Can I Be Anonymous On Social Media?

What sort of trail do you leave online?  Do you comment as yourself?  Do you think that using only the first initial of your last name doesn’t link to you?  Do you use a profile picture?

Social Media may have brought millions of people together, but it has torn many others apart. Once, bullies taunted their victims in the playground; today they use smartphones to do so from afar. Media reports of “Facebook suicides” caused by cyberbullying are all too common. Character assassination on Twitter is rife, as are malicious e-mails, texts and other forms of e-torment. A recent review of the academic literature on cyberbullying suggests—conservatively—that at least a quarter of school-age children are involved as either victim or perpetrator.

As a result, a new generation of smartphone apps offering anonymity have entered the markets. With names like Whisper, Secret, Wut, Yik Yak, Confide and Sneeky, they enable users to send anonymous messages, images or both to “friends” who also use the apps. Some of the messages “self-destruct” after delivery; some live on. But at their heart is anonymity.

Being anonymous online could mean different things to different people. A lot of people are just worried about advertisers and other companies tracking them. For others going anonymous is an opportunity to share the secret stuff they’d never want linked to their names: the shameful confessions, private fears, suppressed desires and malicious gossip.

Is it a good thing to go anonymous online? Anonymity can be a good thing to some, but has two big downsides. The first is that, when people aren’t accountable for what they say, they often say things that aren’t true. And the second is that they’re prone to saying malicious, hateful, and libellous things.

Back in 2009, here is what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said regarding online identity, in support of Facebook’s “real name” policy:

“When you’re using Facebook, you have one identity… The days of you having a different image for your work friends [and] for the other people you know are probably coming to an end… Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”

Does having multiple online identities really show a lack of integrity or is it merely playing it safe? The answer to this question will depend on your motives for choosing anonymity.

Though there are those who believe that anonymity can provide some level of freedom and safety, it has some ‘cons’ worth looking at:

1. If you are bullied, it’ll be hard to indentify your offender

If you are bullied via Facebook or Twitter for instance , you have much more chances of identifying your attacker. As a victim of an anonymous messaging app you cannot: at best you can only guess which “friend” whispered to the online world that you might be pregnant.

2. It makes what you say less believable.

Using your real name lends credibility to what you’re writing.  Similar to criminal informants, coming forward with your true identity makes the content of your statement more believable and trustworthy.  If you truly stand by your posting and are prepared to have your name associated with it forever–internet archives can live a long time–using your real name shows your conviction.

3. You can’t build a positive online reputation through content creation

If you’re prepared for a little self-censorship, posting under your real name can be a smart strategy.  Knowing that anything you say online may show up when someone Googles you, use your postings to your advantage.  Express yourself in the field in which you want to become established.  Don’t forget that good search results can be better than no search results.

SO WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

Think long and hard about what you would like your life to be. The internet has become a scary and unsafe place. Posting online is like talking to the police:  anything you say can be used against you. Old questions posted in IT forums, comments on political articles, objectionable tweets, those photos of you partying a bit too hard can easily be accessed.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to make genuine efforts to live an honest life that you will be proud of on or off-line. Relying on third party apps for anonymity, secrecy and privacy have disappointed many. Be yourself, be real. If it’s not good enough to be said in person, then don’t say it online.

When we zoom back a little and look at this issue with a different lens, it’s very clear that we live in a world where appearance and reality are very different. In fact, it’s always been that way. The very fact that the discussion around anonymity is widening and that apps of this sort are increasing in popularity tells us something. Who are we really? And why do we feel the need to pretend?

There is a place where we don’t need to pretend or hide and it is in relationship with a loving God. He tells all who are heavy laden to come to Him and find rest. It’s as simple as that. If you are tired of hiding and want to be accepted for who you really are, please click on the banner below.

Source: abine.com , economist.com [edited]

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