Imagine having a social media website where your identity remains completely anonymous, unless, of course, you share it? An up and coming social network called Social Number gives its users a number by which they are identified by. There is no name, no handle, and no thumbnail photo of yourself, just a number.This forces users to be completely anonymous when interacting with others. The mission of this website is to have people talk about everything and anything to each other, not knowing a thing about them; they’re complete strangers.
In January this past year, CNN did an article on the website named The social network where no one knows your name.This article takes its time to thoroughly explain the website and how it works. To sign up, you need to enter your “social number”, which has a ten character limit to the spaces available per number. You also need to enter a valid email address and your date of birth. The requirements for this website are fairly normal. Once you log into your account, the home page comes up. This is where users have posted discussions. These discussion reminded me of tweets. Some can be questions for others to answer, some can be feelings. The possibilities are endless. When you see a discussion that intrigues you, you click on that discussion and input your two cents.
Though my initial reactions to this website as that it was very creepy, after researching it a bit and reading up on it, it just reminds me of an anonymous version of Twitter and Facebook combined. For the people who want to stay completely anonymous, this is the social networking site for them!
There’s a huge negative connotation to being anonymous on the internet these days and with all of the people who abuse their anonymity, you may be thinking what possible positive side to anonymity there could be. How could there possibly be something good about something that allows people to facelessly harass and generally annoy the shit out of others? Well, as I’ve always been told by heartfelt movies and TV shows, every cloud has a silver lining.
In an article by entitled “In Defense of Internet Anonymity”, author Wendy McElroy brings up a few major perks for anonymity. First, the anonymity of the internet allows you to be who you truly are without the fear of being judged. This is a huge plus for many ranging from LGBTQ people who are afraid of people who will judge them based on their sexuality to those who just want to get their stories and experiences out there into the world without showing their faces.
Another large perk to internet anonymity is the power to say anything you want. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t that one of the negative things about anonymity? You’d be correct, dear reader. However, when used correctly, anonymous words can be extremely powerful in a very positive way. Have you ever complained about your looks or your personality and had a friend reassure you that you were fine? I know when this happens to me, I always think about how they’re my friend, and they’re supposed to reassure me, and that makes it mean less. Well with anonymity online, this removes that thought entirely. If I go on Tumblr and post about how fat I think I am, I’m undoubtedly going to get anonymous messages reassuring me that I’m perfect the way I am. Could some of those be from my real life friends? Perhaps. But the fact that they say it anonymously proves that they mean it. I know, it sounds silly, but it’s true. It removes the friend-obligation we have to reassure our pals that they’re wonderful. Everything’s coming from the heart.
Being anonymous online is a freeing experience. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to express your opinions without being immediately judged by others. I tell all of my friends that I hate Glee because they think it’s the dumbest show on television. On the internet, however, I can talk about how I’ve seen every episode and am heavily invested in Rachel and Finn’s relationship ups and downs. I can join this online community of people who like something I have to pretend to hate in real life, and I can talk about it freely. This is the beauty of the internet and its facelessness. As Wendy McElroy says in her article, “the right to withhold your identify, like the right to remain silent, is not the sign of a thug or child predator. It is the sign of a free human being.”
Everyone knows the girl who has met her boyfriend online. Whether it be through eHarmony, Match.com or Facebook, when she says this, she is being judged. Yes, she posts about her “perfect dates” and post pictures of her presents from her one and only, but have you met him? The answer is probably no. He just so happens to live in another state, and obviously, when he is here visiting, she wants to spend alone time with him. The more she talks about him, the more you nod and act like you’re listening, but in your head you’re thinking “Is this girl serious?”
In Seventeen Magazine’s May 2013 issue, there was a feature story about online dating and the reality of it. Though the article cannot be found online, there is a survey that can be taken about your online identity. The article proceeded to tell its audience about MTV’s new show Catfish.
Catfish is show about online relationships. The host finds people who are currently involved with an online relationship and takes them to meet his or her lover for the first time. Out of the entire first season, one out of the twelve episodes actually ended up being the real, true person they portrayed to be.
So what does that mean for us? First, be yourself. This is something that we learn from day one; to be true to yourself. There are times when we may all be feeling down about ourselves, but there are many other ways to get a pick-me-up other than creating a fake profile. Second, watch what you say and who you trust. Meeting strangers can be dangerous. They can use your words against you. They can be lying to you, claiming they are someone who they are not. And finally, be smart and trust your instinct.
It’s pretty clear that to be online anonymously means to withhold public information about oneself and remain mysterious, just as a person might try to in real life. However, internet anonymity is much easier to keep identity at bay because there is no real need for face to face contact as there is in the real world. It is true that “the information they do reveal is controlled by the user” (“Staying Online Anonymously“). This way, only some parts of websites, or all, displays no identity of the person seeking privacy. By using an online anonymity tool, there is no way to be tracked by location, internet activity or personal information. Here’s an example of one such useful anonymity tool:
Because these identity blocking methods allow for little tracking of a person, there is a much less of a chance for hackers to get into computer databases. Therefore, viruses will occur rarely, if at all. Another perk is that any type of identity theft, such as stealing credit card information, is unlikely. This is due to the fact that any personal criteria a thief would need is hidden, making stealing a serious undertaking. It also goes without saying that being anonymous on social networks and chat websites creates a judgement-free zone to more freely voice opinions without the public crashing down. While the anonymous user can still read any comments directed at them, they are safe to know that those commenters will never know who really said it at all. This sense of safety opens doors for speaking the mind, and to many is believed to be “the most important aspect of free speech on the Internet” (“Staying Online Anonymously“).
Just as in most cases, there are positives and negatives when it comes to on online anonymity. While there are a variety of useful purposes for being anonymous online, there are also some scary realities. The common person may try to hide their identity from fraud, but that also means the delinquent perhaps doing the theft is also allowed to conceal their own identity. This makes it harder to track down stolen back accounts and forged identities. It also fosters a strange thought that the Internet could become a place full of conversation from faceless voices. If everyone is willing to share their opinion but no one is willing to take recognition for it, how much worth does it really have?