Anonymity on the internet

Photo by Blake Israel

The internet is filled with faceless entities: unknown people commenting on the lives of others, putting their opinions out into the world, judging those around them and so much more. 

Social media and the Internet enable us to stay connected. We can keep up with our old friends from high school or stay in touch with family that lives thousands of miles away. 

There is no question that our presence in society is known to the Internet and can be followed by others, though all they might find is gym bros posing in front of the mirror and study abroad updates from Italy. 

However, since we were young, it has always been drilled into our minds to be careful what we post on the Internet, to be wary of the information and content found on the internet, etc. 

So, what are the implications of our Internet presences? Is there any true value in Internet anonymity in the age of public Instagram and Twitter accounts?

The importance and value of Internet privacy is something that has been widely debated in recent years. Frankly speaking, even if your face is not plastered across the Internet, Americans as a whole do lack Internet privacy. 

The United States’ Patriot Act gives a lot more power to the government to enact surveillance on individuals within the country, whether that be access to calls, third party-held records and much more. 

Companies like Google hold extensive information about their users, from their emails and correspondences to guessing their ages, education or marital status based on recent searches. You can even see what Google has guessed about you through their website, which simply asks you to log into your Gmail. 

Without me giving Google the explicit information, it was able to figure out my spoken languages, age, marital status and that I’m in college from my searches alone. It found what kind of TV shows I like to watch and the fact that I like sneakers. 

Ads have become more and more specialized as Google and other sites sell information to advertisers. While it is easy to allow fear-mongering to push us into an all-encompassing suspicion of the Internet, this type of privacy is hard to control, especially without legislation in place.

This phenomenon functions a lot differently when it comes to social media. Social media apps like Tik Tok and YouTube have created a far-reaching platform for users, many of which hail from younger generations, to make and spread their content.

This content has become very personal as well. Creators share their experiences with mental health and addiction, their relationships, their families and even their sex lives; information that would otherwise be unquestionably private. 

This type of “fame” has become wholly more accessible and commonplace than just a few years ago. On Instagram, users post the places they have been, their friends and their families. On Twitter, users tweet their deepest thoughts and their most controversial opinions. 

Our intrinsic minds and thought processes have been slashed open and splayed out for everyone to see. When Minecraft streamer Dream recently revealed his face to his fans after years of anonymity, the Internet was shocked. 

From creating memes of his face to bullying and criticism, Dream’s anonymity loss may have resulted in some solid PR, but at the cost of his privacy. His face is now out there for all his fans to see, and the Internet has been cruel, albeit entertaining, in discussing the reveal.

Internet anonymity is one of those issues that kind of stays in the eye of the beholder. 

You can be a cynic and believe that it doesn’t truly matter what you post since we lack privacy so acutely in the first place. 

On the other hand, our faces — our visual identities — are something we can control the spread of. While the Internet is a handy tool to stalk your ex after a few years, Internet safety is important, even if we can’t always control what happens afterward.