A Yak to Hide Behind: Anonymity is Not Immunity

“On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” – Peter Steiner

It’s obvious that nobody on the Internet is actually a dog. Cat pictures are pretty popular, and I don’t think they would be if that were the case.

All jokes aside, if you didn’t understand the joke, it’s probably alright. It’s an old joke from a comic strip referring to the privacy and anonymity that the Internet provides.

Anonymity, in the most basic sense, is having your identity concealed. With a mask to hide behind, you can do and say more than you would outside of the Internet. You are free to criticize officials in positions of power and express your opinion, no matter how unpopular, all while ensuring that you won’t be hurt and your character won’t be judged.

I’d keep on going, but I’m not here to talk about why anonymity is amazing and what the repercussions would be if it were taken away from us.

I’m here to talk about the usage of anonymity on social media (i.e Yik Yak) and why it seems like people here at Mines just don’t get it.

As an app, Yik Yak promotes a forum for people within the community to talk about anything and everything. If you like something, you upvote it so others can continue to see it. If you don’t, you downvote it and it will go away once it hits -5.

I’m an avid user of Yik Yak and it pretty much provides me with up-to-date news on what’s going around here at Mines. The ‘best’ part about it: your name is not attached to anything on the app. I’ve seen and heard of good things happening because of Yik Yak. Some time last year, a student was feeling pretty down and reached out for help on there. Whether or not they actually met up, people offered to meet up and hang with him/her. I’ve seen gatherings set up by the app and I even know someone who got a drink bought for them from Starbucks while they were at work.

This app is capable of some sizable amounts of good. Whether or not the people would have done the things above without anonymity is a topic of its own, but there is one thing this app can confirm:

“Anonymity breeds meanness— the Internet has proven this time and time again.” – Sam Altman

As much as I love perusing the app, I’m not a big fan of specific people being targeted for comments and ‘jokes.’

One of the first rules is: “DO NOT bully or specifically target others.”

It is easy to find people using nicknames for people to bully them for extended periods of time or even using the names of professors to say pretty mean things about them. Our Yik Yak has it all, even when it shouldn’t. You may not realize it or you may realize it completely and not care, but in some way, shape and form, you’re essentially bullying them even if you feel like your words don’t hurt them.

There’s a huge difference in using anonymity to attack political figures and ideas, and using it to attack everyday people you go to school with.

If you’re someone using it for the latter, you need to be reminded that even though you may be completely disassociated while online, you aren’t disassociated from any real life repercussions.

Anonymity is a double edged sword. It can be used for both great and bad things. I’m not your mother and I’m not going to tell you to not do things. You’re more than capable of making your own decisions, whether they are good or bad.

The one thing I ask of you, before you decide to use anonymity for anything harmful to others, is to remember the human you’re talking about behind the screen.

We all are trying to get through this dog-eat-dog world that is Mines, so why make it harder for someone else to do so?

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