Editorial — As the number of anonymous apps, such as Unseen and Yik Yak, increases, it is our duty as a University to extend our protection of students to those spaces, especially to victims of sexual assaults who are subject for stalking and members of LGBTQ+ communities, as well as racial minorities.
While anonymity creates a space for more open dialogue, it presents a danger to students on campus, the threat being other students.
With the first UTC Pride came a lot of backlash on anonymous apps, suggesting that students should get run over by cars and the use of several slurs against those celebrating Pride.
The idea of the internet being a place of hostility that can manifest in real situations is not new, but the reaction to those manifestations, and moreover the concept that students are perpetrators of those threats is slow to come about.
Instead of becoming a place to break down the echo-chamber that occurs on platforms such as Facebook, anonymity has created a racist and bigoted environment in which students can play devil’s advocate to the detriment of others.
Pew Research reported in 2011 that 95 percent of teen social media users who have witnessed cruel behavior on social media sites say they have seen others ignore the mean behavior (55 percent report witnessing this “frequently”), while 84 percent have seen people defend the person being harassed (27 percent report witnessing this “frequently”).
Between 2010 and 2011, the rate of violent victimization against students increased from 17 to 24 violent victimization per 1,000 students at school, according to the U.S. Department of Education: National Center for Education Statistics.
A 2009 survey of 7,000 LGBTQ+ students, aged 13-21 showed because of their sexual orientation (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014): 8 of 10 students had been verbally harassed at school; 4 of 10 had been physically harassed at school; 6 of 10 felt unsafe at school; 1 of 5 had been the victim of a physical assault at school.
These facts represent the larger demographic of students who have been victimized by persons on the internet, many of whom knew the person threatening them. With anonymity, the statistics suggest that threats and rates of victimization are much higher, yet no statistical data has come to support this, as Yik Yak and Unseen were both formed and went live this year.
But that is not to suggest that incidents are not happening. At Lewis & Clark College, Nov. 21, administrators have launched an investigation and are restricting students’ access to campus dorms after discovering racially charged anonymous comments on social media (The Oregonian).
What we ask of the administration and fellow students is to call out these messages. Don’t let the your phones become policing agents which seek to insult and degrade. Act and react to protect the lives and well being of fellow students.
*All statistical data was quoted from a synthesis done by the Megan Meier Foundation, 2014, founded by Tina Meier after her daughter committed suicide in 2007 due to cyber bullying.