TheRedandBlack: Trend of anonymous apps could spark increase in social regression

Originally posted on The Red and Black on April 8, 2014

By: Savannah Levins

The rise in anonymous applications has made some people wary.

Apps, such as Yik Yak and uMentioned, allow users to post completely anonymously. No longer does every opinion have a face, and it has never been easier for people to hide behind technology.

Lauren Scott, a junior psychology student from Chicago, said although college students may not always take anonymous postings seriously, the growing culture of anonymity could be dangerous.

“Adolescence is a time of change for a lot of people, and one way they combat that change is by putting down others,” she said. “Because people are so vulnerable, you could see an increase in suicide or people trying to hurt themselves. It gives people the opportunity to hide behind a front without repercussions.”

Jennifer Berger, the UGA campus representative for uMentioned, said the anonymous social media mobile app based out of Canada has had 400 downloads at the University of Georgia as of April 4.

Christopher Travers, the American marketing head for uMentioned, said that just because there’s a “wrong” way to use anonymous apps does not mean they should be discouraged.

“With things like Facebook and Twitter, we create this model of how we want people to see us. We monitor what we post and what we like and how we look,” he said. “But we’re bottling up this other side of us — the real side. You can never truly be yourself without being able to be anonymous.”

Scott agreed that there is something alluring about anonymity.

“The fact that people can ‘up’ or ‘down’ these posts makes people feel more popular and validates the fact that there are people out there having the same thoughts that they’re having.”

Berger, a sophomore management major from Marietta, said the growth of anonymous apps doesn’t have to be intimidating.

“I don’t think this growing social media culture should be considered dangerous, but I do believe it can be if it’s misused,” she said. “These apps allow students to feel a sense of togetherness.”

uMentioned has a team of moderators who approve every post. Travers said they will never allow any personal attacks to be posted on the app. He said they are in constant battle with users who have the freedom to post whatever they want, and that it takes a lot of work to ensure the app is not used inappropriately.

“Bullying has been around forever,” he said. “But now you can get up votes for it. Being anonymous amplifies who you really are. We want to amplify who students really are, but if they’re amplifying the negative side of themselves, we’re not going to allow it.”

Scott said she would hope most college students do not take anonymous postings too seriously.

“People have had alternate identities for a long time, this is just a new and easier way to do it,” he said. “But for most, healthy people it’s just a different way of expression that allows people to disconnect from the front they try so hard to convey and be someone else for a little bit.”

Travers said despite misconceptions, anonymous apps do not have to be diluted by hate and negativity.

“Anonymous social networking is absolutely going to define 2014,” he said.

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