The incidence of negative dialogue within online communities is common when its users maintain their anonymity.
People feel protected by anonymity, and experience fewer social barriers in sharing their – perhaps hurtful – opinions. The ability to express displeasure is an important aspect of anonymity.
It allows for an honest discussion of ideas, and encourages a communal search for some of the harshest truths. Habits form quickly when we’re blind to their formation however, and some people make spreading negativity online a habit. You’ve likely experienced hurtful dialogue along with other darker social behaviors online, and can draw from your own experience in that domain.
This article aims to encourage you to become more agreeable while cloaked with online anonymity.
The state of being anonymous online allows you to indulge in the uniqueness of others without the risk that doing so in person brings about. You can explore anything you choose to without your name or face attached to your act of doing so. You can understand the perspectives of those whom you’d never interact with in the world face-to-face, and can spread genuine empathy whilst doing so.
A goal which makes sense to strive for as you spend time online is to further your improvement as an individual, not pause it. Changing the minds of malicious individuals via positive measures is a seldom occurring, but beneficial, instance to strive for too. Being anonymous online provides you with every opportunity to do both.
Space to Make Mistakes – Explore Your Boundaries
Allow the online space to be your practice arena for actions you perform in person. The more you practice something, the better at it you’ll be. Online anonymity allows you to practice being empathetic, understanding, and encouraging. It provides you with the opportunity to learn how people react to words of affirmation, and to see how effective you can be at building a community of like-minded individuals.
Online anonymity allows you to explore the differences you have with those you disagree with by posing as a friend. It allows you to morph into whoever you want to be, and to thoroughly understand the positions that your enemies occupy.
Perhaps the act of exploring your boundaries will open your eyes to differing perspectives which would not be possible to witness in the offline world. Why limit your understanding by sticking vehemently to your opinions online? Why not be formless? Why put a label on yourself by attacking things you disagree with? Encourage others to share their ideas and learn from everyone you can. Allow the online space to prepare you for when you step out of your door to face the world.
By being agreeable when you’re anonymous, you’ll allow yourself to venture deeper into the minds of others. You can use anonymity to spread positive perspective to those you’d never interact with due to factors which exist in the offline world. Use your anonymity to make lasting changes in the minds of others, rather than aim to silence their perspective.
They will not judge you on how you dress, how you wear your hair, and the manner with which you speak. Online, you are simply what you think. You are formless unless you choose to over-represent one form, and you aren’t tied up by labels unless you choose to place labels onto yourself. Explore your boundaries risk-free, and attempt to expand your understanding through positive, altruistic interactions.
Easier to Take Criticism / Change Opinion
When people are labeled to be bad at taking criticism, their personal attachment to the elements being critiqued is the culprit in question. Saying someone is bad at taking criticism is a direct critique of their over-attachment to their own words or actions. Such individuals, like many, perceive the things they do and say as a direct extension and representation of themselves. Should you critique the output of those individuals, they tend to perceive your critiques as attacks on who they perceive themselves to be.
Online anonymity can be a beneficial step in ridding yourself of the tendency to over-attach yourself to the ideas and actions you commit. As any critics you have online will not know how you look, sound, and behave like, your perception of their critique will be saved from the negative assumption of being personally attacked.
Online anonymity thereby makes it easier to perceive criticism for what it’s worth, and not associate critiques with being personal digs at you. Your output is critiqued on its own merit when you remain anonymous online. It makes it easier to be better at taking criticism and actually growing from your interpretation of it.
If viewed from this lens, online criticism becomes easier to either dismiss or objectively learn from. The room for negative reactions to criticism online grows small when you remain anonymous. It becomes difficult to logically make a case for taking online criticism personally, thereby your options of reacting to it are more limited than they are in the physical world.
The Stifling of Biases Which Unfairly Propel or Suppress
As an extension of the prior points, online anonymity is a helpful way to eliminate the effects that any negative biases and prejudices have on your ideas. In addition to saving yourself from reacting incorrectly to critique you assume to be prejudiced, online anonymity does well to save yourself from the prejudices and biases that you hold.
If you do a good job of presenting your ideas as they stand on their own, and not things you identify as, the window of being prejudiced against remains narrow. Online anonymity limits how much there is for the biased individual to latch their biases onto.
Online anonymity thereby offers an opportunity for ideas to mingle with each-other without being affected by things people are generally treated better or worse for. Your anonymous ideas online aren’t affected by whether you wear a suit when you express them. Your interactions online may be with people who rounded up enough change from peddling on the street corner to pay for a coffee, just so you can use the free wifi at the cafe.
You don’t know how people look and smell like when you interact with them online. You also don’t know whether they’re educated or not. The ideas they express, and the manner in which they express them, are the only things you have to go by in every interaction you have with a stranger online.
The general protection that online anonymity offers you against your own biases and prejudices may be worth more than the protection against others’ prejudices it provides. Online anonymity saves you from making the mistakes that the biases you inevitably hold drive you to make.
Positivity Without the Vulnerability
Spreading positivity in the offline world sometimes leaves us in vulnerable positions. We want those we compliment to react favorably. We desire for our positive words toward people to not be used against us in the future, and are generally careful with who we positively interact with. People pose physical danger to us in the physical world. The person you have a positive interaction with may be a sex offender on the loose, or somebody with an unstable frame of mind.
Online anonymity saves us from the vulnerability of being agreeable in the offline world. You can interview a murderer online without fearing for your safety, and can venture into the darker realms of life without looking over your shoulder. You can see the world for what it sometimes is firsthand, and can encourage positive change in those who are deemed dangerous to society. You can utilize positivity to change perspective, and shine light onto minds which are used to seeing darkness.
You can make a real, positive impact on those who are struggling in this world without putting yourself at risk. Anonymity arms you with a powerful ability to make a real change with little consequence. It is a privilege not many have experienced before us, so why shouldn’t we use this privilege to more effectively set up the ones to come?