When Privacy Is Combined With Anonymity…

I recently came across a blog post by an Indian woman, in which she had documented the violence she had to face at the hands of her partner. On top of that, she had also named the partner. Though not unprecedented, it was brave of her to come out in public and share so intimate of an experience and name the person involved. But eventually, she had to take off the post. She gives the reasons for doing so here.

This whole episode made me think about the concepts of privacy and anonymity. One of the reasons internet was hailed as a revolutionary medium was because it allowed a common citizen to express his/ her views anonymously and hence more freely. The person could exercise her right to freedom of expression without facing political, societal and maybe legal repercussions.

I remember, in the first phase of social media in India, most of the people used to operate their accounts under pseudonyms. Your close connections knew your real identity, but you could hide the same from strangers or public at alrge. But after the anvil of Facebook, which encouraged people to use real names, pseudonyms vanished.

Anonymity is important, because it gives a new dimension to privacy. Privacy means that you have a right to your private affairs not being discussed in public. People observe absolute secrecy about their intimate affairs or share them only with their close connections. They fear that if their secrets are spilled, they will be judged, stigmatized, made feel bad about, insulted or sometimes their secrets could be used against them; and this fear is very real. Absolute transparency is a Utopian concept and can be observed only when every human being is greatly understanding and sympathetic.

However, the impulse to share secrets, discuss them with others and get rid of some of the burden on our shoulders is very strong among human beings. Now bring anonymity in picture. It gives you a power to share your secrets, discuss them in public and not be judged, stigmatized or insulted for the same. And it benefits the fellow citizens too. They get to know that there are people who have gone through the same experiences or made the same mistakes as them. If the experiences are novel, it enriches their understanding of the world around them. The exchange between the writer and reader can sometimes be extremely fruitful.


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