By Juseph Elas
With the emergence of different social media platforms, people are able to feel connected with one another in real-time schemes despite the geographical distance between. Perhaps, this has revolutionize the way we appease our longing for connection which we didn’t have decades before during the era when telegrams rule the world. Today, social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LINE, Viber, et. al) provide an avenue for people to reach out to the world whenever and wherever they may be. These “new media” shaped the way we interact, gave voice to the voiceless, and arguably, provided democracy on a larger scale.
This gave birth to the concept of anonymity.
Merriam-Webster.com defined anonymity “as the quality or state of being mostly or completely unknown <oddly enough we like the anonymity of being a part of an enormous crowd>.” However, anonymity does not only hide the identity of the author of a post, it also allows the user to create a new and unrecognizable identity (see: deindividuation). And this is where the concept of anonymity is dangerous because a lot of variables may come into play.
To best picture out the idea of anonymity, let’s take a look at one Facebook page where it is widely practiced.
The WMSU Secret Files is a Facebook page patterned after several others with the same name but are addressed to the university in which it operates with (e.g. UST Secret Files, Ateneo Secret Files, et. al). This page opened up the highways for students to translate their thoughts, opinions, sentiments, and what-have-you’s into words and actually broadcast them whilst hiding behind a veil of anonymity. That concept, perhaps, made the whole idea worth biting because you can broadcast absolutely anything without exposing your real nature.
Psychologically speaking, we feel more brave when our identity is hidden or we are hiding behind a pseudonym or an entirely different identity. It gives us more drive knowing that no one will suspect anyone for posting such material on cyberspace where all avenues are open for everyone’s disposal.
Honestly speaking, hiding behind a pseudonym is nothing new anymore. Writers who are targeting high-ranking officials, who are planning to expose an issue, are the ones who usually do it to avoid the bullet commonly known as libel/slander.
But few of us are able to comprehend that posting anonymously in pages like the WMSU Secret Files makes no difference at all.
In occult studies, a witch’s spell can always be undone. The same concept is applied in this context. You posted anonymously, thinking you will not be caught, but an I.T. expert can trace your I.P. address and before you know it, you’ll have cops banging at your front porch with a warrant of arrest.
Recently, a Western Mindanao State University (WMSU) Director made headlines after “anonymous” posted on WMSU Secret Files a string of posts about this director. The heaviest of the posts is when “anonymous” accused the said director to be embezzling funds of the office the director is heading.
However, we question: are the accusations thrown at this director true? Are there documents to support the claim? And to further the scope of this case, is the administrator of the said Facebook page ready to work with the director to solve this case?
I am not siding the said director neither I am condemning “anonymous”. What we should realize is that (1) WMSU Secret Files is an effective avenue for students to voice out their concerns regarding issues in the university; it’s a conducive space where discussions can be made so that options are weighed. The university can even use it as basis for their policy-making. (2) WMSU Secret Files shouldn’t allow postings like what “anonymous” posted because the accusations may be libelous and it will do no any student good. And (3) the admin/s of the WMSU Secret Files should adhere to the moral and ethical principles that entail owning a page on social media.
Dangers of social media are very well documented that it’s hard for one not to know them. Perhaps, what we could do is be responsible in using the perks of democracy. Liberalism has its limitations as well. I know that emotions are major governing powers that might affect the way we think and behave, but it pays to be vigilant.
Learn to draw the demarcation between anonymity and bravery and practice netiquette online and even offline.