It is probably not much of a stretch to assume that – for the most part – the majority of people have a degree of understanding that privacy and social media don’t mix. If anyone’s has ever had an embarrassing picture posted on Facebook, commented on someone’s post in a fit of rage, or gone on a drunken Instagram liking spree, you know what I am talking about.
In her article, “Anonymity in Social Media,” Laura Rogal examines the rise in social media pseudonym accounts to protect the user’s privacy online.
Social media has gone through multiple identity changes over the years. In the early days of social media, sites such as Myspace and Nexopia were a place to go and connect with your friends online – some friends that you knew personally, others you only knew online.
Rogal discusses how in these early years of social media, sites incorporated “pseudonyms” into their platform, where the user would identify themselves with their chosen screen name. Then Facebook came along and rather than using a screen name, the users instead used their real name for their profile. This drastically changed the division between your online persona and your real-life personality.
This shift in social media representing “who you really are” has led to an increase in users creating social media pseudonym accounts; some of these are created to troll others and incite anger and/or frustration to other users, while others are created to have freedom to express themselves anonymously.
With an increasing desire for anonymity online, alternative platforms catering to this need are becoming popular. Reddit was founded by two American university students in 2005 and purchased for $20-million dollars a year later by Advance Publications. New York Times journalist, David Carr, describes Reddit as a community full of pseudonyms where users speak very intimately and candidly under the guise of their screen name.
Another anonymous posting platform that has made news around campus is Chillabit, where university students can post their thoughts/feelings/concerns with their fellow classmates anonymously. Interestingly enough the individual accused of sending the threat on Chillabit went to Reddit to seek legal advice before being arrested.
The dark side of social media anonymity is the lack of personal accountability for those who fail to understand the boundaries between what is and is not appropriate to share online. Despite the lack of personal accountability, there is still no such thing as complete anonymity – as I am sure the individual who posted the threat against MacEwan on Chillabit can attest to.
**If you have 3 min 42 seconds to spare and want to be creeped out by social media’s lack of privacy, watch this:
Carr, D. (2012, September 2). Left alone by its owner, reddit soars. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/03/business/media/reddit-thrives-after-advance-publications-let-it-sink-or-swim.html
Featured Image [Image file]. Retrieved from https://lifesite-cache.s3.amazonaws.com/images/made/images/remote/https_s3.amazonaws.com/lifesite/Shutterstock/anonymous_computer_810_500_55_s_c1.jpg
Lazzarino, D. (2016, October 27). Man alleged to have made MacEwan university threat asks reddit for legal advice. Edmonton Journal. Retrieved from http://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/student-charged-after-online-threat-to-macewan-university
Nitrozac & Snaggy comic [Image file]. Retrieved from http://i1.wp.com/media.boingboing.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/1862600wide.gif?resize=600%2C374
On the Internet, Nobody Knows You’re a Dog [Image file]. Retrieved from https://img.washingtonpost.com/rf/image_480w/WashingtonPost/Content/Blogs/comic-riffs/StandingArt/STEINERinternetdogs.jpg?uuid=Cn7v6vmREeKOhMVnMaIC-w
Rogal, L. (2013). Anonymity in social media. Phoenix Law Review, 7. Retrieved from https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2459152
Social Media Experiment [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5P_0s1TYpJU
When You’re Drunk and Go on Instagram [Image file]. Retrieved from https://www.instagram.com/p/BMXtcEfhpdM/?taken-by=thefatjewish&hl=en