Charles Kim

The true consequences of anonymous social media

It’s no doubt that quarantine has essentially pushed every aspect of our social lives into the path of digitalization. Everything we normally do to maintain a healthy social life — from seeing our teachers in-person to taking Friday night detours with our friends — is now part of the mundane process of staring straight into a digital screen for multiple hours on end. As poor camera quality renders everyone into horribly pixelated GIF images and as frequent microphone blowups make conversations literally impossible to understand, it’s only natural that students have become more socially deprived over time. In an effort to combat this complete starvation of social interaction, students have created social media outlets so that people can connect online while maintaining social distancing policies.

A prominent example of these outlets comes in the form of anonymous social media. On certain social media accounts, students can publicly post jokes, divulge sensitive information and share snippets about their personal lives without having to worry about potential repercussions they would most likely face when posting on their private social media accounts. This is due to the nature of anonymous social media, in which sources of the posts are not revealed. 

While the idea of anonymous social media can help stave off the need for social connection and fulfill the desire to escape from our own public image, it also brings about ramifications that can single-handedly ruin one’s high school experience. The central issue present within these confession groups is that there’s little to no regulation. 

The very concept of these social media outlets has its benefits. By posting, a student is granted the ability to indulge in a conversation that peers can respond to, share and comment. Simply spreading positivity or, in the extreme case, starting drama, all plays a role into establishing a sense of social connection, in spite of it all being anonymous — having people respond to your post raises the notion that you yourself belong to Walnut High School. The high school experience is exhilarated by being involved in a community, and the rise of these social media outlets helps to revitalize the communal sense that was lost amid quarantine. 

However, said “concept” is idealized, and what comes out of these anonymous gossip groups is oftentimes a far cry from aforementioned benefits. With anonymous confession groups, students are basically granted the ability to freely post, in spite of how vulgar or defaming the post is. This leaves room for insensitive and malicious comments and conversations, which although may be posted for the sake of entertainment, can be easily misinterpreted. As with all gossip, targeted individuals may take what appears as an inside joke and interpret it at face value, which may lead to several consequences.

It’s important to realize that when certain individuals are targeted, they are subject to a conversation that they potentially don’t even want to be a part of. In one case, the only regulating factor that administrators of the anonymous social media groups is that if a student directly messages the social media account for removal, the post will be taken down. Yet, most of the time, students often overlook targeted posts and pass it off as an inside joke. The problem is that if the mentioned individual isn’t directly following or actively keeping up with the social media account, the individual is ultimately devoid of the ability to take down the post. This could potentially leave open doors for cyberbullying.

The opportunity of students to take on an “anonymous” identity makes these groups attractive. The way we present ourselves in real life is restricted by the way we want others to perceive us. However, the ability to remain anonymous removes these moral guidelines or restrictions, thus giving the user the liberty to freely express themselves. The liberty that students are given often leads to harmful and irresponsible comments, which promotes a culture of negativity and slander.

It’s not to say that all of anonymous social media is inherently harmful. With proper administration, malicious and slanderous comments can be regulated to create a more amiable community. A group that exercises said regulation has administrators read a submitted Google Form, and determine whether or not it is appropriate for posting. Furthermore, other anonymous groups have strived to promote positivity by having students submit inspiring and encouraging messages about their fellow peers. When anonymous social media is done right, an air of friendliness and community can be fostered, as opposed to the hostile environment.

Conclusively, whether or not anonymity in social media yields positive or poor results is entirely dependent on the administration of the social media group. When little to no regulation is exercised, what results is an environment of absolute anarchy, which often leads to unsafe and irresponsible posts. To better ameliorate toxicity in anonymous social media, these groups should prioritize regulation over anything else.

By Andrew Kim, Copy and Coverage Editor-in-chief
Photo courtesy of Charles Kim