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