I've marveled so often at how being anonymous can cause rudeness; it's like a license to stop thinking and start being aggressive or passive aggressive.
The most apparent instance of this is in traffic. People in their cars suddenly lose all sense that the other cars actually have people in them too, and they will swerve and cut off and tailgate and pass willy-nilly, flipping the bird as they do, stopping and starting according to their own agendas, never caring about the fall out.
The internet has also given people a green light for rudeness. Comments become hostile, bullying on social networking sites can lead to suicide in younger folk, faking your image is as common on dating websites as women lying about their age used to be.
But how about the old value that says integrity is about what you do when you are alone, when no one is there to police you, when you are under cover, or anonymous? Are you angry enough that as soon as you feel no one will be on to you, you spew your venom by commenting randomly on websites? Or do you get behind the wheel and just put your foot on the gas and go? Can you maintain your composure and your respect for other people even when you're anonymous?
The "phony phone call" game of middle and high school is the beginning of this rush, this thrill of saying something jarring or nasty or rude without being caught or confronted or having any consequences. But the middle schooler who thinks they are going to be found out will run away faster than a woodland bunny!
The next time you feel yourself slipping into road rage or writing a nasty comment on the internet, or flipping someone off in traffic--ask yourself, if you were standing right in front of them, face to face, would you behave the same way?
Most of us would not. And for those of us that would, can you consider the cost of spreading another layer of hostility on an already difficult world?
Is it worth it?
Aimee Boyle is a regular contributor to EmpowHER and really sick of rude anonymous folk.