A Study on Anonymity
Freedom of speech will always be a controversial topic. I will neither shun it nor sing its praise because morality is incredibly subjective. I will instead try to look at what happens when freedom of speech is indeed perfectly implemented through the mask of anonymity. And I will do that through my personal observation of a much known anonymous image board, 4chan.
What started off as a seemingly innocent place for people to discuss Mangas or Animes soon turned into something much more once people saw what anonymity brings to the table. In 4chan no one knows who the person behind a post is. Not even a username exists to separate someone from the crowd. Arguments can be had that it is possible to stay anonymous behind a username but the idea of having a username shifts the focus from the 'opinion' to the 'person with the opinion'. And that is what made 4chan different from other hubs such as Reddit or Tumblr in the first place. In 4chan, you're not supposed to get any "internet points" in the form of upvotes or likes. Only your opinion matters, not who you are or who agrees with you.
Now 4chan has many different boards each discussing a particular field, (or none at all, like the random board '/b/') but I'd like to talk about one board in particular, /pol/ or 'Politically Incorrect'. One of the most infamous boards on 4chan, /pol/ is where you post opinions on international politics, news, world events and so on. If you're new to 4chan, the first thing you'll notice is how blunt and offensive the majority of the opinions posted in /pol/ are. This is due to the fact that 4chan does not moderate any opinions whatsoever. That coupled with the fact that your identity is safe and hidden behind a post number, brings out the reserved and confined side in a person that one can never let out in an actual conversation. In case of /pol/, these reserved opinions lean towards being racist, misogynist and extremely idealistic in nature. This is not a discussion of whether it is right or wrong. This is a reflection on the fact that such extreme opinions exist behind the facade of our civil and docile nature.
The tendency to be a part of society is one that we inherited as our civilization grew. But with that we also received this desire to "fit in" and to morph our opinions to fit the perspective that the majority agree with. But once we put on the mask of anonymity, we are stripped of the reins on our speech and perhaps even our thoughts. 4chan, a simple image board, ends up stroking a broader picture of how anonymity brings out the unrefined and earnest side in many of us buried under layers of superficial formality. Maybe we're not the person we claim to be in society, and maybe that's a good thing. Well, you'll have to be the judge of that.
Nuren Iftekhar is your local stray cat in disguise; he interacts with people for food and hates bright light. He got Hufflepuff 3 times straight in Pottermore so no walking around that one. Send him obscure memes at [email protected]