If so inKlined: Issues with anonymity

In our technological age, it is easier than ever to voice your opinion without foreseeable consequences. Anonymous websites and applications like Yik Yak are on the rise. I see these outlets as ways for somewhat cowardly people to say what’s really on their minds. It gives us (and I use ‘us’ instead of ‘they’ because, admittedly, I do use some of these applications once in a while) a way to say our controversial thoughts without any repercussions. But I think it’s crucial that people think about why they feel the need to post things anonymously—is it really necessary?

Yik Yak is a primary example of an anonymous outlet. I had heard of Yik Yak as a high schooler but didn’t download it until I got to college. I have to admit, lots of the posts on the app are really funny, but every once in a while there are some that concern me. Sometimes, I’ll see posts along the lines of “I hate my life here and I think about suicide every day.” It’s good that this anonymous poster is at least voicing their thoughts somehow, but an anonymous internet application is absolutely not the way to do so. As a reader of an anonymous post with suicidal connotations, there is absolutely nothing I can do to help the person who could be in a dangerous situation. Often, other members of the app will comment on the original post, telling them to keep their head up or that “it will get better,” but someone who is in such a bad place needs a friendly face to help instead of a couple sentences from someone they’ve never met.

Yik Yak is also used by students from many colleges in our area to talk about things they don’t like about their respective schools. I would say about a third of the posts I see are complaints about WiFi issues, cafeteria food or something along those lines. And again, voicing these opinions anonymously will not advance the issue whatsoever. This, I find, is the main issue with anonymous outlets. Sure, people feel more comfortable saying how they feel, but their anonymous opinion will not change their situations. Alternatively, if a student complaining about slow internet connection (most of these posts were from another college, but let’s say they were from Mac for example’s sake) were to go to the IT desk to try to get their problem fixed instead of whining about it on the internet, the problem might actually get solved. Posting about it anonymously keeps the problem exactly where it was, rather than working to get it fixed.

In other cases, anonymous websites can be quite creepy. One of my friends at Mac had an incident a few weeks ago with a website called Mermur. This site is fairly simplistic—you go to the internet address, type in a ‘friend’’s cellphone number and write them any message you want to. The website will send them the message from an anonymous number, with a note at the end telling them it was from the website. The messages my friend got from the website were kind of scary—they were clearly from someone who knew where she lived, but we ruled out any of our Mac friends who had her number. The situation got resolved, but before she figured out who the culprit was, she was really freaked out (just as I, or probably any college student, would have been in the same circumstance). Websites such as Mermur could open the door for some seriously weird anonymous threats or insults, which is not what the internet should be used for.

I believe that the cardinal issue with anonymous apps and websites is that people are generally way too inhibited for their own good. Another example is the huge amount of Yik Yak posts about someone pining for another someone from afar—they’re too afraid to say or do something about their crush, yet they feel comfortable posting about it online. Posting wishful thoughts online is utterly pointless, especially when it comes to romantic relationships. People who make these posts should really grow a pair and say how they feel to their special someone out loud. People need to be more comfortable voicing their opinions out loud instead of anonymously on the internet.

And, of course, if you’re not comfortable with speaking your thoughts out loud quite yet, there’s always the opinion section of the newspaper.