Wasn't the coolest thing about using the internet for the first time thinking up your first anonymous username?
In the early days of the internet, everyone had a clever pseudonym based around something they liked, a favourite song, character off the telly or a talking animal from a PlayStation game.
But the internet was different back then. The hate mobs hadn't formed. Women didn't get word-lynched for saying they liked the wrong thing. There weren't so many channels in which people could post their rape jokes unchallenged.
Anonymity in the early days of the internet was because the rules hadn't been set and it seemed like fun to call yourself Captain Shoes when talking to strangers, not because anyone had anything to hide, but because it didn't really matter and you owned some shoes.
Now, though, the internet is part of life. It's not just a thing you do sometimes, it's the only thing we do all the time. It's very important to everyone. All of the time.
And it's splintered in half. Only maniacs use pretend names now, with the opposing normals happy to post their mundane/racist comments under their actual identities, linked to Facebook profiles that give away every secret about their lives, families and homes.
So who's doing the internet right in 2014?
Rude boy's outta jail
The emergence of anonymous messaging apps like Yik Yak and the relaunched Secret suggest there's a healthy desire for anonymity on the internet, presumably because there's always a continuous flood of people coming of age (about 13 years old) who are being allowed to run riot on their own online for the first time. And you need a pretend name to be really nasty.
It seems that a lot of the new wave of anonymous apps are used for little more than bullying by these newly anonymised and therefore empowered internet users, and the last thing the hate-filled internet of 2014 needs is more ways in which people can slag off others for a laugh.
The location-aware anonymous chat services make it even easier to be aggressive without consequence. Newcomer Yik Yak appears custom built to let schoolkids bully each other and workers pick on the office weaklings until they crack and massacre everyone at the Christmas party, with its blend of anonymity and hyper-locality perfect for spreading rumours, lies and bad feeling in the immediate proximity.
Building apps that allow anonymous comments with the hope of one day generating money through ad revenue or selling yourself to Facebook for $1bn is quite the poor taste business model.
Luckily, though, people tend to tire of negativity pretty quickly. It's funny for a bit to have an anonymous ding-dong with someone who doesn't know you are in fact you, but having an endless stream of nastiness in your life is actually quite unsustainable.
You can quite quickly go mad from spending your nights awake and mentally composing angry replies to anonymous threats. Users of these anonymous messengers are all involved in one massive, hate-fuelled race to the bottom of the internet, where comments alternate between Hitler and your mum's genital health for all eternity, and no one's having any fun.
These apps are going to burn out, as people realise there's no need to be quite so nasty all the time and how draining it can be. Secret has already shown this. It was fun for a few weeks, and some tech sites sourced a few useful stories from angry users with chips on their shoulders, but it soon fizzled out.
Momentum was lost because you can't trust or believe anything that anonymous people say, funnily enough. Hence the hasty relaunch of Secret as more of a chat tool than an aggressive whistle-blowing app.
Being yourself is an asset nowadays. A nice, unbroken history of nice comments and an old Twitter account you haven't had to hastily close out of shame shows you're a nice person. An internet black hole between 2009 and 2015 when you were anonymously raging under a name with lots of Xs in it shows you're perhaps prone to being a bit of an idiot.
Growing up a bit, using your real name, and moderating your behaviour so you only think bad things instead of saying them is the only sensible choice.
After all, one slip and your anonymous hating could be discovered.
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