What happened to “Don’t give out your name on the internet?” Within the past 15 years, the desire for online anonymity has vanished – as “normal people” joined the digital world, the number of “creepy people” worth hiding your identity from seems to have dropped in comparison. Despite the perceived safety of the online world, remaining anonymous still has its merits.
Anonymity addresses ideas
In an ideal world, political debate occurs detached from the people debating the topic. When discussing the gender wage gap for example, fact-based discussions should be possible between any two individuals, regardless of gender, salary, or race. Productive discourse where different interpretations of the same statistics should occur, where arguents, not participants, are rebutted and questioned. This ideal world does not exist.
Instead, when arguments are backed by identities, it’s much easier to attack an argument by attacking the arguer. It’s too easy to claim someone doesn’t know what they are talking about, since they are too old or too young, too priveleged or too uneducated. Political elections are perhaps the best examples of this, especially when candidates attack past actions of their opponents to avoid attacking their values.
An idea with no group or person attributed to it is the truest form of an idea, for it exists on its own and must be taken down for what it is, not who is behind it.
Anonymity ensures security
Freedom of speech ensures individuals can not be legally punished for publicly expressing their opinion. However, when opinions are tied to identities, the government is not needed to punish those with different views. Citizens can take matters into their own hands if given the target’s place of work and the ability to write a dishonest complaint. A quote taken out of context and a social network to spread it can end a career. Given the rapid spread of data in society, the best way to ensure your security is to spread as little of your information as possible, and to separate whatever you share from each other.
Anonymity ensures authenticity
“Give a man a mask and he’ll show his true face” is a favorite quote of mine. It can act as an attack against anonymity, claiming people will act badly if able to avoid social and legal backlash. This can be interpreted in a different way; people have the freedom to be who they are when they don’t have to worry about backlash. Is it just to not feel safe showing one’s true face in modern society?
Surveillance acts partially as a way to collect information on a populus, and partially as a way to enforce good behavior; if you see a camera at a stoplight, you are more likely to act in good behavior whether or not the camera is actually on. In an ideal world, everyone acts in good behavior and gets along, but on their own terms and not because they are being watched. Remaining anonymous ensures good behavior is not done in hopes of receiving praise or gaining social acceptance, but rather for the sake of being good. An example could be comparing a person who drives safely in case there might be a cop versus a person who drives safely because they don’t wish to risk anyone’s life.
- An anonymous idea is stronger than a non-anonymous idea, as it lacks the weaknesses associated with having a human (and thus flawed) orator.
- A person is always safer when they aren’t publicly tied to any comments or statements.
- A person has the freedom to be who they are when their identity isn’t behind their actions.