Anonymity Leads To Cruelty

in Letter to the Editor by

When we see things happening all over the country, like the tragedy that happened here on October 1, it should be a time to ask questions and reflect on the events leading up to these moments in order to prevent them from happening again. What can we actively do to make a difference in the real world for the better, to be the change? That’s what life is all about. Progressive actions being taken place to enforce true change that inspires hope to even go further, beyond our wildest expectations, and make our dreams a reality.

I have been a video gamer ever since I can remember. I first started with my Nintendo Color where I played Super Mario religiously and then eventually moved up to PS3 in 2011. I had received a free promotional code for a game that came with the purchase of my console. It was an MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) called DUST514, where you can be a part of a gaming community and literally watch as reality can effect the virtual world of Molden Heath. I had been a part of this gaming community for the past four years and have witnessed people saying the most vile things to other people, all under the excuse of “It’s online, (this isn’t IRL, in real life); therefore, it doesn’t matter. If you can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

During one instance, a man and his wife had just given birth to their newborn son; the doctors didn’t know if he would survive. He was in critical care and his chance of living was small. A fellow player of the game told this man that he hoped his son dies and proceeded to laugh/make jokes about it and how it would occur.

Another time, a member of my group told another member to give his baby Nyquil. I was even targeted many times in different forms of online hate, being told by a man who could be my father “I wish an earthquake would hit your house and you were buried inside so I never have to hear your voice again.”

I have had my personal life put on display in this video game; photos of me were passed between different players and laughed at.

Another friend of mine had a player go to his Facebook, then go back to the game forums where he told everyone how ugly his wife was among other things. These are just some prime examples. Racism is also a big subject on this game, where people single out different races and joke about it as another “normal” aspect of the “game.” During a battle, one person was facing against players who were known to be Asian and said “I hope Hiroshima gets bombed again.”

Online you can talk about anything, you can say anything, and you can get away with it. That’s why people do it. What better way to play hide and seek, with a 99 percent chance of never being caught?

On October 1, 2015 a man came to our school and decided to cross a line. Several lines had been crossed that day and the days prior to the shooting. It was reported that not only did he have access to weapons he should not have had access to, but the fact that he had been online, specifically on a forum called 4chan, where you can post anything anonymously. 4Chan even goes to the extent to where registration isn’t even possible, excluding members of the site’s staff.

Now imagine that each one of our mouths, our hands, anything used to express, voice, or give meaning to our thoughts and project them, was a gun. Anyone can go online, buy a gun for free, and not register their weapon. Every hateful, vile, and violent word is a bullet fired that you cannot take back, especially if it’s in writing.

What can we actively do to make a difference in the real world for the better, to be the change? –Shannon Mathews

Considering the fact that you can never delete a digital file with any real certainty, you may as well be writing in Sharpie. The mark is permanent. It is a fact. People can get away with saying whatever they want, to the extent of many different men and women going online and telling other people, “Don’t go to school tomorrow if you’re in the Northwest.” Another person separate from this instance had been threatening to go to a school and shoot people the same day and was encouraged to go through with it by all but maybe 2 of the responders to that thread.

I think that a lot of people in our world today choose to be ignorant to the reality of people and their capabilities. With people online, the excuse is “It’s just joking. They are just trolling.”

Let’s take a look at what the definition of trolling is: “make a deliberately offensive or provocative online posting with the aim of upsetting someone or eliciting an angry response from them.” Unfortunately none of us can really say anything about someone being mean, intentionally messing with someone else for their own personal entertainment.

However, let’s talk about lines. If they cannot be crossed in reality without repercussions, then why should they be crossed online without the same consequences? Why does a site specifically engineered for people to post with complete anonymity need to exist unless these people are specifically looking for trouble?

In reality, if you start talking about going to a school and shooting people, you would be reported to someone and that person would immediately be investigated by law enforcement. I highly doubt anyone would encourage that person either. No one would be laughing. If someone makes different comments regarding the well-being of a person or their family, you can go to the authorities and have them reprimanded or get a restraining order.

Our online world was created to make our reality easier for us to live in; it was not with intent to create an entirely different planet outside of earth and escape there to break laws and codes we would never be able to get away with back “home.”

Is there a difference between a real and virtual world? I would think so. Words and text don’t breathe themselves into existence. It all starts with a person, like me, sitting behind a monitor, staring at a white screen with a furiously blinking line and using my amazing typing skills to write this story about how a man, any man or any woman, can sit down at a computer just like me and tell people not to go to school, while no one listened, no one paid attention, no one reported, and nine people are now dead, nine families’ lives forever altered, and the only thing anyone could do is laugh because “it’s just online, therefore it doesn’t matter.”

Whether face-to-face or face-to-monitor, this is from me to you; it DOES matter.