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Anonymity And The Internet: A View On Anonymity’s Benefits Through Ruth Hall

1252 words - 5 pages

Every day people portray multiple personas, sometimes characteristic of one’s self but others entirely uncharacteristic. Who we are in front of our employers, children, friends, or strangers are different parts of our whole. This is taken to a much more extreme level with the rise of the Internet, and people often undertake a persona otherwise unseen in the “real world”. In one moment we are the epitome of professionalism, yet in the next moment we are online jabbing at various political parties or insulting another player on a video game. However, if we were to do this under our actual name it is likely we would be chastised. It is this reason we frequently adopt pseudonyms online. By doing so we grant ourselves an amount of freedom; we are given an opportunity to portray someone our inhibitions may not otherwise allow or society frowns upon. Of course, the apparent anonymity of the Internet causes a large amount of negative behavior, often in the form of what is colloquially known as “trolling”. Because we concentrate on this behavior pseudonyms are slowly being replaced with our real identities. However, the use of pseudonyms may have a beneficial impact as well. Through lack of example we often lose sight of this, but it is by observing an example in which pseudonymity breeds positive consequences in which we can understand the importance of it online. One such example of this is in the semi-autobiographical work Ruth Hall: A Domestic Tale of Present Time, by Fanny Fern (Sarah Willis), written in 1854. Even though this is a historical case and, of course, does not involve the Internet, it provides insight into what apparent anonymity offers. By examining the positive consequences the protagonist, Ruth Hall, undergoes after adopting the pseudonym Floy we may further understand the importance of pseudonyms on the Internet on a individual level.

Ruth’s pseudonym is created because of many tribulations in her early life. Indeed, it seems as if fate itself holds a grudge against her. Not only does her husband pass away, leaving her a widow with two children, but she is rejected by her family. Soon after her husband’s funeral both her father and father-in-law conspire, questioning whether, “… Ruth could be induced to part with her children” (Fern 78). She slowly becomes estranged from society and, in the eloquent words of her daughter Nettie, “could n’t support a mouse” (249). Essentially, nearly everything minus her children is in opposition with her. Nearly anyone who knows the name Ruth Hall disassociates themselves from her and her children. And if they cannot fully accomplish that, such as in the case of her mother-in-law and other family, they conspire against her. Essentially, Ruth is being bullied by society.

Nevertheless, Ruth persists. Even after her brother, Hyacinth, rejects her proposal of becoming a writer and bluntly advises her to seek a different source of employment, Ruth seeks other, smaller, publishers (146-147). She begins...

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