|Scooped by Kaleigh Borushko|
Online Anonymity Doing More Harm Than Good?
While the front page of online news sources seem to be updated every day with the story of another teenager who took their own life due to the harassment that they've received online, I am left questioning, "Would these bullies still torment their victims without the safety of their computer screen and appearing 'anonymous?'"
Each of these articles have proven to me that people (not just young people) feel more powerful when anonymous, and that they seldom fear or even consider any consequence of their actions ("Because they were only posting online and not 'in real life.'") When the possibility of being "outed" for who they really are is presented to them, they often play the victim card or claim they don't see anything wrong with their previous behaviors.
I also feel that these cyber-bullies are becoming desensitized to the feelings of others and the impact of their statements simply because they're unable to look their victim in the eye and see how their harassment actually affects their victims. Perhaps physical/verbal bullies have a tendency to become depressed (along with their victims) because they feel some sort of remorse for their actions whereas cyber-bullies may never be able to fully grasp the consequences that their actions have on others.
Furthermore, I've observed what seems to be a direct correlation between cyber-bullying and depression in teenagers and adolescents, though fewer instances of depression resulting from physical and verbal harassment. This leaves me to wonder if the worst part of cyber-bullying is the anonymity-- not knowing who is preying on you. Is it a friend from school? An enemy? A frenemy? Or an adult man 500 miles away posing as your 16-year-old soulmate?
Young people are now not only vulnerable to the criticism from those that they directly surround themselves with, but people that they may have never met, perhaps even from the other side of the world.
These vulnerable minds are incredibly susceptible to the manipulative behaviors of anonymous predators lurking in the shadows -- Canadian teenager Amanda Todd's devastating story is a clear example of this.
Conversely, however, online "hacktivist" group Anonymous has begun to take matters, such as Todd's, into their own hands and reveal the identities of these cyber-bullies who may not have otherwise been brought to justice. Perhaps one of the few positive online behaviors resulting from anonymity.
Ultimately I do feel that the anonymity of the internet has proven not only harmful when abused, but potentially dangerous to our society as a whole who is now able to say what they want to whomever they want without fearing any consequence of their actions. In developing adolescents, this could lead to a lack of empathy later in life and a desensitized generation who fails to observe the impact of their behaviors on others in exchange for a few seconds of power.