Today, more than half of people over the age of 25 use smartphones and tablet devices to email, browse the web or connect to social media. But 30 years of Internet growing pains have left technology fans so skeptical of a safe and secure online experience that many have resorted to false identities to represent themselves in real life situations.
In the 1980s, Baby Boomers were dubbed the Me generation, stereotyped as proud and narcissistic in an era where personal achievement and self-satisfaction had cultural priority over social responsibility.
In the 1990s, Generation Xers were criticized for latching onto the swiftly emerging media presence, utilizing music, television and film as a tool to educate the masses on controversial topics like school violence and teen drug use. They embraced social diversity, finding equality in demographics like ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity.
In the 2000s, Millennials built a reputation of confidence and entitlement, detaching from institutions and increasing their network with peers and colleagues, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center report. They also exhibited increased support for liberal social issues, like same-sex marriage and legalized marijuana, and displayed substantial familiarity with rapidly advancing technologies.
By 2012, personal computers had wired their way into three-fourths of all U.S. homes, and the Internet had quickly become the preferred method of communication for individuals around the globe.
But somewhere in the effort to stay connected with the world and all of its diversity, those individuals developed a fear of one another and hid behind fake profile monikers and partially obscured photos.
Countless news broadcasts generated panic across the nation as story after story of credit card and identity theft flooded the media.
Undercover reporters exposed Internet prowlers who lured young children into sexual situations under the guise of online chatroom personas.
Gradually, much of the convenience the web had to offer was overshadowed by the threat of terror, only a keyboard stroke away.
Even online dating became less about romantic escapades and more about survival of the fittest. Dating websites adorned in hearts and roses promised the mate of your dreams, but hidden behind the generic profile questionnaire still lurked a total stranger.
So what are we to do in today’s social media driven world, where identity and individualism are so critical to making one’s mark in society?
The web is a vast entity of endless space waiting to be pumped full of information.
So what’s the big deal with creating a couple different identities to suit your needs and hopefully gain some sense of security in the process?
Media giant Facebook recently ramped up enforcement of its Real Name Policy, forbidding titles, nicknames and in some cases, professional stage names like those of actors, musicians and drag queens.
Opponents of this policy argue that identifying a name as “real” or not introduces a whole world of complication. Some fear an increased risk of bullying if they are forced to use birth names.
But the social media company contends that “having people use their real names on Facebook makes them more accountable, and helps us root out accounts created for malicious purposes, like harassment, fraud, impersonation and hate speech.”
Other social media apps, like Secret, are the antithesis to this philosophy. Based entirely on anonymous messaging in a public forum, Secret encourages users to post and engage in raw and honest conversations, yet hide behind the guise of anonymity.
This cowardly nature of throwing slurs without accepting the responsibility of repercussion creates a whole shitstorm of problems, as enemies share once treasured secrets about former friends, regardless of whether they are true or riddled with hateful lies.
There is something to be said about the nature of this style of communication, where an app encourages people to have public forum to pad their own opinions without having to face the consequences of mature and civil debate because they are doing it anonymously.
Secret’s CEO David Byttow recently assured critics that the app is working diligently to eliminate abusive cyber-bullying via a community flagging system and a team of real-life post moderators, but not everything gets deleted before the harmful damage is done.
We must stop treating each other with such hatred.
It is alarming how vicious human beings can be toward one another. We are living in a time where our coexistence and support of each other have never been more crucial to our civil rights as equal persons.
At some point, we felt the pressing need to hide our true identities behind the mask of a digital screen, but in the process we started to lose our integrity.
Words are powerful weapons that can cut deeper than a blade.Stand proudly behind them, if anything to give meaning and purpose to your intentions, but more importantly to establish credibility among your peers.
Most of us have at one time or another wanted to better ourselves as we grow and adapt to our surroundings. As a community, it is our responsibility to nurture and praise the unique differences in one another, not mock individuals for paving their own roads.
This is not to condone all of the negative effects felt by various communities as a result of Facebook’s Real Name Policy. It is to say that maybe removing the mask of anonymity and providing our real names online would make us less inclined to bully.
Think about what you say, but more importantly: Be yourself.