How Old-Fashioned is Online Anonymity?


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The literature suggests that, compared to face-to-face, the increased incidence of flaming when using computer-mediated communication is due to reductions in the transfer of social cues, which decrease individuals’ concern for social evaluation and fear of social sanctions or reprisals. When social identity and ingroup status are salient, computer mediation can decrease flaming because individuals focus their attention on the social context (and associated norms) rather than themselves.

Flaming, the subject of University of Houston professor Norman Johnson’s above sentiments, is unfortunately enhanced when internet communications involve anonymity. The difference between Facebook and the Warrior Forum is the former attaches your real name to everything you write and the latter does not. Whether or not one’s opinions are attacked on internet forums is not the point, but rather that such incidents rarely occur on websites that require a first name and a last name.

Daily newspaper articles such as this example shine a light into why municipal officials around the country dread new articles appearing in their online community newspapers. Their complaints are less with the actual content and more with anonymous comments that portray spite toward other readers and other commentators.

When you read a newspaper article online and are inspired to add a comment, would you rather be in a sea of anachronistic anonymity or conventional names? Do you care if comments are hidden by screen names or do you think the ugly truth lies less in comments and more in mismanagement of newspaper websites?

If you agree with Brian Stelter that your online mask will always fall off and that anonymity is hardly protected, then why keep up hidden appearances? Are you so certain that what you write and the style you write it will never be detected? You’re not afraid you’ll be found?

This is not an attack on privacy, by the way, or the need to disguise who or where you are. There are times and places for that. This is a question whether or not you should mask your name regardless what you say or, in the shadow of Facebook, if you should bare all. Thoughts?

P.S. You are welcome to hide your name in the comment section below and type in “Anonymous” instead. The choice is yours.

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Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ari Herzog
Ari Herzog is the Principal of Digital AH, providing services in digital media auditing, marketing, and training.


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