In this modern age we live in, everyone wears a mask. We value our privacy after all, that’s why we do it.
In fact, anonymity was something I had grown so accustomed to that I was incredibly wary when places like Google and Youtube started asking for my real name. What if people find out what videos I’ve been watching? What if they laugh at me?
I spent the past month or so hovering around Whisper after installing it for the first time. Boy, is it fascinating. For those who don’t know, Whisper is an app that lets you “share your real thoughts and feelings, without identities”. Think NUS Confessions, but a little more crude and sinister, and you might have an idea of what Whisper is like.
Whisper prides itself so much on its anonymity that it assigns you a randomly-generated username when you first join, and you can change that username to anything you want at any time. What this means is that you could post a whisper, change your username immediately after and then post another whisper, and everyone would have no clue they’re from the same person.
Anonymity is a force to be reckoned with, and it brings out the best and the worst in people.
There is a certain comfort to confiding in a stranger. Who would the stranger tell your secrets to? They don’t know you, least of all any of your friends or relatives. There is a mysterious connection when you trust a stranger with your deepest secrets that offers no judgment and no repercussions. You might even compare it to a confessional in a Catholic Church.
I posted a Whisper offering a listening ear and received all manner of responses, including a man who had been dumped via text by his girlfriend of 6 years on New Year’s Eve, and a girl who was relentlessly bullied by her classmates for being fat and turned to anorexia. All I could do was listen and offer words of support. Sometimes, that was enough. Sharing their frustrations with someone gave them reprieve, if only for that moment.
Being on the internet, I would find it unbelievable if you told me you’ve never encountered a troll.
Anonymity gives people a sense of freedom — the kind of freedom that lets people think they can do whatever they want and get away with it without consequence. Whether it’s berating someone for not knowing the difference between “your” and “you’re”, or just insulting someone for not sharing your worldview, the internet can be a cruel place.
It then becomes a vicious cycle, when people turn to anonymity to escape the savagery of the internet and when people use anonymity to dish out said savagery on other people on the internet.
I desperately want everyone to take the time and consider this: that everyone you talk to, online and off, is a human with wants and needs. Even the people you initially hate have hopes, dreams and desires. It’s a harsh world to live in, and sometimes we make mistakes. It’s very easy to get critical. But take the effort to be kind anyway.
Whisper is an anonymous confessions app. But some people just don’t seem to get that.
It’s become commonplace to see Whispers listing their age and gender because that’s what conversations boil down to when you have guys trying to hit on anyone whom they even suspect is female. It’s also no surprise to see Whispers asking for dates or sexual favours. Even seeing Whispers that ask for chats with people of a specific sex feels strange, because aren’t you diminishing the anonymity then?
It really is quite an incredible feat that men are able to turn any social media platform into a search for dates or hookups.