Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Audacity of Anonymity

I recently found myself standing between two large groups of teenage males, hyped up on adrenaline and metaphorically beating their chests and challenging each other to combat. I stepped in between the two groups in an attempt to calm them and to bring an end to the insanity. Although most of the students were from my school, one of the leaders of one group was not. Having the advantage of anonymity, the young man threatened me openly and taunted me, calling me names and ordering me to back away.

The entire incident had escalated through the audacity of anonymity that many students held that evening because they were not from my school. They took pleasure in creating chaos and were bold in being rude and disrespectful. The evening ended without further incident; however and consequently, it has become clearer that there is a trend in our society of affording people the protection of anonymity, which has given people courage to cast insults with impunity. The audacity of anonymity is a blight upon our society, defying reason, responsibility, civility, cooperation, collaboration, and accountability.

Another example where the audacity of anonymity has been disruptive involves what is called "Coffee with the Principal." Originally designed to provide a forum to address concerns that the faculty has regarding the operations of the building, Coffee with the Principal has become mean-spirited and petty. I am convinced that the vulgar nature of many comments is a by-product of the rule that all concerns be submitted anonymously. I doubt that many of the complaints are representative of the whole faculty and are more so the expression of personal vendettas. It was never the intention of the process to become as such. Anonymity has allowed those who otherwise would keep quiet to speak out in rude and disruptive ways and to lower the dignity of the process and the school.

A third place where I see anonymity causing rude boldness is on the Internet. I've visited YouTube sites where people have left vile and offensive remarks, hiding behind pseudonyms and nicknames that make them entirely anonymous.

When I receive a letter at school, I first look to see who signed the letter. If it is anonymous, I throw it away. If a person cannot sign his name to what he has written, then the person knows that it is vile, disgusting, rude, and inappropriate. He does not want to be associated with such behavior, while he engages in the behavior.

One might site examples of people posting anonymous statements that are quite the opposite from being rude and disruptive, statements that are actually respectful and uplifting. Regardless, I still suggest that the cloak of anonymity allows people to be vile and that anonymity should not be encouraged. Instead, people should be encouraged to stand behind what they say. Indeed, people should be proud of their words, whether they are statements of allegiance or cries of protest. And if a person is not proud of his thoughts nor his words, then let him hold his tongue.

1 comment: