Does anonymity avoid the negative consequences of social media or fuel them?

Image courtesy of Idea Go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Cyberbullying often makes media headlines and no more so than when the bullying is done through an anonymous source, for example social media such as ask.fm where users can make posts and comments without divulging any identifying information. Unlike many other social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter there are no privacy settings. Users are asked to declare that they are over 13 years of age when they sign up to the site (although young users can simply lie about their age this is a criticism that applies to most social media sites). Users then create a profile where anyone, not just their friends, can anonymously ask them questions.

The Media Headlines
A quick search reveals many headlines ‘blaming’ anonymous sites for cyberbullying (Of course, it has to be noted that these are media headlines and not objective research):

North Van teen became suicidal after ‘brutal,’ anonymous cyberbullying on social media site, mom says

Is your child using the sinister website that pits friend against friend? This week a 15 year old boy killed himself after being hounded on it.

Ask.fm, the troubling secret playground of tweens and teens

Pupils and parents warned over social networking website linked to teen abuse

Teenage girl died following ‘hateful’ comments on Ask.fm

So why have these anonymous websites been created, what is their purpose or aim?
A quick visit to ask.fm’s website does not provide much information at all, all that is displayed is the phrase “Ask and Answer”. However, another anonymous website, Duvamis describes itself as “your opportunity to communicate freely, without fear of being judged by others. Through guaranteed anonymity, Duvamis is a platform that allows you to express yourself, break the chains of your socially accepted image and discover what truly makes you happy”. Similarly, Social Number encourages users to become “just a number” to “avoid the fear of negative implications when using other social networks”.

What are your thoughts?
Do you support the media headlines or argue against them? Do you feel that social media sites should allow anonymity or do you think that sites should retain some ties to the users offline identity in order to limit cyberbullying? What benefits do you see for anonymous sites such as ask.fm? Do you feel that we need this anonymity in order to express ourselves?

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2 responses to “Does anonymity avoid the negative consequences of social media or fuel them?

  1. Pingback: Beware of the trolls | The Cyber Psyche·

  2. It’s very very easy to post something anonymous on the internet, and most internet users understand this. I could create a fake Facbook profile, and post whatever I choose (obviously I’m not doing this as it’s an example). I don’t think the problem is the anonymity. The problem is the reaction. If users would leave the negative comments alone and report them, rather than fight back on the internet, I think we would have a much more positive outcome.

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