Learning about topics through anonymous storytelling can teach us a lot about our shared identity.
If you watch or read the news on any mainstream media outlet, the source in and of itself shapes the way we feel about the narrative. For example, a Fox News story may convey an entirely different sentiment from the same subject on CNN, and before even clicking on the article, we have an idea of what the bias might sound like. Maybe that’s even a catalyst for avoiding certain media outlets altogether: There is no way that content will align with your values or experiences.
However, to perpetuate civil discourse, each of us silently agrees to take on the burden of learning and understanding topics more deeply in support of greater societal good, whether you agree with it or not. It’s about considering other perspectives and deepening empathy as you navigate through difficult conversations.
At The Doe, we were curious about the effect anonymous stories can have on an audience. Can anonymous personal narratives allow us to break away from the perspectives we’re used to or the way we evaluate certain topics? Is it helpful to break out of the paradigms you encounter daily? Is there value from seeking insights from sources we may not otherwise have heard from?
The Rise of Anonymous Storytelling: Why the Hype?
To feed our curiosity, we asked our readers, “What do you enjoy about reading anonymous stories?”
We compiled a list of responses, arranged them into patterns and were moved by the responses. Some of the top reasons why people like anonymous stories are as follows:
Reason #1: Feeds Curiosity
“Learning more about the people I share the world with.”
“It’s interesting to hear another’s perspective and experience.”
We often hear that human beings are social creatures—even the most introverted among us crave connection in some way. You’re naturally curious about the world around you: how other people see the world, their place in it and how they feel about events that affect you too. Reading anonymous stories elevates entertainment to something more satisfying: genuine connection.
Reason #2: Allows for Personal Growth
“It keeps my mind open and enlightened.”
“I’ve been sheltered most of my life, so I learn about the rest of the world through [anonymous stories].”
“I get to increase my awareness of others' perspectives so that I can debate better.”
Growth may be hard at times; however, it feels good to see yourself move beyond your previous limits. Reading anonymous stories without broader context goes beyond simple entertainment; it allows you to appreciate other perspectives, and even yourself, more deeply.
Reason #3: Challenges Objective Thinking
“It helps you block your personal bias while reading and analyzing a document.”
“Taking identity out of storytelling. Identity is important but biased.”
“I don’t feel guilty if I don’t agree with the person.”
Technology today is often unintentionally built to center us in echo chambers. Breaking free from that space can help you shake off the dust in your thinking and allow you to look at the world with new eyes. Cutting out the background narrative of the person telling the story releases you from any biases you may bring to the table and helps you to encounter them from an objective place.
Reason #4: Encourages Empathy
“Reading these stories allows me to see through the lens of someone else and empathize.”
“That because it’s anonymous, it can be completely truthful, which helps you understand it.”
In all stories, you bring yourself to the reading of a person’s life and experience. When you read a story that resonates with you—your feelings, your thinking, your sense of humor even—it can feel like you’re expanding your awareness of life to include more than just yourself. Seeing your humanity reflected at you opens you further to listen in the future.
So, What Did We Learn?
One final submission we particularly liked said anonymous stories are appreciated for their “genuineness, realness, honesty.” And that response is one that not only envelopes all the responses above it in a way, but also The Doe’s philosophy. We never filter narratives. Apart from some minor copy edits for clarity, our goal is to provide content through your lens, not ours. They’re straight from the source.
These responses made us realize we’re onto something. Anonymity provides a safe space to read and engage with content. There is no pressure to feel a certain way or approach content with your guard up. Instead, anonymous stories give you more freedom to come to conclusions and new realizations on your own accord. Anonymity allows you to confront your feelings about internal narratives with more honesty and helps you identify (and break free from) your echo chambers, which is something we would love to see more of in the modern world.
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