Online Anonymity, quite simply is when you hide your true identity. You could be
- Pretending to be someone else
- Using an alias
- Using no online name at all
A lot of social media websites these days having the option for anonymous posting. For example, Tumblr famously uses the “ask box” which gives its users the option to talk to each other anonymously. People who prefer to keep their usernames hidden can do so easily. Then there is Ask.fm where the asker has the choice to send in the question without revealing their true identity. There’s also LiveJournal that gave its users the option to hide their identity way before it was cool. And then we have 4chan which has always been one big anon convention. But let’s not go there.
And then, have you heard of Anonymous? You must have, they’re the online group that’s on the news all the time. They’ve gotten into quite a lot of trouble with their videos and raids. There are a pretty big deal in the anonverse because of the shenanigans they get into. And that’s putting it lightly.
Who knew anonymous posting was such a big deal?
But that’s what I want to talk to you about today. Online anonymity is not new, but it is certainly on the rise. It was a top trend of 2014 and I don’t see it going anywhere in 2016 either. You’ve seen the power anon posting has if it can turn into something like the league of legions. When you’re faceless and nameless, it’s a lot more difficult to trace you out. And that’s where the problem lies. Your teen could be making friends with an anon, and you would have no way to know who they are.
But is Anonymity All that Bad?
When you have transparency, you have a single identity. This means you are held responsible for whatever you do.
When you have anonymity, you have no true online identity which means that you have no accountability for what you do. Now you could use this for good, like the group Anonymous did when speaking out against injustice.
Or you could use it for other things, such as stalking or bullying. In this case, anonymity is bad.
Now, let’s look at what people do when hide their online identity.
The top social activity is participating in interest groups. If you have a teen at home, they’d probably call them fandoms.
Fandoms are great when you’re excitedly discussing your favorite book or TV show. They’re not so great when those anonymous discussions turn sour.
Anonymity is polarizing, isn’t it?
Why Anonymity Over Identity?
Before we go on, take a look at this Infographic by Namesake:
Using Facebook and 4chan as the vehicle, it tells you about why people prefer either anonymity or transparency. Facebook might make your more popular amongst your circle, but with anonymity, you’d be able to do things that don’t conform to your established identity.
Based on this infographic, take a look at this to know why someone prefers being anonymous over identified and vice versa.
How Can Anonymity Be Harmful?
If your teen goes to a message board or a social media site that has anonymous posting, chances are they’ll be talking to many kinds of people without knowing who they actually are. They could be having detailed conversations with them, even sharing personal information.
That’s how a lot of cyber stalking cases begin. Your teen could be talking to a predator pretending to be another teenager, or someone else.
So there is a good and a bad to it. But that’s where you have to step in and take control. Monitor your child’s online activity so you can be absolutely certain they’re been safe and not communicating with malicious strangers. In all fairness, everyone on the internet is an anon. But it is when they wear the cloak of anonymity that all accountability is shed off them, and gives them “license” to be crude, mean or downright criminal. But as long as you’ve got your parental control on your side, you should be in the clear.