Essay: The mask of anonymity

This is an essay about how carelessly people seem to behave in the internet, unaware of their consequences. The anecdotes are mostly related/limited to examples in Korea, so other people might have difficulties understanding it, but I thought it would be an important issue to handle. 


A considerable number of years ago, a heated debate commenced in Korea, concerning the justification of a legislation requiring people to reveal their real names on the internet. Originally put forward in 2004, its intention was to prevent the false spreading of rumors about the candidates of the upcoming election. Many people in favor of this law advocated it saying that it will stop malicious commenters from rising. However, after its passing, the law was subject to many concerns and skepticism, especially by the fact that it didn’t seem to be effective enough, and instead causing many predictable problems such as the violation of personal information. In 2012, the Constitutional court of Korea deemed that this legislation goes against the constitution by violating the personal rights of citizens, and removed it from the law.

Fast-forwarding to 2014, a new form of internet honesty has commenced, unbeknownst to the people in question. Those who had been so apprehensive of people recognizing them in the sea of anonymity in the internet started to voluntarily give up their information, easily accessible with only a few clicks. Despite this, people still failed to understand the severity of the situation and kept on posting comments and posts aimed to hurt. It is my opinion that the people, believing that theirs will be washed off within the torrents of comments of the same nature, and will not be of any significance, despite the fact that pretty much all their personal information is out there for (literally) the world to see. The name of this phenomenon? – ‘Facebook’.

Now that the identity has been revealed, I suspect that many people would be nodding along right now, optionally making a noise of assent. People tend to be ignorant of the dangers that the internet poses, thinking that the simple ‘friends’ or ‘Privacy Settings’ system will be enough to protect them from the world. I have two examples in which this disregard is prominent – one of them is displayed by the so-called ‘intellectuals’ of the country.

As of the eventful 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, where numerous conspiracies took place, the citizens of Korea were enraptured by a strange phenomenon, somehow confusing them into thinking that they were all ‘executors of justice’ and that outright insulting the opponents on public, open platforms would somehow bring about the fair treatment that they wanted. Without the euphemism, this basically means that they swore and heaved unmentionable insults in the athletes’ facebook pages. A quick visit to Sotnikova’s wall the day after the figure skating event shook me to the bone, and made me wonder – Do they really think that this is justified, and that they can be protected from the possible consequences?

Another example involves the true ‘elite’ of the Korean society – here’s how it went down:

A young professor in KAIST, one who was very active in various social networking sites, posted a link on his facebook. The link contained an article, questioning the workings of a certain high-school’s unusually high admission rates that year. A noticeable majority of the students were admitted into SNU in unprecedented amounts – maybe this is the sign of a corruption?

Needless to say, the students of said high-school reacted viciously. Mockeries, vicious comments, outright insults – to a professor of one of the most respected universities of the country, done by the students of the most prestigious university in Korea! Not only did this situation make me doubt the sensibilities of the elites, it also made me rethink the common assumption and the reality that these people will probably grow up to become the leaders of the country.

All in all, this made me go skeptical about human nature, or at the very least, our fellow citizens; do they not know the consequences, or have they gone past caring? And as an unprecedented juvenile trend, who knows what the true extent of the consequences could be?


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