Tumblr: Hiding Behind Anon

A while back, I managed to stumble across a video about the Black Mirror episode, “Hated in the Nation.”

I thought it was quite the throwback. I haven’t heard much from Black Mirror nowadays, except for the constant joke that we are experiencing the sixth season in real life, so it was shocking to see it pop up on my recommended viewing list on YouTube.

I chose “Hated in the Nation” because I remembered it was one of the longer episodes of Black Mirror, and I found that I really enjoyed it. It was on my top-ten list of favorite Black Mirror episodes and I never knew why.

Until I watched the analysis video on it.

“Hated in the Nation” is the sixth and final episode of the third season of Black Mirror. The episode is a murder mystery, and follows Detective Karin Parke and her new partner Blue Coulson who, together with the help of National Crime Agency officer Shaun Li, try to solve the inexplicable deaths of people who were all the target of social media. Karin is a “too old for this” kind of detective, while her partner Blue the “new and ready to rumble” type.

This is all a clever analogy of the negative side effects of the mob mentality that social media can bring out in people. This is also the reason why I felt a kinship toward the story as I had been the receiving end of this mentality before. More recently, I also made a more general complaint about that.

Seeing as that is the case, I wanted to touch on another topic: the anonymity that social media can bring to a person.

Since the dawn of the Internet, people have been concerned about their privacy. The more tech savvy folks would attempt to mask their Internet fingerprint by using software such as a VPN or onion routing, which is a technique for anonymous communication by encapsulating messages in layers of encryption, similar to an onion. This minimizes the opportunity of doxxing by malicious users.

The less tech savvy would just refrain from posting personal information on the websites that they frequent.

However, there are websites that allow you to turn on a filter to mask your identity, even if you have an account there. Such a website is Tumblr, where you can send fan mail or “asks” to another user but you can choose to hide your own identity while doing so.

These anonymous “asks” or fan mail can bring a positive effect. For example, you wish to support a friend but you don’t want them to think that only you are there, so you send an anonymous post to make them feel like there are others around. Or, you are too shy to contact your favorite blogger, so you send in an anonymous post that cannot be traced back to you. Or, you are cautious about your privacy and don’t want your handle/account to be exposed to the other blog’s followers.

Even though these are all valid concerns that Tumblr’s anonymous filter can help you with, the option can also bring a lot more harm than intended. For example, the anonymous filter can be used to send a user hate messages. Although the website has an option to block unpleasant users, it previous did not provide a way to block users that send messages anonymously. Since there is no way to figure out who sent you those messages, you are going to be barraged with a multitude of hate messages if you are unlucky, despite the Tumblr userbase constantly flaunting that they accept anyone and anything.

“People know that they can jump on board because nobody will ever know if they did or didn’t.”

Black Mirror, Hated in the Nation (Season 3, Episode 6)

The blatant immaturity, insecurity, and general lack of actual acceptance causes Tumblr’s anonymous feature to be used for more harm than good. Anyone who posts anything that someone doesn’t like (which is almost anything on a website like Tumblr) has the potential to be subject to a series of unpleasant messages, and since you cannot figure out who is actually sending you these messages, you are forced to see them in your inbox for the duration of this user’s or users’ anger.

I find it quite ironic that Tumblr users often never practice what they preach. Love and acceptance is never their first reaction to something that differs from their own personal tastes. Despite the website offering you a “block” button, users that find your content offensive to them almost always never just blocks you. They will always want to leave you a scalding, anonymous message, to teach you a lesson for liking things they didn’t like.

If you retaliate in any way, they would send another message in another attempt to further humiliate you. If you can’t pull rank, the bitter realization that people are allowed to like things would catch up to them sooner or later, and they would cease bothering you out of sheer boredom.

Even though this ran on for quite some time, Tumblr only recently implemented the ability to block the IP address of those who send anonymous messages, similar to the “block” option that you get when you receive messages from users who don’t hide their identity.

However, according to other users, the block button for anonymous asks does not actually block the user that sent the message in the first place. This means that the user can send you asks if they do not hide behind anon.

This does help in some ways. Usually, toxic and bitter trolls like these would not dare to show their face around. Like the quote from the Black Mirror episode, people do things if they know that no one will ever know if they did or didn’t. If there is a way to trace it back to them, they would never do it in the first place.

Tumblr children hide behind this false sense of security that they are allowed to send these anonymous messages and be as mean as they want, as they cannot handle anyone with a different view despite advocating themselves as the most welcoming userbase in the Internet.

I liked the episode “Hated in the Nation” because the people who participated in this ugly mob mentality under the guise of “bettering the world” got what they wished on other people: death. Yes, it is true that, ultimately, the people who needed to learn a lesson didn’t learn anything because they all died, but I think it is also good that they are out of the picture because their deaths serve as a reminder to others that they should not do the same things those people did.

Yelling at people over the Internet is a waste of time and energy. It takes so much effort to click into their page, go to their ask box, click on “send anonymously,” and type out a paragraph of why you think the person sucks and should off themselves. Half of the time, these messages probably wouldn’t even be spared a second glance after the precipitant has a laugh and deletes the message.

If you’re unlucky, you would send these messages to someone suicidal, and you would have their death on your conscience. Or, you would send the messages to someone not to be trifled with, and you’ll wake up the next day realizing that they have retaliated in a way that you can never recover from.

I believe that, regardless of the outcome, you should never send hate messages to anyone. What is the point? It takes almost no effort to ignore something you don’t like. It takes less effort to block a user on the platform, compared to sending them a strongly worded anonymous ask. Minding your business is the best way to get rid of the toxic environment that you always complain about, yet actively participate in.

I don’t care how old you are or how impulsive you claim yourself to be, there should never be an excuse to tell someone to die or send them hate messages. People are allowed to like things that they like, and as long as that thing doesn’t actively harm anyone, they should be left alone to like that thing. Stop gatekeeping liking things.

All of your actions have consequences. No amount of anonymity can shield you from that.

1 reply

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