Drowning Under the Bridge


It is difficult to overstate the impact the spread of anonymity has had on the expression of community and (ironically) individuality across the internet and all of the pre-existing cultures that have been impacted by it. By offering protection from the consequences of users’ words or actions while at the same time providing an unrivaled vehicle for their transmission, anonymity has allowed for the exhibition of a privately constructed life without the destruction of that privacy. It has formed a unique niche that allows for a community to form around ideas or motivations, like the trolling of Bill O’Reilly by the “internet love machine,” recounted by Phillips, while at the same time protecting from the backlash of reality upon the actions of digital selves. No one that participated in the “attack” on O’Reilly was at any time caught or in danger of being identified, and this is what motivates people to take the actions they do. It becomes much harder to look at something as a bad idea when it is impossible to get in trouble for it. This puts culture both outside and within the internet in a unique position of both encouraging individual freedoms by removing many of the restraints that might accompany it pre-internet, while at the same time encouraging and widening the dichotomy between self and other. Whether the self is the role inside a community like Anon, the individual, a subset interest group–such as 4chan’s various “-fags” or a non-internet-user by choice, the internet and the behaviors it encourages provide another avenue for us to identity ourselves not only as part of something, but as distinctly separate from others.


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