Rhetorical Essay on Article: Possessed by a Mask by Sandra Newman Free Essay Example

The Influence of the Internet on People and Its Description in the Article Possessed by a Mask by Sandra Newman

The impact of internet on people, their personality, identity and behavior draws the attention of many researchers, because internet has penetrated into almost all spheres of human life and comprises an integral part of the daily life of people. Views on the impact of internet on users vary substantially from severe criticism to admiration with benefits and great opportunities internet opens in face of people. However, the progress of internet and its seemingly overwhelming impact tends to evoke criticism and quite negative attitude to the technology. At this point, it is possible to refer to the article Possessed by a Mask by Sandra Newman, where the author attempts to warn the audience against the danger of internet as a tool that encourages people to behave in a different way and develop a different personality or identity compared to the real world personality and identity of individuals because internet gives users the mask they readily but carelessly wear.

The author attempts to set the mood of the article and clearly states her position from the beginning of the article as she states:”it is an acknowledged fact of modern life that the internet brings out the worst in people” (Newman 1), although she relies here on her mere assumptions only and cannot and does not try to draw specific facts which would back her judgment up. From the beginning of the article she draws the attention of the audience to negative facts about internet only and does not really try to view the problem from a different angle. She clearly sets the negative tone of her article with regard to internet as the intrinsically evil invention which does no good for people.

At the same time, the author attempts to justify her assumptions and judgments about the negative impact of internet on human behavior and personality by her reference to the mask which is grounded on the anthropological and cultural study of practices of using the mask as a tool to conceal one’s real identity and set free one’s hidden self. The mask is a metaphor that means the hidden identity or the identity which people may be unaware of but which comes out, when individuals wear a mask.

The author claims that using the mask, which is her metaphor for the attempt of people to conceal their real identity and their personality, is the common practice: From the Australian outback to the Arctic, from Mesolithic Africa to the United States of the 21st century, people have always made and employed masks in ways that are seemingly various and yet have an underlying commonality (Newman 3). In such a way, she attempts to show the audience that online behavior and the negative impact of internet are quite natural because human nature or human psychology naturally predisposes them to such behavior and such behavior is absolutely common and natural for people from all over the world and it was always natural and common for all times.

To enhance her arguments, Newman refers to the authority of other people. For example, she refers to Keith Johnstone, a former director of the Royal Court Theatre in London, who basically supports her assumptions and findings concerning the impact of the mask on human behavior. She also refers to numerous studies in the field of psychology that also back up her assumptions concerning the impact of masks on personality and behavior of people. Ironically, even though Newman refers to Johnstone as an expert, he slips to mysticism which does not match and even contradicts to the basically scientific nature of the article since the author often refers to scientific studies which she uses as the evidence to prove the righteousness of her assumptions. In such a context, the mysticism of people repossessed by a mask looks quite out of the place taking into consideration references to scientific studies the author makes throughout the article.

At the same time, along with experts like Keith Johnstone, Newman refers to the average people, including those who have the experience of wearing mask, such as an Igbo mask-wearer. In such a way, the author attempts to draw the experience of wearing a mask from the first hand rather than merely theorizing on effects and implications of wearing a mask. The use of the first hand evidence and involvement of the average people, who wear masks, is purposeful because the author attempts to enhance the credibility of her article.

To enhance the impact of the mask on personality, the author tends to attribute qualities of humans to the mask: “A new Mask is like a baby that knows nothing about the world… Very often a Mask will have to learn how to sit, or bend down, or how to hold things” (Newman 9). This is another element of mystification of the impact of a mask on people. Such mystification is emotionally strong since it influences emotions and imagination of the audience, but, on the other hand, such tool raises questions concerning the scientific credibility of such evidence and the credibility of the entire article.

The author attempts to reach the broad audience and uses the plain language but occasionally her scientific background breaks through and she slips to using semantically elevated words and phrases, which bear signs of the author’s professional background like “pattern of transgression” (Newman 10) or “disinhibition” (Newman 13).

At the same time, while applying her findings concerning the impact of masks on human behavior to internet use, Newman tends to overemphasize the negative impact of internet on individual personality and behavior. For example, if she explains the change in behavior of people wearing masks by disinhibition, then in case of internet she uses “toxic disinhibition”. In this regard, toxic is not just a special term but is also a strong epithet that enhances the negative connotation of disinhibition being applied to practices of using internet and its negative effects on people.

In addition, the author attempts to evoke the strongest emotions in the audience, when she reveals the possible danger of internet and its destructive impact on children. To make her point even stronger, the author refers to the scientific study conducted in 2007 which revealed the fact that “64 per cent of bullied children were exclusively attacked online. That is, many children who were habitual bullies on social media would completely refrain from this behavior when meeting their victims in person” (Newman 15). Children are naturally the primary concern of parents. The audience of the article is adults and the article aims not only at experts but also at broad audience, including parents. In such a situation, the emphasis on the online bullying of children which occurs exclusively online helps the author to create the desirable effect on the audience and to persuade readers that internet is wrong, harmful and dangerous.

Finally, the author concludes that people should be aware of the masks they wear that sounds quite reasonable as the conclusion of her argument about the danger of masks people wear, especially if they do it online. The author attempts to make people more responsible and aware of pitfalls and temptations of internet as people may believe they may wear any mask they like as long as they are online because internet covers their identity with any mask they like to use. The conclusion is logical and reasonably derives from the arguments Newman unfolds in her article.

However, the big question that begs is whether the author is absolutely objective in her analysis of the impact of the mask and internet on human personality, identity and behavior. Taking into consideration her one-sided analysis of the problem, the answer is likely to be no. The author depicts the problem from the position of the negative attitude to internet and its impact on users.

Thus, the argument Sandra Newman develops in her article is sound and logic but only as long as readers take the side of the author and do not perceive  the article critically. Sandra Newman uses the combination of ethos, logos, and pathos to persuade the audience in the danger of internet and its negative impact on the personality and behavior of people online. She refers to numerous studies as well as the opinion of the average people. She uses stylistically rich language and strong epithets to make her arguments stronger. At the same time, she attempts to write in the plain language but cannot help from using scientific terms, especially from the field of psychology. As a result, her arguments seem to be solid and persuading. However, questions emerge, as soon as a critically-minded reader starts questioning Newman’s arguments from the pro-internet perspective. If a reader starts looking for positive aspects of internet and its positive effects, one can easily find a lot of them and internet will not be a kind of monster as Newman depicts it. However, what a critical reader cannot help from agreeing with Newman is that everyone is responsible for the mask he/she wears.

Works Cited:

Newman Sandra. Possessed by a Mask, AEON, 2015. Web.

The terms offer and acceptance. (2016, May 17). Retrieved from

[Accessed: August 11, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016.

[Accessed: August 11, 2022]

freeessays.club (2016) The terms offer and acceptance [Online].
Available at:

[Accessed: August 11, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: August 11, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: August 11, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: August 11, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: August 11, 2022]
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