Anonymity makes us honest

Originally @ Stanford Daily

There are a lot of smart people at Stanford. I like that. But hey, I’m an intellectual elitist who finds common peoples’ discourse to be banal and irritating. For this reason, I was somewhat surprised to find out about two Web sites: College ACB (collegeacb.com/sb/Stanford) and GoodCrush (stanford.goodcrush.com).

For those who don’t know, College ACB is the extension of the old Web site Juicy Campus, which existed as an anonymous forum for college students to post gossip or initiate slanderous smear campaigns. Because I am a manipulative social engineer, I was thrilled at the prospect of having an Internet source to update me on my campus gossip, and this Web site promised to give me intimate details into peoples’ lives that I could then leverage against them for my own social gain.

Sadly, though, I found that the site was being used for a very different purpose. College ACB essentially offers an electronic format of what is available to students on Stanford’s restroom walls. To clarify, whenever I require a dose of racism and middle school sexual humor unavailable to me in most campus discourse, I go to the bathroom. Written in marker on the walls of most stalls, one will normally find conversations and diatribes heavily peppered with racial slurs, genital references and sketches of fellatio. (I’m hopeful that this only applies to men’s restrooms.)

This is only surprising to me because we go to Stanford, the paragon of politically correct tolerance and diversity among the San Jose-area private university set. The surprising dialogue on our bathroom walls is nothing in comparison to College ACB. Included in the discussion topics are “Who is the sluttiest girl on campus,” “Mexicans: why do they always smell like burritos” and “Who wants to blow me in Zapata’s 2<sup>nd</sup> floor bathroom?” These are conversations between Stanford students.

It is fair to assume that because we go to such a progressive university we have the privilege of being isolated from idiots. I guess that is not true. College ACB provides a window into the intellectual maturity of some Stanford students. Your good friends, your RA or the smart fellow sitting next to you in lecture might be the very same people ranking the sororities by sexual promiscuity or imploring Latinos to “go sell some strawberries on campus drive.”

Is it troubling that these same students are the future intellectual leaders of the world? This caliber of dialogue would be unsurprising in a trailer park, but among Stanford students it is shocking to realize such a subset exists. People here are supposed to be really smart – and therefore above this.

Less disheartening and more innocent is GoodCrush. This Web site offers a similarly revealing glimpse into the anonymous world of student interactions. It allows users to anonymously e-mail an invitation to their crushes, who can then join the Web site and list their own crushes. The initial user is then notified of a match. The site also has a missed connections forum, where students can pine for each other and express their disappointment at not having connected.

GoodCrush does not seem to be populated by the same uninventive morons who troll College ACB. Instead, most missed connections discourse is rather witty, such as that of the girl who noticed an attractive boy at Wushu practice: “Spotted: Boy with sharp moves. Will you let me play with your sword? I want to handle it with as much finesse as you.”

The two Web sites demonstrate an inescapable truth about ourselves and people in general: anonymity makes us very honest. The absence of personal repercussions for admissions made on bathroom walls and online forums gives people the ability to freely express themselves. Turns out that “expressing oneself” to some Stanford students means either openly indulging in racism and gratuitous sexual references – or hoping that the cute girl or guy in lecture has an interest in missed connections Web sites that will bring you two together.

This is not to condemn either of the two Web sites. GoodCrush, if anything, presents a positive tool for patching the gaps in our existences as billiard balls bouncing off one another. I have misgivings about acknowledging the contribution of College ACB to campus life, but ultimately I believe that the existence of an open forum that allows us to see who we really share our school with is a positive. And it turns out that maybe honesty isn’t the best policy.

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