There’s a well known saying: If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all. To accommodate the digital age, this should be changed to, “If you can’t say it to someone’s face, then don’t say it at all.”
Anonymous sites and apps are dangerous for individuals of all ages, but especially for teenagers. It is easy for people to abuse their online anonymity, taking advantage of the ability to mask the messenger, yet relay the message. If the messenger feels unable to explicitly say the message to the receiver’s face, what justifies it being said online, let alone at all?
Online anonymity creates an environment that allows and, to an extent, encourages, the targeting of an individual’s most vulnerable features. Even apps designed to boost confidence through anonymity, such as the recently emerged Honesty and TBH apps, are detrimental to teenager’s mental health. These apps are intended to allow users to send anonymous uplifting messages, but can often turn into negative posts instead.
More than any other age group, teenagers are as vulnerable as it gets. Whether it be over personal appearance or intellect, teens are full of infinite insecurities about every aspect of their internal and external identity. These worries have only escalated this day and age with social media more prominent everyday life.
According to Aug. 2013 University of Michigan psychological research, the use of social media outlets such as Facebook, causes users to feel depressed and lonely.
Online anonymity is nothing but detrimental and dangerous to the wellbeing of individuals; its harmful effects override any positives that may come out of it. While it may lead to more open expression of thoughts and opinions, it fosters a dangerous environment in which proper means of communication and confrontation are overlooked.
According to an Aug. 2017 British Telegraph article, the Honesty app aims to help individuals discover and improve upon their strengths and areas of weakness by providing them with honest feedback from their peers.
However, just because something is said on the internet, that does not mean it is genuine in any way. The types of compliments posted on such apps like the current trend Honesty, or the past fad Brighten (a similar social media outlet in which users received anonymous compliments from peers), can easily be intended for mockery. They make light of one’s most insecure attributes by pointing them out. Users take advantage of anonymity to target their friends’ or peers’ personal and more unspoken insecurities.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, there exists an online disinhibition effect: a phenomenon in which people gain more confidence online than off. They express their thoughts and opinions stronger than they would in person, and online anonymity plays a big role in this “disinhibition,” which is a feeling of security and relaxation that allows one to behave naturally and without reserve.
Being anonymous gives people a sense of power that is stronger than in person. The internet behaves as a force field, shielding its users from the harshness of in-person confrontation.
Cyberbullying is a prevalent and serious issue—and a consequence of social media’s rampant presence in our lives as teenagers. Throw in the opportunity to be an unidentified attacker, and it’s just too easy to victimize peers.
It can brighten your day significantly to receive a message that someone out there thinks you’re “super sweet and caring” or that you have “pretty eyes.” It is the small things that tend to count the most. But wouldn’t it feel more genuine to know who exactly admires you and why?