Anonymity is a mask. It makes the user genderless, ageless and totally unknown, however the content of their message can still have significant impact on the recipient. Many social media websites have the option of anonymous feedback, a feature often abused to target individuals. Anonymous hate is a serious and relevant issue to the contemporary online community, closely associated with youth and women.
Tumblr user Lindsay Bottos is just one victim of such anonymous online hate messages:
Self-regulation of such messages is common, either by ignoring them or directly fighting back. However there are other, more public and communal methods of responding to anonymous hate. Many people argue that censorship is ineffective, and consequently ‘naming and shaming’ is a more often a defence mechanism. Through avenues such as the twitter hashtag #mencallmethings, the issues are made public, and the perpetrators revealed.
While hate isn’t uniquely targeted to women, the content and frequency of messages are often related to gender, incorporating themes of sexism, misogyny and harassment. In an article about online hate and victimisation, writer Karalee Evans raises an interesting point; she questions the presence of behaviour online, highlighting the power of anonymity:
I can’t remember the last time I was on the bus, expressed an opinion and had a man pipe up that he was going to knock me off. Nor can I think of a time I’ve been in a cafe, reading a newspaper and commenting on the issues of the day, only to have a man in a mask jump out and tell me I’m a silly little girl that deserves to be raped.
Blogger Charly Cox also discusses the effect of anonymous hate in her post Who Even Are You?:
behind your muted name
and your blanked photo
an ip address not worth tracking
your existence apparently
so much more relevant than mine
yet you can’t leave an identity?
Anonymous hate, especially when constant and repetitive, can have detrimental effects on a person. Everyone has a responsibility for their behaviour online, and should always consider how it may affect others. Anonymity is not to blame, but we should question its benefits and whether they outweigh the disadvantages.
Cox, C. 2014, ‘Who Even Are You? – Anonymous Hate’, Style The Natives, blog, April 7, viewed May 6 2014, http://www.stylethenatives.com/2014/04/who-even-are-you-anonymous-hate.html
Dreher, T. 2014, ‘#mencallmethings: identity and difference online’, Lecture Week 10, BCM 112: Convergent Media Practices, UOW, 13/04/2014