I’m currently 20 which means I’ve grown up in the age of social network sites starting with Bebo, moving on to Myspace and then Facebook shortly followed by Formspring and Twitter. I’m not sure what it is about these sites which make them so instantly popular but that’s not what I’m going to discuss here, what I want to talk about is a negative side of these sites, particularly Formspring.
I got Formspring myself a couple of years ago and I have to say I was never really a fan of it and so deleted my account almost immediately after creating it. I think it’s a site for a slightly younger generation than me; I know a lot of my friend’s younger siblings use it. The thing I’ve noticed from this website is that despite being a relatively good idea, allowing a person to ask people they know questions and have the ability to click the ‘anonymous’ button in case they are embarrassed of the question they are asking, it has an inherent flaw in providing anonymity on a communication platform.
“I believe that the level of anonymity provided by this site verges on the unethical, it is allowing itself to become a breeding ground for cyber bullying.”
What you must remember is the website only provides a service, and is it their fault if it is entirely misused by the people who are regularly using the website? I’ve started checking the site less frequently but when I do glance at it, the site’s newsfeed is full of abusive comments to people or questions which are looking for abusive responses regarding a person, and not once have I seen these questions been posted publicly they are always posted by someone who has clicked the anonymous button.
It’s a sorry state of affairs that people of my age, when granted the freedom to express themselves without being ridiculed, just abuse it in order to bully and torment people who they’ve had childish disagreements with. Topics like cyber bullying are the kind of stories that make me lose faith in humanity; is the social media generation just an unethical, immoral bunch of teenagers who hide behind their keyboards whilst they ruin each other’s lives?
The question that comes from this issue is: who has the responsibility to stop it? Is it ethical for Formspring to allow this to happen, hiding behind the pretence that they have simply provided a service and it’s not their fault how they’re users have chosen to use it? I strongly believe that it is the users fault not Formspring’s, however I also believe that it is their ethical obligation to protect the rights of their users.
However I did have an idea that there should be a ‘Reveal’ button so that if someone has been particularly abusive then people can click reveal and if over 50 people (or a number deemed decent by Formspring) click it then the person who has asked the question is revealed to all for the cowardly bully they are. I understand that there is inherent problems with this idea like people declaring their secret admiration for a person and then be revealed just for them to be embarrassed but then again I’m a student sitting in the library – my plans for solving internet bullying were never going to be flawless.