When I was younger, one of myolder cousins was running for mayor and during her election, we had gone overto her house to visit, and while we were there, a friend of hers called her upto tell her something she should see. The friend told her to go to a websitecalled “Topix” and search our town and find the thread titled”Mayor”. Topix is a website full of forums that cover local communitynews, events for their calendar, and updates from colleges, churches, sports,and classifieds, and people can post their comments on these topics to thisboard anonymously. This is what the website is intended for, but people wholove to gossip use this site to talk about others, hence why she was on here.
People were posting mean and malicious comments about her and her family. I washorrified what I was reading, I couldn’t believe how mean people could be. Thisis all due to the Online Disinhibition Effect, meaning where one acts out moreintensely online towards others then they would in person due to beinganonymous. There are many contributing factors why anonymity is dangerous onthe internet. However, the Online Disinhibition Effect is the leadingcontributing cause why anonymity occurs on the internet. The leading cause of whyanonymity is common on the internet is because of the Online DisinhibitionEffect.
In the article, “The Online Disinhibition Effect” by JohnSuler, states “Everyday users on the internet … have noted how peoplesay and do things in cyberspace that they wouldn’t ordinarily say and do in theface-to-face world. They loosen up and feel less restrained, and expressthemselves more openly.” He explains that this phenomenon is called theOnline Disinhibition Effect. There are several factors that interact with thiseffect and why it happens. These factors are dissociative anonymity,invisibility, asynchronicity, solipsistic introjection, dissociativeimagination, and minimizing authority. Dissociative anonymity is when onethinks their actions can’t be credited to how they really are, and invisibilityis when one feels safer because no one can see what they look like or judgethem.
Asynchronicity, meaning that because people are not intermingling withothers in real-time, they don’t have to deal with immediate responses, andsolipsistic introjection is when someone who can’t see or know others online,sometimes imagine in the minds who that person is and what is their intention.Dissociative imagination is when one thinks that since it is the internet, itis not real life and those people are not real, and minimizing authority meansthat these people feel they can do or say whatever they want on the internetbecause there are no authority figures to stop them. I know, some of thesefactors may seem crazy and doesn’t make sense, but this how others think orfeel when on the internet.Cyberbullying is one reason thatcan be resulted from anonymity online and why it is very dangerous.
In thebook, Cyberbullying: Activities to Help Children and Teens to Stay Safe in aTexting, Twittering, Social Networking World, by Vanessa Rogers, states that”Cyberbullying is different from face-to-face bullying because the bulliescan keep a distance between themselves and their victims. This affords thebully a level of anonymity and a perceived sense of security that convincesthem they won’t get caught. It also makes it easier to ‘forget’ what they’vedone and, as they don’t see the harm caused, any feelings of guilt or empathyare minimized.” (par. 2) Basically, the author is trying to make a pointof why cyberbullying is easier to happen to people rather than face-to-facebullying.
This type of bullying can also cause major harm to the victim to thepoint where they end up committing suicide as a result from no longer beingable to take all the harassment and that’s just what happened to a 10-year-oldlittle girl. She was being bullied at school and one day decided to stand up toher bully and resulted in a fight between the two. While fighting, othersrecorded the fight and posted it on a social media website where hundreds ofkids would see and make fun of the girl that got bullied. Just a week afterbeing posted on the internet, that little girl committed suicide by hangingherself in her closet because of all the mean comments she got. It’s sad tothink a 10-year-old even knew what suicide was and most of all thinking thatwas the only way to make it all stop. Suicide from cyberbullying happens more thananybody really knows and continues getting more common over the years as technologygrows .
In the article, “End of Anonymity” by Chris Baraniuk, hestates, “Not everyone can stand up to such abuse: it has driven severalteenagers to suicide. It has been called the online toxic disinhibition effect,and it is a consequence of a basic fact of internet life: online, no one knowswho you are.” He is basically saying cyberbullying can end up in suicideand it just one of the consequences of the internet. Another issue is cybercrimes thatare caused by online anonymity. One of the most dominant physical crimes thatcan now be aided by the use of the internet is identity theft. Majority of thetime, identity theft can be done because of anonymity, it allows thesecriminals to continue to be anonymous and steal identities, then turn them intoonline currency or what is known on the internet as “cryptocurrency”.In the article, “Anonymity, Privacy, and Security Online” by Lee Rainie,did a survey about anonymity and in the article the author stated “11% ofinternet users have had important personal information stolen such as theirSocial Security Number, credit card, or bank account information” (par.
5). Over the years, cybercrime has been on the rise and becomes a highersignificance when discovering the fact that the U.S.
infrastructure is becomingmore and more connected to the internet. This leaves infrastructure helpless toattacks from people wanting to do harm to the United States, hacker groups thatdon’t agree with policies, or even other nations that want to steal and usedata to do harm and only benefit themselves. The role of anonymity incyberspace if profound, it allows for individuals or groups to be able to go incyberspace relatively undetected from authorities. While on the internet, usersmay feel hidden from other users and not feel like they are forced frombehaviors that are not considered traditional. This loss of self-awareness andself-regulation could potentially lead to behavior that is considered to bedifferent, although anonymity can lead to negative behavior it could also offerbenefits. It could potentially allow for more open conversations on sensitivetopics or possibly even counseling. However, these positives cannot help but becompared to the different possible activities that can be accepted usinganonymity. This loss of individualization and self-awareness allows someonewith different tendencies to act on those thoughts due to the supposedanonymity offered by being online.
This is not to say that any person who canremain anonymous online will simply decide to act in illegal ways, but a personwho already has this want to commit deviant acts will be more likely to do soif they are provided anonymity as well as physical and moral detachment fromtheir actions, which leads me to my next topic. Since we can’t change the way people think tostop them from being anonymous on the internet, there is a solution to controlthe use of negative factors that are caused by anonymity. In the article,”The Dangers of Anonymity on the Internet” by Ari Ezra Waldman, heproposes this solution, “We can help to ensure a safer online environmentby developing norms of social interaction, by setting examples for others, andby standing up to harassment when we see it. Only then, when powerful norms ofreciprocity and kindness hold back our worst aggressive tendencies, can onlineanonymity truly help to foster a diverse Internet community.” (par. 9)This solution could work but it is not that effective. I have come up with acouple solutions to fix this problem.
These solutions include convert emailswith a real return or originating address, make people start paying to usecertain sites to decrease the use of hacking, or have these sites have a codethat detects a certain type of words that can be harmful and then haveprogrammers review them to decide if it should be taken off or not. However,the best solution that can work would be to create a verified identificationsystem, for those who want to use it, would need to have verifiedidentification and authentication. People would not be forced to use this kindof system, but if they wanted to continue to communicate and surf anonymously,they would need to be verified. However, for those of us who choose, at times,not to be anonymous and should not have to deal with people who are anonymous.The benefits would be to decrease hacking, spamming, cyberbullying, trolling,emitting of anonymous hate, and the possibility of a more civil discourse. In conclusion, Anonymity has itsgood side and its bad side. It’s protective and it’s empowering, but also, it’sdangerous. Anonymity can be a useful tool for shy people, for cyber orpolitical activists and for those seeking an escape from their offlinepersonality.
At the same time, anonymity can become a channel to enablecyberbullying and cybercrimes. I think that in order to reduce the risks ofanonymity, Internet providers and social media networks need to reconsider theeasing of such outright anonymity and implement more protective measures toavoid cybercrimes.