives though. Countless examples of social media users taking advantage of anonymity to do good can be found. For example, although it is a relatively small scenario, a student at my old high school started a completely anonymous compliments page in which he/she would post compliments, which were sent through an anonymous question site. These instances are few and far between though, as most anonymous interactions over social media have the tendency to be hurtful, or even dangerous. School lockdowns or evacuations are all just a few short sentences of threatening statements away.
Although there are instances of anonymity being used in a positive way on social media, there are far too many negative examples to make the argument that it is a positive aspect in social media. Take the app Yik Yak for example, it is, in essence, a completely anonymous Twitter. It is extremely popular on college campuses and is usually used in a positive, or at least non-harmful way. But there are too many examples of the app being misused in several ways. Take, for example the racist remarks, laid out in this article about the misuse of the app at American university.
There are far too many examples, just like this one, that make social media users despondent to the idea of anonymity.