Anonymity is a major characteristic when it comes to online communication. Whilst hiding behind a mask of anonymity gives us a platform to express ourselves without fear of judgement, encouraging greater openness and honesty. However, this level of fearlessness and honesty can go too far, resulting in the likes of trolling and cyber bullying.
Trolling occurs when users give unsolicited comments on a particular topic whether it be from an anonymous Twitter account, on someones photo or video or in relation to anything else posted online. While some examples of trolling are passed off as a joke, most comments are inappropriate, controversial, and offensive, and are usually posted to get a reaction from the audience.
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Perhaps a more sinister side to trolling and anonymity is cyberbullying. In recent years, there has been a massive increase in reports of children being bullied online. Teenagers are increasingly turning to pseudonymity to abuse others, so that the targeted victim may or may not know who is harassing them. Because of this, users feel like they can say whatever they want without the fear of being caught. While they are under a veil of anonymity, they often forget that the victim is human too, which leads to a desensitisation of the harsh words they are sharing.
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Ask.fm, a popular question and answer website, became popular within young teenages in 2012. Users set up an account and other users can send them questions either under a user name, or using the anonymous setting. Ask.fm became increasingly associated with a number of teenage suicides, due to threats being made under their anonymous settings.
While anonymity can be beneficial for those who need a sense of confidence when expressing opinions, it is clear that it has more sinister side effects, especially among younger users who may not have the emotional capability to deal with it or right the education to use it safely.