By Mia Serracino-Inglott
When RamFess first came onto the scene a few months ago, I felt absolutely ecstatic. A page that compiled the opinions, gossip and beef of the RAM student population was surely going to be a hit. And indeed it was. The initial months of cheeky flirtation and sly compliments were fun to write and to watch. However, it did not take long for RamFess to devolve into a more sinister platform.
The most important thing about RamFess (and indeed all university confession pages) is the fact that it allows people to post things anonymously – whatever you say comes completely without personal repercussions. However, it is this anonymity that is being abused by students and used as an opportunity to express bigoted views that they would not be able to vocalise in person.
I recently became embroiled in a bit of ‘debate’ on RamFess. I put debate in quotation marks here because it is hard to define a disagreement with an anonymous internet troll as a debate. One disgruntled student had taken to the platform to express the fact that their opinion, if expressed in person, would cause them to be attacked by their peers and would result in them being labelled a ‘racist, sexist, homophobic, islamaphobic, transphobic, everythingphobic pig’.
Debate is everywhere in our world- even choosing new repertoire with a teacher could be considered a small form of debate. It is inherent to human nature. However, when we sit ourselves behind a computer, click ‘anonymous’, and type out our opinions we strip away an integral part of debate – accountability. If you are not accountable for your views and words, they are empty; they hold no actual worth in the world.
By choosing to be anonymous in the sharing of your opinion, you are revealing that you do not really believe in it. Perhaps you know that your opinion is uninformed, perhaps you know you are a racist, or perhaps you aren’t either of these things and are simply choosing to share this opinion in order to play ‘devil’s advocate’. We have probably all heard the devil’s advocate excuse innumerable times. The problem with this excuse, however, is that you cannot play devil’s advocate with people’s lives.
These debates relate around very pressing social issues that are damaging the lives of ethnic minority communities, people who identify as LGBTQ+, disabled people etc. and to trivialise these issues into something so small that you can play ‘devil’s advocate’ against shows a complete disregard for human rights and human kindness.
Online anonymity is not necessarily an evil thing. Anonymous gaming accounts, for example, give people the chance to escape into a different world and create another persona for themselves. Equally, anonymously inquiring into different political views can be a brilliant way to broaden your knowledge. However, the use of such platforms to reveal your racist thoughts, publish the things you couldn’t say in person, release the Hyde to your Jekyll as it were, is a very damaging thing. You cannot look an anonymous person in the eye and tell them how their ‘opinion’ is indicative of years of discrimination. You cannot tell them that their belief that ‘racist’ is a slur undermines your experience of having slurs thrown at you throughout your childhood. Instead these nameless opinions fester, not resulting in positive learning or change, only in upset.
I hope this person finds this article and decides to speak to me – I welcome social and political views that are different to my own. How are we to solidify our opinions, grow as people and better understand our world if we don’t interact with a variety of viewpoints? I, for one, feel glad to study in an institution that has a strong desire to foster equality amongst students (our LGBTQ+ society and Ethnic Diversity society are both testament to that).
So please, leave RamFess for the crushes and the compliments, and take your socio-political views onto a different stage; one where you are there to back them up in person.