Among the countless good and bad memories of middle school, recollections of morning announcements seem particularly clear. The principal would proclaim the circumstances of the physical plant (the water fountain by the eight-grade boys bathroom was out-of-service, again), the menu (“hot” lunch was served to those of us not lucky enough to carry the “Dukes of Hazzard” lunch box filled with Little Debbie’s from home), and the latest on the “special” news of the day (the janitor was retiring after 39 years, the girls’ volleyball team had advanced to regional play, and, in third period, carnations were being delivered from secret admirers).
By lunch, school was aflutter with news of the goings-on: “Sally received two! One must be from her boyfriend – but who dared to send the other? Tom didn’t get any! Surely, Shirley would have bought one for him?” The game was at hand to find out who might be the admirer, and just as some were disappointed to have received none, others were filled with excitement and trepidation regarding the identity of their would-be paramour. “Would there be a love match, or could it have come from the “icky” one in my sixth-period science class?” It was all in good fun, and save a few broken hearts, little long-term damage was done.
Flash forward a few decades and we find anonymous delivery perfected in a world of informants, unnamed sources, social media, whistleblowers and government immunity. If we don’t know the origin, can we know our interest or belief in the veracity of the progenitor? Anonymity protects us from embarrassment, even retaliation, and enables us to reduce personal accountability, empowering us to do things we might otherwise shun. But does the very thing that makes it attractive to the sender make it suspect to the receiver?