It’s time we stop using anonymity on the Internet as a crutch for bad behavior.
I’ve read more than a few books and articles that all cite our crisis of cruelty on the Internet being unquestionably connected to the anonymous nature of the medium. So, this is not about that - the studies have been done and the truth is apparent.
The bigger question is: if all it takes is some thinly veiled anonymity, then why are we such cruel people?
Not to praise my parents too highly or to attribute too much to being brought up as a digital native, but I genuinely don’t have the natural proclivity towards toxicity online. I might go so far as to say that I actively seek out softer, more passive language when I respond to human beings on the Internet.
And yet - that isn’t the norm.
Am I some kind of virtue signal-er then? I don’t see it that way. I am honestly concerned for the state of the human heart with what I see in the comments section worldwide.
Perhaps the source of this is that we are using anonymity as a crutch for our own personal shortcomings.
I’ve met many people in my short 27 years of life. I’ve met kind people. I’ve met nasty people. I’ve met shy people. I’ve met boisterous people.
But on the Internet - I’m hard pressed to meet someone for the first time in a positive conversation. Twitch has changed that sentiment a slight bit. But for 100% text-based conversation on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook… it can feel a bit hopeless.
Nevertheless, I am a person of hope and I have hope for the Internet even still. I’ve seen how people can turn on a dime once a relationship is established. I’ve seen that the toxicity isn’t better in the offline world.
While I offer no answers with this one, I hope that at the very least we can acknowledge that anonymity may be a tool used for cruelty, but it isn’t the source. The roots run deep and that’s a crutch that is too often used. Cruelty exists, but we can be better - anonymous or not.
March 10th, 2022