Digital anonymity: The good, the bad and the ugly

The rise of digital media has drastically transformed the way news are delivered, as well as the way audience responds and receives the news. It allows more ‘on-demand’, immediate news and encourages a more responsive marketplace.

Now that digital media allows a two-way communication with its audience, the audience has gained more power than they ever had with traditional media.

In other words, nowadays, the ball is truly in the court of the audience.

However, as it is a virtual space, there will always be the issue of anonymity.

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Now anonymity does not always mean a bad thing, in fact, it can be a good thing for some people, including me. For me personally, I feel that I’m more comfortable publishing my works (writing & photography) anonymously, mainly because I don’t feel like handling all the criticisms and judginess I might receive from the people around me.

The executive director of the Tor Project, Andrew Lewman said, “The ability to be anonymous is increasingly important because it gives people control, it lets them be creative, it lets them figure out their identity and explore what they want to do, or to research topics that aren’t necessarily ‘them’ and may not want to be tied to their real name for perpetuity.”

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Another example can be drawn from the famous social news forum, Reddit, where in one of its subreddit, AskReddit, a lot of people uses their ‘throwaway’ account to share some of their very personal experience and give out their advice to help others. Now such things won’t happen if people were forced to use their real identity, as they might feel reluctant to share their experiences that are too personal.

However, there are always two sides in every coin..

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The ability to hide under a cloak of anonymity allows many people to abuse the digital platform. The things we were too afraid to do in real-life might feel just fine if we were to do it on the internet, anonymously.

It’s like the audience are concealed by this mask of anonymity, they feel the sense of invincibility and indestructibility, simply because no one can confront or accuse them in real-life. The combination of these senses urged people into ‘breaking rules’ — which in some cases can lead to cyberbullying.

To put it briefly, anonymity would be harmless if people simply wanted to share their ideas, artworks or creations without being known to the public. But that’s not always the case in the age of digital media.

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It can get really ugly when anonymity is abused for cyberbullying, which in worst case scenario, might even be responsible for other people’s depression and suicide.

The case of Ask.fm suicide clearly explained how anonymity can actually be responsible for someone’s death.

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