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6 Reasons for Maintaining Anonymity in Your Online Social Networks


In a recent conversation, some additional reasons for maintaining anonymity in our online social networking were pointed out to me. I had not seriously considered them, because I had not understood the degree to which some troubling problems have begun spreading surreptitiously through our western world.

I could get up on my soap box and point out the hypocrisy of many of the groups who have piously preached tolerance for decades being the very ones displaying much of the social intolerance now. I won't do that, because this fact is so obvious. If you can't see it for yourself, nothing I could say here would enlighten you. I will say, however, that I think it is a shame that some people feel the need to control everyone who disagrees with them to such an extent that they will stoop to the practices mentioned in some of the links given in this article to silence them. This degree of intolerance really does show the shallowness of their characters, and by association, the shallowness of our collective character in the West.

I would also like to point out that in the early days of the internet, before it became so corporatized, no one even considered forcing internet users to reveal their true identities in order to send an email, participate in an online forum, or engage in other online activities. Now, this seems more the rule than the exception. Naturally, Facebook and Google head the list in this regard. Google now requires us to offer up a phone number to have a Gmail account. Facebook not only requires that we provide certain personal information, it demands that we actually prove our identities with whatever documents it asks for. The gaul of Facebook angers me to the point that words are inadequate to express. I honestly do not understand why "normals", as they are now called by some in the tech community, are still putting up with Facebook.

Anyway, here is my recently-updated list of reasons for urging you to seriously consider not revealing your true identity during your online social networking interactions.

  1. The oldest reason for not revealing your identity on line is that sometimes you do not know the people, or the kinds of people, that you interact with. This type of fear has lessened to some extent as more and more people have crowded onto the internet (many, like cattle into cattle cars, unfortunately). I don't want to spread paranoia, because there are real benefits to having online friends. But one should still exercise justified caution. Having said that, however, I would add that this is something you should consider with all your interactions with others, both on and off line.

  2. A major reason of mine for remaining anonymous on line has been that many employers make no secret of the fact that they screen the social networking accounts of future employees. If they don't like what they see, they can and do choose not to hire them. I have two thoughts about this. The first is, why make it easy for them? The second is to ask yourself if you would feel comfortable in such a surveilled and controlled atmosphere as some employers demonstrate with their snooping into your personal life. If the answer is "no", then you should seriously consider not "hiring" one of these employers as an organization for which you work. Yes, I hear you protesting that you need a job. Try to keep in mind that these employers need you just as much as you need them. If you don't believe that then ask yourself why they are willing to pay you to work for them.

  3. Some people, including myself, feel more free to express their true thoughts and feelings when no one knows who they are. Knowing that no one can do anything more to you than disagree with you and call you names is empowering. Others feel that they have been attacked, not for the quality of their thoughts, but for who they are, what groups they belong to, or what they look like. I should also mention that when you are speaking to other anonymous people on line, you have more of a sense that you are getting their true views, because they also feel more free to express them. Anonymous people sometimes open up to strangers in ways that only friends do who have known each other for years.

  4. Some banks and payment processing centers have begun to refuse to do business with some who have the "wrong" political views. (See here, here, here, and here.) I thought the Soviet Union no longer existed; now I'm not so sure. This is a scary trend.

  5. Some online information never goes away. We cannot predict whether something we said ten years ago may be dredged up and used against us at a later date. And, we cannot predict what kinds of discrimination may exist ten years from now. Do we know that something like China's social credit system could never happen in the West? If you think our "nanny state" is bad now, think about how bad it could get.

  6. What happens if you want to know the truth about topics that are considered taboo in your society--sex, drugs, Terrorism, UFO's--to name just a few? Do you go "where everybody knows your name" (a la Cheers), or do you go where no one knows who's asking?

I hope I've given you some things to think about. Unfortunately, most of us only think about these sorts of things after they've already happened to us personally. Hopefully, I've given you some information here that can help you to avoid an unpleasant experience.

Perhaps this article has not convinced you to give up your Facebook account, where all your real-life friends hang out. But maybe I've given you the idea that Facebook only deserves to see the carefully curated, cardboard "you", while you create an anonymous social networking account somewhere else, where the real you can "let it all hang out".

Related Articles:

My Search for Alternative Social Networks

ZeroNet and the Future of the Internet

How to Avoid being Tracked and Spied-On while on Line

There's no Such Thing as a Secure Computer--How to be Relatively Secure

What I Learned about the Internet by Creating My Own Website

The Digital Identity Problem


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