I always feel a sense of anonymity in a crowd. I’ve been part of such a crowd very often. Thanks to the public transport system of my country which is always crowded. So many people travel daily. They come in close contacts, gaze at each other but none knows the other person. Hardly any word is exchanged. Who is going to seek friendship in a crowd? This is normal. I don’t know whether it happens with all or not. But I’ve often observed that people act on their natural temperament in a crowd. I’ve seen a lot of verbal tussles while I was part of a crowd. Nominal matters often become the cause of throwing abuses. The unwinnable game situation of an anonymous crowd creates a lot of frictions during such dogfights. Even if I abuse a person in a crowd, it doesn’t matter much for me as I’m not going to meet him again. Does it cause aggression in such a scenario? Maybe! When we don’t know anybody in a crowd, our consciousness becomes very silent and the dormant dark layers of the mind become very active. Aggression is a naturally suppressed element of our social behaviour due to the civil structure. An identity concealing environment is the ideal place to bring it on.
Philip George Zimbardo, an American psychologist, wrote the 2007 bestseller book ‘The Lucifer Effect’. It deals with the nature of the moral transformation of the human being as an outcome of the interplay and individual disposition, power and situation. Zimbardo’s book covers his 1971 ‘Stanford prison experiment’, conducted at Stanford University using the college students. This prison experiment was a simulation study to understand psychological effects of perceived power. Some students were assigned to be prisoners and some were assigned to be guards. After some days, the students assigned as guards started to become abusive towards the students assigned as prisoners. Let’s come back to the topic of anonymity. Anonymity also provides perceived power. Hiding behind the veil of obscurity furnishes the situation to dispose the inner aggression. Long back, I studied a research paper of US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It contained the outcome of some simulation experiments. The paper demonstrated that the drivers drove more aggressively when they drove in a car with tinted glass windows in comparison to driving an open-top convertible as the tinted glass provided them with a feeling of anonymity and sparked the aggression.
Image Source – A sample hate message in Sarahah
Sarahah, created by Saudi developer ZainAlabdin Tawfiq, went viral in 2017. I’m not sure whether you can remember the name. It created a lot of buzz word then by allowing anonymous messaging. The app became trending in Apple App Store within one month of launch. They had web interface also and people started to ask for anonymous feedback from people by putting Sarahah links in their Facebook and other social media pages. We always want to tell some uncanny things to our known people but we never tell because we think about the reaction. Even if I know that my boss’s teeth is dirtily yellow, I can’t tell him upfront because of the fear. Sarahah gave the opportunity to tell whatever was in your mind. ‘Sarahah’ means honesty in Arabic and this app was developed to provide honest feedback. It was meant to deliver your deepest thought without any guilt. Soon it became the abusive internet tool and trolling mechanism. Hate messages started to flow and Sarahah brought the ugly side of people. Sarahah wasn’t the first of this kind app. It had some predecessors but Sarahah caught the public attention due to its user-friendly nature.
Anonrambling anonymous texts
The beauty of the internet lies in its openness. It allows us to express ourselves but it also allows us to hide. Anonymity in texting is obviously a form of entertainment but it also provides us with a cause to escape from realism. Anonymity can be our license to unleash the darker side of us. Every coin has two sides. The wildly popular Sarahah with 300 million downloads was dropped from Google and Apple stores after bullying accusations. Yesterday, I saw the page of @anonramblingscom. He has developed a website to post anonymous messages in Hive. It is absolutely cool development. The entertainment value is awesome. Many users are rushing to the site to text anonymously in the blockchain. The attention is growing already. The abuses also will follow. Trolls will appear. We’ll see racist, sexist, bullying messages. Many bitter truths will also come out. Chaos is inevitable. Good or bad? Let’s wait and watch for some days. Better to not be prejudiced. It’ll be a social blockchain experiment!