Anonymity on the Internet: A Digital Ethnography

Who am I?

The timeless question has been further obscured since the dawn of the internet. We can explore different identities with the click of a mouse. We can voice any thought seemingly without consequence. We can reach millions of people without anyone knowing who is on the other end. We behave differently under the veil of anonymity and that behavior fundamentally, changes who we are. These changes affect our personality beyond the screen. In this study, I intend to explore these changes from a sociological perspective and shed some light on anonymous behavior on the internet.

Follow this blog as I uncover topics from books, interviews and my own experience as a digital native.


6 thoughts on “Anonymity on the Internet: A Digital Ethnography

  1. Does this anonymity truly change who we are per-say? Maybe with the absence of our social norms surrounding our thoughts and words, people are truly stating their opinions without the consequences of being an outcast that we so often see in group settings. People can show their true thoughts or emotions in this type of format so is the anonymity changing our personalities or are we being changed more when we are in social settings?

    • Does it change who we are? To know, we would have to be able to define who we are. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t, but it absolutely does change how we represent and express ourselves. To me, that is as close as we can get to defining ourselves without defining the abstract and indefinable “soul.”

      Some people certainly find freedom in being anonymous, but others might not place much value on it. Even those who enjoy anonymous internet communication often develop personal connections and strive to manage their reputations, so the group dynamic and social norms are still somewhat present, but maybe just different. There are some places where a person might create a new and completely false identity. Websites like Second Life would be extreme examples of that. On Second Life, a person could choose express parts of themselves that they feel are underrepresented in personal interactions or they could “try on” a completely new personality. It’s a very expansive and complex issue.

      Is the internet moving more toward anonymity or is it becoming more personal and transparent? There seem to be pushes in both directions. We’ll get into those soon.

  2. Does anonymity change us? I do agree that anonymity may change how and when we express ourselves, but our character does not change. People who are hurtful, for example, may feel more freedom in being hurtful anonymously. If that is not in your character,however, you are not likely to want to hurt someone anonymously. If we are trying to define who we are first in order to determine if we are changed by anonymity, I believe character has more to do with that definition of who we are. Any deficit of character, will be excacerbated with anonymity and it’s inherent freedom from consequences. Character deficits in those individuals with any amount of sociopathy will excacerbate breaking social conventions in an anonymous format. No, anonymity does not change who we are, just what we do.

    • If we are what we repeatedly do, than it does change us. I suppose it’s a chicken and egg situation. Do you think character is an inherent trait that decides our actions or is it a result of our experience and the choices we make?

  3. Pingback: Anonymity in Practice: Interview 1 | Web of Anonymity

  4. Pingback: Personalization vs. Anonymity | Web of Anonymity

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