Online Anonymity

I recently deleted my FaceBook account, and not because I am afraid of what my future employers may find, or because I spent too much time on it, or because they change the template so often that I can’t keep up. I deleted FaceBook because of what it allows people to do. It gives people anonymity that allows them to think/say/do anything they wish, regardless of the repercussions because there are no repercussions on FaceBook! Basically what I am trying to say is that FaceBook (and many other social networking sites, I’m sure) is turning people into cowards.

Example #1: Best Friend of 18 years backs out of my wedding party one week prior to the wedding, and lets me know through FaceBook.

Example #2: FaceBook friend who I haven’t seen or spoken to in over a year finds out that I “unfriended” her two months after the fact and proceeds to direct her FaceBook status towards me. Let’s just say I can’t include what she wrote because this is supposed to be a professional space.

I don’t want this post to become a rant that turns me into a victim. Rather, I want to address the issue of anonymity that these social networking sites provide. Neither of these women would have acted the same way if we had been face to face when these issues arose. Perhaps my friend of 18 years would still have backed out of the wedding, but at least in a face to face conversation there is a mutual respect between both parties. What are the consequences of substituting real life with social networking sites? How has it become socially acceptable to deal with real life matters in a virtual world?

How can we, as educators, teach our students to use these social networking sites in a way that does not replace the need for face to face interaction? How can we encourage our students to deal with real life problems in real life rather than online? How can we show our students that tweeting about somebody behind their back is both cowardly and unproductive? Perhaps one way to do this is to demonstrate it–students learn by example. Maybe having a FaceBook account isn’t such a bad idea, as long as you use it properly, so that your students can see the positive benefits of social networking sites…

However, I am still angry, so I will not be “reactivating” my FaceBook account anytime soon.

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8 Responses to Online Anonymity

  1. For all the bad stuff that happens through social networking, there’s some good stuff too. I actually came to this blog because your professor twittered for people to come and comment on his students’ blogs so here I am all the way from New Zealand šŸ™‚

    Social networking has lead to stuff like couchsurfing and also been huge for people in my country to help each other with the recent earthquake in Christchurch which destroyed many homes. Facebook has been used to find people in the immediate aftermath of the quake and is now being used for fund-raising efforts as well as finding people temporary accommodation.

    I’m sorry about your bad experiences on facebook.

    • srcampbell says:

      I appreciate the audience from across the world! šŸ™‚

      I never thought of using FaceBook in those ways! It is the quickest way to get a hold of a mass amount of people and I’m glad that it has been able to help!

      • Emily says:

        Whoop! I totally agree with your perspective on Facebook. My reasons for quitting were also related to the inauthenticity of Facebook. It is very true – online relationships allow people to experience a certain boldness that they otherwise wouldn’t have in face to face interactions. I don’t know if people realize how much courage it takes to quite Facebook – so cudos and thanks for speaking up!

  2. Kristin says:

    Facebook does have many benefits; I am for sure keeping my account and making use of it. There are downsides with facebook, but it mostly depends on who your friends are. In reality, facebook has replaced emails and many people use it as their main communication device, but some people have replaced even face to face conversations.

    Here is one man’s response to facebook that he put on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UouP8cRYZ8

    But facebook is not all bad. It is also a way to build a social network that can be extremely helpful.

  3. Join the club šŸ™‚ I got rid of my Facebook account, but only because I was spending so much time on it. I have to agree that face-to-face interaction and online communication are so different from one another. I’m sorry to hear about those stories…they probably would have communicated in a more respectful manner if you had talked to them face-to-face. It is very easy to insult or say something inappropriate if you do not see the person.

    However, there are the benefits of online communication. Online communication allows one to connect with people all over the world. As a teacher, it is great to get lesson plan ideas and resources from professionals in the “digital world”. The blogs we have created in class have also helped us stay updated with ideas everyone has been posting related to teaching and learning.

  4. srcampbell says:

    I completely agree that social networking can be a very useful too, especially when used properly! I think that the power that FaceBook gives its users is more often abused than not. I would love to use a social networking tool with my students in the future, however FaceBook will not be one of them. I think a blog or a wiki would be a great way to make sure that the “space” remains educational/academic/professional.

  5. Daniella Tiefenbach says:

    I was wondering where you went! I agree with a lot of what you said. I have seen many people use their statuses to get angry at people and to lash out. I have had times when I had made a friend angry, saw their status later and wondered if it was about me. Though I have to admit I have done it as well, I have used my status as a way of ranting. I think that it is the same with texting. Anytime you cannot have that conversation where you can see the other person’s face or hear their voice their is that cowardness hiding in it because you can never fully understand what that person is feeling. I have gone through my account and have deleted so many things that I find that I read over and am embarrassed about. Sometimes I will write a status and delete it in the same day for the same reason. I am finding that I am keeping my account to keep in contact with friends I don’t get to talk to often and with my education friends. I have deleted all of my high school friends because I find that if I don’t talk to them then why do I need to care about what is happening in their lives. I have turned Facebook into a professional connections site for myself, as I mainly have teacher friends still on it.

  6. Pingback: Tech Task #10 – Is it Really the End?! « paxmann

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