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Headline Opinions — 17 November 2014

By Joshua Van Laan

Facebook now features a mobile app that allows users to access the site without having to identify who they are. The app, called Rooms, was released on Thursday, Oct. 23.

The purpose is to allow users to openly discuss topics that they might not be comfortable with talking about while being identified.These might include, just for instance, sexuality, gender, mental disease,  and addiction.

Facebook hopes this app will allow people a channel to freely air their frustrations and seek help throughout the Internet, but chances are that this won’t be the case.

The most popular anonymous app found on any smart phone is Yik Yak. Yik Yak, as most of us know, is primarily used to make funny comments (often at someone else’s expense), or to just insult other people. It’s possible and very likely that the same will result with Facebook’s app.

Obviously, Facebook isn’t the first company to enable anonymity on the web. Whether it’s by choosing their own emails, screen names, and usernames on message boards, they have been able to remain anonymous for years. Sites like Reddit have prided themselves on their anonymity, and have done so in a way that has created a welcoming and accepting community.

However, an important distinction between sites like Facebook and Reddit is who is on them. Whereas message boards typically have members who are only interested in a specific topic that creates a bond between them, Facebook is used by virtually anyone. Instead of joining a group of people who you know are passionate about a certain video game, movie, television show, musical artist, or anything else, as of now this Facebook app seems like it will promote simply general discussion.

Because of the brand of Facebook and the easy accessibility of this app, it seems all too easy for people to join in and simply hurl insult after insult at others, just to make themselves feel better, a practice known as cyber bullying.

Facebook’s app idea makes sense, and in theory seems to be a good idea. However, because of how popular and non-niche a website like Facebook is, it will have to put in place a lot of guards to prevent people from being continually harassed and bullied online.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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About Author

Josh Van Laan is currently a sociology major from Clinton Township.

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