When I was in high school, some unsuspecting souls made a website called “Free Love Forum”, in which anyone could post anything they wanted –completely anonymously. These unsuspecting souls had created this so called “Free Love Forum” for exactly that – “Free Love”. They naively expected the website to be filled with anonymous compliments and fun anecdotes. It would brighten everyone’s day and make everyone think rainbows and unicorns and sparkles. Unfortunately, human nature stepped in a swiftly kicked them all in the balls. The very aptly named “Free Love Forum” was soon filled to the brim with snarky comments and rude remarks. It became a circle jerk of anonymous comments calling individuals out on everything you could imagine. Eventually, it was shut down because there was no longer any “Free Love”, only “Free Insults”. This was my first taste of internet anonymity.
A few years down the road, after I had started my illustrious college career at Case, we were blessed with the presence of multiple “anonymous” Facebook/Twitter accounts, such as Case Compliments, Case Crushes, and Case Secrets. These accounts were all dedicated to spilling your deepest darkest secrets, crushes, or compliments, all without the hassle of letting people know exactly who held these opinions. Most of the hype has died down (or so I believe), but when they were still all the rage, newsfeeds were clogged for hours with the anonymous musings of the Case Western community.
I don’t believe in anonymity. If you have something to say, you should believe in it enough to put your name behind it. And if it’s so bad that you don’t want people to know you said it, maybe you shouldn’t say it. And you shouldn’t need the entire world to validate your opinions –likes or upvotes or whatever they’re calling it these days. If you have an opinion, it shouldn't depend on whether or not other people agree with you. Have the balls to state your opinion and stand by it, even in the face of adversity. On the other hand, just because a lot of people disagree with your opinion doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have merit. Simply making someone unhappy or annoying someone isn’t a good enough reason for your opinion to be disregarded. If you think your friend is super awesome and does great things, say it to their face! I’m sure they’d appreciate it a lot and it would brighten their day a ton. Publicly posting these “secrets” behind a veil of anonymity is more about yourself than it is about the person you’re complimenting.
All of these experiences with anonymous internet activities have culminated in this new big thing –or maybe it's not so new and I'm just old. Yik Yak is an app you can download for free from the app store where you can post any damn thing you want. And, it’s all completely anonymous (surprise). You even get to upvote and downvote the things you like and dislike. Also completely anonymously. As you can imagine, this app is full of freshmen seeking validity – “Pay attention to me, please! I’m super funny, I swear!” as well as people offhandedly commenting on things they think make them cool “Guys, I drink SO much. Also, I have a lot of sex. Please reinforce my opinion that I’m SUPER COOL.” Not to mention when any of the big lecture classes have exams you can expect to see a feed full of people bitching about it – “School is hard. Everyone knows that, but I just need people to know that school is hard for ME IN PARTICULAR so I have to post this complaint in an original way. Upvotes plz.”
Why does attention from complete strangers make people so happy? Be it in Yik Yak upvotes or in Instagram likes, it seems like our generation needs the confirmation of their peers more than anything else. We all need to learn to be happy with ourselves without the validation of anybody else.