July 22, 2018 | ° F

Haters gonna hate ... anonymously

Internet users must maintain ownership of words, actions online

East Carolina State University’s student newspaper has a feature called “Pirate Rants” where students can have their opinion-based tirades published anonymously in the paper. A recent rant caused controversy for its racist undertones: “Will someone explain to me why there’s no ‘White Student Union?’ … I feel underrepresented.” 

Understandably, people were upset. Some believed it was a direct attack on the Black Student Union, while others just thought it was a stupid comment that shouldn’t have been published. But on the not-so-understandable side, the editor-in-chief of the paper actually received death threats for publishing the rant — including one that “called for her beheading by ISIS.”

Both the “Pirate Rant” itself and the reactions to it are the kinds of ridiculous, over the top and unacceptable comments that only someone comfortably hiding behind an anonymous username could make.

East Carolina, we feel you. As the editorial board of The Daily Targum, we get a lot of flack for pretty much any and every opinion we publish. Many of our writers are targeted by people who anonymously leave their angry comments on almost every article on our website (and we’re sure many of you haters are reading this). While we encourage phone calls, meetings and letters to the editor to address concerns one might have with our content, it’s the comments section of our website with its option of remaining anonymous that seems to bring out the worst in some people.

Internet anonymity can get pretty out of control. While we recognize some of the benefits, more often than not it’s just used as a platform to be unnecessarily abhorrent. The power of anonymity apparently gives some people a sense of entitlement to say whatever they want to without any regard for the consequences. This feeling of freedom leads many to post whatever they want without having to take responsibility for it.

We’re constantly told to be careful when we’re on the Internet — anything and everything we do online is there forever, and there’s always the risk that a dumb post we made on MySpace in the past might come back to haunt us at a job interview. But why be so cautious when you can just be anonymous instead? Social media is moving more and more toward the trend of anonymous posting — the popularity of Yik Yak is a testament to that. And while the option of remaining anonymous can sometimes be a good thing by encouraging participation and discussion, it also breeds a strange culture of aggression on the Internet that wasn’t as prevalent before. Anonymous commenters don’t have to take responsibility for their words anymore — so they don’t. And more often than not, the dissociation of these commenters from their words online unfortunately manifests itself in the form of hostile or inappropriate behavior that they might never engage in if it was in “real life.” 

Maybe being anonymous helps Internet users participate in online discussions without feeling self-conscious. Maybe you’re just a private person, and you don’t want your name on the Internet if you can help it. But if you’re anonymous because you’re not willing to take responsibility for what you do and say online, then don’t do it.

The Daily Targum

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